You would have to be deaf, a fool and a minor – as it says in the Talmud – not to understand the message relayed this week from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to the residents of Kaplan 3 Street in Jerusalem: The people in the White House changed the rules of the game and have informed Benjamin Netanyahu of the change.
It would be foolish to think that President Obama picked Chuch Hagel just to taunt Netanyahu and irritate the State of Israel. Of course not. But we should assume that he smiled when he went over the list of candidates for defense secretary and saw Chuck Hagel's name on it. Hagel's anti-Israel past was not an obstacle in Obama's eyes. He may have even told a joke at Netanyahu's expense to one of his Oval Office aides.
But this story is not funny at all. Hagel will now try to convince everyone that he is not anti-Israel, and a photo of him placing a note in the Western Wall will appear out of nowhere (if he has ever visited Israel). A number of his Jewish friends will say that he kisses a picture of Herzl every morning; that he knows the late Benzion Netanyahu's thousand-page book by heart and that his son Johnny was named after Yonatan Netanyahu. He'll do anything to overcome the Senate Committee obstacle on the road to one of the most important appointments in the American administration.
Netanyahu is probably sitting in his office or home and making calls to all the Lauders, Tischs and Rennerts - his Jewish friends from New York who, for some reason, still believe they run the world. Netanyahu is probably explaining to them that the Senate must block the appointment of this hater of Israel. Bibi is doing everything in his power to keep Hagel from hiring a moving company to transfer his furniture from Nebraska to Washington in the coming days. Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is probably calling the White House constantly and does not understand why the president does not stand at attention when he hears who is on the other end of the line.
America is changing
The Americans don’t like losers, and they have already forgotten about Romney. His books, and those written about him, are being sold for 50 cents in used bookstores. But Obama still remembers Romney and those who supported him during the last election race very well.
Hagel may not be appointed as defense secretary – the claims against him are severe - but Obama is pleased because he has already caused Netanyahu to sweat profusely.
As far as Israel is concerned, the main problem is that Hagel is nominated for one of the most important positions in the US government. The defense secretary is the oxygen tube of the State of Israel's security. Intelligence, weapons and billions of dollars in aide are transferred to the Jewish state with the defense secretary's approval. Hagel will not be nominated to receive the Israel Defense Prize anytime soon.
The selection of Hagel also sent a clear message to the Israeli government: The Americans will not allow Israel to launch a go-it-alone attack on Iran's nuclear installations and get the US involved in a war it does not want. And when the Americans say no – it means no. Will the Americans attack Iran alone? The chances of this happening will be reduced significantly if Hagel is confirmed.
Regardless of whether the Senate approves Hagel's appointment or not, this affair should make us realize that America is changing right before our eyes and it can no longer be Israel's insurance policy.