So now we get the news that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has publicly criticized the Obama Administration, and England’s David Cameron, for not giving an ultimatum—drawing a “red line” in the sand—to Iran over its alleged nuclear weapons’ program. The man known as “Bibi” said yesterday that no one had a “moral right” to prevent Israel from acting against what he alleges is a “mortal threat” from Iran.
In an election year, these are fighting words. They are more than that: they are blackmail—because Netanyahu knows full well that his “good friend” Mitt Romney has already tried to score political points against an Obama administration that he charges is too weak on the Middle East, and too faint in its support of Israel. This is not because Americans in general want Obama to draw “red lines” in a Middle East that is already convulsed with wars and rebellions and still reeling from America’s unprovoked war on Iraq and its endless war in Afghanistan. No, this is about Florida. Because Mitt Romney absolutely must win Florida to have any chance to win the election, and if Florida’s retired Jewish population can be convinced that Obama is “weak” on Israel, it could be decisive. Netanyahu knows all this, of course, and so he is quite willing to incite a bidding war between Obama and Romney over who is most eager to “defend” Israel from those terrible Iranians or Arabs or Muslims or whatever they are.
So the Bibi, without a shred of embarrassment or shame, talks about his “moral right” to respond to what he calls “mortal threats” from a country that has no nuclear capability whatsoever—whereas Bibi’s country, Israel, is known to have well over 200 and perhaps as many as 300 of the latest nuclear weapons, plus rocket delivery systems, and even nuclear submarines from which to launch them. All this in an Israel, alone among nations with such weapons, refusing to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—which it accuses Iran of violating. The hypocrisy is massive, it is sickening, it is an outrage.
Nor is it just the hypocrisy. It’s the sheer chutzpah—that’s “gall” or “effrontery” in Yiddish—of a nation as small as Israel, with a mere 5 million people, publicly blackmailing the United States with a population of 300 million and a military larger than most of the rest of the world's combined. Where does this pipsqueak of a country come off ordering the U.S. to do anything?
It all comes down, as every half-alive observer has noted endlessly, to the power of the Jewish lobby in the United States. Not just U.S. presidents, but the entire U.S. Congress quakes with fear when the Israeli lobby known as AIPAC questions the commitment of any office holder to towing the Israeli line. They quake when wealthy Jewish donors take the same questioning stance. And mostly, like Obama, they prostrate themselves, humiliate themselves with expressions of fealty to protecting poor little Israel from those big bad Arabs. This is what Israel—and its Jewish (and fundamentalist Christian) supporters in America—have come to expect. So when Hillary Clinton refused on Monday to set a red line, saying that America was “not setting deadlines for Iran,” and earlier last month when a British official secretly visited Israel to deliver a warning to Israel not to attack Iran, Bibi got the message. The two most critical nations he needs to back him if he does try, or threaten to try an attack against Iran, were essentially telling him to back off. Whence his angry statements about Israel’s “moral rights”—i.e. to obliterate anyone it chooses. That is the moral right Israel claims. And it has acted on those “moral” rights more than any other nation on earth. It has slaughtered and ethnically cleansed Palestinians with regularity, always claiming its moral right to self defense. And now, now that its two biggest backers tell it to wait for sanctions—the worst sanctions ever enacted against Iran, sanctions which cripple its people—to do their work, Netanyahu responds: “And I ask: wait for what? Until when? Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”
Israel, that is, the mad dog of the Middle East, armed to the teeth with nuclear as well as conventional weapons, claims the “moral right” to attack any time it perceives another nation as even approaching the possibility of being able to stand up to its bullying. That is the real issue. Iran’s nuclear program—which it has always claimed is for peaceful purposes—might allow it to build a weapon or two; and that might allow it to neutralize the threat of Israel’s being able to utterly destroy it with a nuclear strike; and that is a mortal threat in Israel’s terms. As is the position of the United States and England in refusing to back Israel’s threat to strike, or, more important, the refusal of the United States to attack Iran itself. That’s what the “red line” really signifies: if Iran crosses a U.S.-imposed red line, the U.S. military, with its capability to penetrate the deep sites where Iran’s nuclear program is hidden, will attack; and short of that, will provide backup for Israel if it attacks.
So the situation is now this. Israel is publicly trying to blackmail the United States (and England) into war. Israel is trying to use the presidential election to force the President of the United States to threaten another country, a country which has attacked no one, with annihilation. Israel would have the United States commit itself, its American sons and daughters, and the entire world, to yet another conflagration in the Middle East.
I don’t know about you, but this turns me, as it is apparently turning even Netanyahu’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, against him. It turns me against this situation—of a nation which the U.S. has supported and defended and built up with arms and aid for 60 years now—turning on its benefactor and trying to influence its domestic politics in the most blatant way imaginable. And to me, anyone in this country, any U.S. citizen who supports this kind of blackmail by a foreign country, is virtually engaging in treason. If America does not come first for Americans, if the safety and security of the United States is not the primary concern of its leaders and representatives, then they, too, are guilty of treason.
Bibi Netanyahu must be told in no uncertain terms that he has gone too far. He must be told to butt out of American politics, and American elections. He must be told that American support is not automatic, nor is it endless; but rather that, especially with what is being called its deficit crisis, America’s aid to Israel can come, and will come to a certain and definitive halt. According to Reuters, Israeli leaders less rabid than Netanyahu have already been making this point. If he has any backbone at all, Obama should make it even more forcefully. Blackmail by an ally—and it is notable that Israel has refused to enter into a formal alliance with the United States, mainly because that would mean it would have to set firm borders to its nation, which, as an avidly expansionist power, it has always refused to do—simply cannot, must not, and will not be tolerated.