Friday, February 13, 2015

Netanyahu: Fiddler On the White House Roof.

Israeli prime minister Netanyahu is scheduled to address members of congress in March on the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner and its turned into the usual partisan type of bickering and oneupmanship with some Democrats trying to defend the indefensible which is Obama's policies or lack of which sorry to say, got them thrown out of congress in two elections. But getting lost in the breach of protocol are the real issues involved which is the nuclear negotiations with Iran and trying to get a deal on eliminating their ability to produce a nuclear warhead, negotiations which, for those keeping score, have already failed once before. 

The deadline for a deal that a lot of people besides Netanyahu think is leading to a bad one, came and went and another of Obama's red lines was skipped over. The deadline was extended to the end of March and that has everything to do with the timing of Bohener's invitation and Netanyahu's acceptance, not the Israeli election. 

Netanyahu's acceptance of the visit ruffled feathers in the White House because Bohener invited Netanyahu without first consulting the White House which he didn't have to do but which has generally been the protocol.  But it should also be seen for what it is -- not just a political poke in the eye to Obama, but a signal as to what a lot of people in and out of congress already feel about Obama's policy towards Iran.

Netanyahu's visit is understandable. Its purpose is to make clear his opposition to a negotiation many in congress also aren't happy with, and its also based on one other factor. Netanyahu doesn't trust Obama or his word and for good reason: throughout his presidency Obama has never lived up to his word on anything and in the Middle East poisoned  the well as an honest broker in terms of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations before he was even elected, a little fact most in the news media ignore because to report it is to criticize everything that's gone predictably wrong about Obama's presidency whether its foreign or domestic policy. Because there is a pattern. 

Obama as always negotiates from a position of weakness. The same weakness that led him to advise the interim government in Kiev when Russia was trying to seize control of Crimea to " do nothing that will provoke Putin", essentially telling Kiev to surrender.  Which they did and which led not only to the illegal strong armed annexation of Crimea but the wider war in eastern Ukraine.

When a bipartisan group of senators wanted to pass a bill that did nothing more than tell  Iran that if there was no deal the sanctions that were lifted would be reimposed and more sanctions would be levied,  Obama opposed it and gave as a reason that such a bill  would cause Iran to walk away from the negotiations.

That is weakness. Why should Obama be afraid Iran will walk away if its in Iran's interest to make a deal and if they are telling the truth that they have no nuclear warhead ambitions?   On the surface it seems simple. The sanctions are there because of Iran's nuclear program which presently has the capacity for producing nuclear warheads. Iran says their desire is only to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. If so they should have no trouble agreeing to the dismantling of their heavy water reactors which have no other  purpose than to produce weapons grade uranium. Heavy water reactors are not needed to refine uranium to produce medical isotopes and other peaceful forms of energy which Iran claims is their only nuclear ambition. 

Why doesn't Obama take the position that it is in Iran's best interests to make a deal if they want to see the sanctions lifted, and make that deal on the West's terms not Iran's and based on Iran's own assertions?  It is  Iran that wants the U.S. sanctions  lifted. It is Iran that was caught lying before about their nuclear program. 

Yet it's been Obama who is afraid that if an additional sanctions bill passed, Iran would walk away when it is Iran who should be afraid the U.S. is prepared to walk away and sanctions reimposed. 

Netanyahu knows this. He also knows as almost all Democratic voters know who have been burned by Obama's reneging on promises before that Obama's word on anything is worthless and cant be trusted. This isn't rhetoric. It's  a well documented and provable fact that only the sycophants on the Tea Party Left web sites and some Democrats ignore. Kiev knows it only too well. So do civilians and the moderate rebels in Syria. So did voters who believed Obama and the Democrats would make good on their promise of a public health care option only to see  it dropped in an Obama concession to health insurance companies and the Obamacare substitute fall on its face. And concessions is exactly what concerns Netanyahu and most members of congress. 

Obama destroyed  his own credibility in the middle east before he was even elected. It was in June 2008, as  a candidate for president that Obama gave a speech in front of 7,000 Jews at AIPAC - the American Israeli Political Action Committee in Washington D.C. that forever destroyed any chance he had  as a force in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The motive behind Obama's speech was political.  Florida was the most important swing state in the country and Democrats still had memories of hanging chads and a specious and contested 500 vote margin and Supreme Court interference  that gave the presidency to George W. Bush.

Florida figured to be a key state in the 2008 election. And Florida has a significant Jewish population. So Obama gave a speech at AIPAC attended by 7,000 Jews and in that speech made a significant announcement -- that  he supported a unified Jerusalem, one Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. This is a universally shared view by Jews and supporters of Israel but a shocking statement from a presidential candidate who might one day have to be involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
But the statement had the immediate effect Obama intended - a standing ovation from the 7,000 Jews present and ostensibily from Jewish voters in Florida and around the country.

