Fixated on the words of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 64-year-old Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu insisted in an Oval Offce meeting with President Barack Obama March 3 that he considered Iran’s nuclear program an “existential” threat to Israel. At a World Without Zionism conference in Tehran Oct. 26, 2005, Ahamadinejad dazzled Holocaust deniers with his infamous call to see “Israel wiped off the map.” Preaching to the choir of anti-Semites, Ahmadinejad’s empty rhetoric so rattled Netanyahu that he’s been fixated on Iran’s nuclear program ever since. Netanyahu practically had a stroke when the P5+1, including the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, signed an agreement in Geneva Nov. 24, 2013 to limit Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Ever since, Netanyahu has accused the P5+1 of selling out to Tehran.
Whatever Obama says or does to reassure Netanyahu, it falls on deaf ears. Whether or not Netanyahu actually believes his delusions is anyone’s guess. What known for sure is that he opposes any deal with Iran that doesn’t completely dismantle Iran’s nuclear programs, whether they’re for peaceful purposes or not. While Netayahu has many fans at the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee [AIPAC], the major Israeli lobbying group, his message sounds like a broken record since Ahamdinejad shot off his mouth in 2005. “The Israeli people expect me to stand strong against criticism and pressure,” Netanyahu told Obama, referring to White House pressure to make compromises in the latest round of Mideast peacemaking with half the Palestinians only in West Bank. U.S. and EU officials see better Israeli security with a comprehensive peace agreement.
Netanyahu insists that Iran calls for Israel’s destruction, despite the change of leadership that brought 65-yer-old moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to power Aug. 3, 2013. No matter what the change of leadership, Netanyahua acts like the hothead Ahmadinejad is still in office. “Iran calls openly for Israel’s destruction, so I’m sure you’ll all appreciate that Israel cannot permit such a state to have the ability to make atomic bombs to ache that goal,” Netanyahu told Obama, repeating the same old news that he uses to power his conservative coalition. When Obama tells “Bibi” of his “absolute commitment” to Israel’s security, it goes nowhere. Netanyahu can’t get beyond Ahmandinejad’s old incendiary rhetoric, no longer relevant with Iran’s new leadership. Netanyahu continues to hint that Israel might take unilateral action against Iran’s nuclear sites.
Since resuming peace talks in July 2013, the White House has tried to get Netanyahu to go along with some kind of final status agreement for an independent Palestinian State. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who represents 1.5 million Palestininas in the West Bank, has signaled recently some flexibility on the question of Palestinian refugees. Where Abbas continues to show stubbornness is on symbolic issues, like the declaring East Jerusalem the capital in a new state. Cobbling together a volatile coalition of liberals, moderates and conservatives, Netanyahu can’t arbitrarily agree to hand East Jerusalem to Palestinians without killing his fragile coalition. “And I, as prime minister of Israel, will do whatever I must to defend the Jewish state,” said Netanyahu, a sticking point with Abbas who’s on record rejecting the idea of recognizing Israel as a “Jewish state.”
Netanyahu has no problem of recognizing any state in the West Bank as the “Palestinian State,” though there are many Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Obama warned Netanyahu about fallout from the EU if Israel doesn’t compromise on an independent Palestinian state. While Iran’s nuke issue and the Palestinian question are not linked, Netanyahu finds himself resisting U.S. pressure on both counts. Obama and Kerry have pressed Netanyahu to go back to the pre-1967 Six Day War borders, where Israeli gives back what’s left of Israeli spoils in the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem. Netanyahu told Obama that giving back the Sinai Peninsula in 1979 and Gaza Strip in 2005 hasn’t achieved peace with Palestinians. “It’s my belief that ultimately it is still possible to create two states,” said Obama, hoping he and Kerry could convince both sides to make a deal.
Obama’s problem with Netanyahu stems from Israel’s strong backing by American conservatives, who see too much compromise with Palestinians as not in U.S. interests. U.S. national security lies with a strong Israel, not compromised by concessions that harm both Israeli and U.S. interests. Handing over more territory to Palestinians doesn’t help U.S. national security. Watching Palestinians dance in the streets, celebrating Bin Laden;s attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon speaks volumes about U.S. national security. Giving Palestinians too much leverage puts the U.S. and Israel into a bind. Acceding to Abbas’s demands for East Jerusalem as a capital of a future state compromises Israeli and U.S. national security. Whether Israel and Palestinians make peace is anyone’s guess. Netanyahu needs to let the P5+1 deal with Iran’s nuclear threat.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.