by ROBERT FISK
Israeli Benjamin President Netanyahu (on left, with President Barack Obama) is ready to sacrifice Israel’s most vital interests for election victory. PHOTO/AFP
Uri Avnery is without doubt the most intellectual, philosophical, prescient leftist Israeli seer I have ever met. Like T.S. Eliot, he has a habit of using the fewest words to tell the greatest truth. Every essay that he writes, this reader always says the same thing: exactly! Yet, for the first time in 40 years, I disagree with the great man.
He has just suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s agreement to address the US Congress at the invitation of Republicans – two weeks before an Israeli general election – and US President Barack Obama’s decision not to see the old rogue, has destroyed Israel’s bipartisan support in America. For the first time, says Uri, Democratic politicians are allowed to criticise Israel. Absolute tosh.
Congressmen of both parties have grovelled and fainted and shrieked their support for Bibi (Netanyahu) and his predecessors with more enthusiasm than the Roman hordes in the Colosseum.
Last time Bibi turned up in the Congress, he received literally dozens of standing ovations from the sheep-like representatives of the American people, whose uncritical adoration of the Israeli state – and their abject fear of uttering the most faint-hearted criticism lest they be called anti-Semites – suggest that Bibi would be a far more popular US president than Barack. And Bibi’s impeccable American accent doesn’t hurt.
And his aim – to earn votes for himself and to destroy the one foreign policy achievement within Obama’s grasp – will have absolutely no effect at all on Israeli-US relations. When Bibi made himself the laughing stock of the UN Security Council – by producing an infantile cartoon of an Iranian bomb with a red line in the middle, indicating that Iran could build nuclear weapons by the end of 2013 — his charade was treated with indulgence by the American media.
These mythical deadlines have been expiring regularly for more than a decade, yet still we are supposed to take them seriously. Obama is struggling to reach an agreement with Iran which would protect the world from any nuclear weapon production by the Islamic Republic.
Bibi wants to destroy this opportunity. He wants more sanctions. He wants to win the Israeli elections on March 17. He might even bomb Iran – which would bring an immediate military response against the United States. But he’s going to be telling Congress that the entire existence of Israel is at stake.
According to Uri, Bibi will be spitting in the face of President Obama. “I don’t think there was ever anything like it,” Uri Avnery wrote this weekend.
“The prime minister of a small vassal country, dependent on the US for practically everything, comes to the US to openly challenge its president, in effect branding him a cheat and a liar. Netanyahu is ready to sacrifice Israel’s most vital interests for election victory.”
I don’t wish to exonerate Bibi’s cynicism. Even Uri admits that he cannot imagine any more effective election ploy. “Using the Congress of the United States of America as a propaganda prop is a stroke of genius,” he says. But the prime minister of Israel knows he can get away with anything in America – with the same confidence that he can support his army when they slaughter hundreds of children in Gaza in the “self-defence” of Israel.
Netanyahu’s speech to Congress will be as disproportionate as his soldiers’ bombardment of the world’s mightiest slum.
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