The statement revealed how  truly incompetent, politically motivated, self centered and unqualified  for the presidency Obama was and that his personal political priorities came first regardless of consequences. 

Jerusalem was and still is the most contentious issue regarding negotiations for a Palestinian state in any Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.  Every negotiator since negotiations began decades ago, had gotten both parties to agree to make the final status of Jerusalem the last thing on the agenda. It was always the hope of  U.S. negotiators that if they could get the two sides to agree on everything else, each side would be more likely to come to some change in position regarding Jerusalem rather than see everything else achieved go down the drain. 

Even if you do support a single unified Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel as it is now and reject  Palestinian demands that East Jersualem be their capitol,  if you are a principle in the negotiations and are supposed to be an honest and objective broker, you don't say it. Because its up to the parties to decide whats in their own best interests. Which is not to say Israel would ever agree to partion Jerusalem -- Ehud Barak had offered to partion part of East Jerusalem for the capitol of a Palestinian state in 2000 and Arafat rejected it and launched the Infitada. Its unlikely any Israeli prime minister will ever offer it again and the Palestinians will have to live with their decisions, something Arafat on his death bed said he regretted.

But Obama's public statement as a candidate took Jerusalem right off the table  in return for a five minute politically motivated standing ovation. And the Palestinian reaction was predictable. They went beserk.

Within 24 hours the entire Arab world issued statements condemning Obama for his statement about Jerusalem.

This time it was Obama who reacted predictably. He reneged and backtracked on his statement backing a unified Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. Within 24 hours of the Palestinian backlash Obama put out a preposterous and  laughable statement that the whole world misunderstood him, that when he said he supported a single unified Jerusalem he meant "a Jerusalem with no barbed wire." No kidding. That's what he said. Despite the fact that there has been no barbed wire in Jerusalem since the Israelis' recaptured it in the  1967 war.

Obama's immediate reversal  naturally infuriated the Israelis who realized then that Obama's word on anything was worthless and he couldn't be trusted. And the Palestinians didn't trust him either.

If Obama accomplished anything with that speech it was to actually unify the Israelis and Palestinians in their mutual contempt for him. A contempt that continues to this day and is the single biggest reason Obama has been the most ineffective U.S. president in history in dealing with Israeli-Palestinians negotiations.

No one trusts him. And Netanyahu certainly doesn't trust him on Iran.  Obama's failure to arm moderate Syrian rebels which led to the rise of Isis and a crisis situation and his handling of Ukraine which led to the annexation of Crimea and all the death and destruction in eastern Ukraine that followed only re-enforces Netanyahu's lack of trust.

This is the context and backdrop of not just Israeli skepticism about any deal with Iran led by Obama, but also by most in the U.S. congress including many Democrats though because of  blind partisanship some Democrats feel the need to defend Obama and talk of boycotting Netanyahu's speech,  something as mindless in their defense of Obama as the far right's mindless attacks.

The tune Netanyahu is playing  is a simple one: Obama can't be trusted. And history proves it repeatedly.

In 1995 after the fall of the Soviet Union,  the U.S. signed a pact with Ukraine where we told Ukraine that if you give up your 2000 nuclear weapons we will guarantee your sovereignty and defense. Obama from the beginning has refused to honor that pact and commitment and has looked for any way out, something that wasn't exactly unnoticed by  Putin. Netanyahu sees that too. And knows no deal that Obama makes with Iran is going to be a good one. Or one that anyone could count on Obama to enforce.

The negotuations as they stand now are not going well for the U.S. Iran has been bragging recently that the sanctions have done nothing to deter their nuclear ambitions  (sound familiar?) They bragged that  they had 200 nuclear reactors before the sanctions and and now they have 20,000.   That sounds like a much bigger poke in Obama's eye than Netanyahu making a speech in front of congress. 

Iran is playing as if they are holding all the cards. And Obama is  playing the same way  and keeps talking about not doing anything that will upset them and cause them to walk away ( just like he told the interim government in Kiev not to do anything that might upset Putin while he was annexing Crimea).

This is why Netanyahu is going to give his speech despite Obama's displeasure, and the superficial pouting of some Democrats who say they won't attend.  And the tune Netanyahu will  be playing will be to convince members of congress, most of whom don't  really need convincing that it is Obama and his negotiations with Iran, who is  really doing the fiddling.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Netanyahu isn't the only one who doesn't trust him.