Ron Ben-Yishai

In America we trust

Op-ed: Warm reception for Netanyahu at Congress a deterring message to Israel’s foes, Arabs

Part 2 of article


Prime Minister Netanyahu aimed his speech directly and exclusively at American ears. Not so much at President Obama, who already expressed his views and presented his model for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but at the American public and legislators. The PM wants public pressure as well as pressure by members of Congress to force upon the president positions that are closer to Netanyahu’s vies than to those presented by Obama in his speech last week.


Obama knew that this is what Israel’s prime minister was about to do. For that reason, he pushed his own Middle East speech forward, so that the American public hears it before hearing Netanyahu speak. Obama repeated his words, with further explanations, at the AIPAC conference in order to stress that this was his decisive position.


Hence, the fundamental disagreements between Israel’s PM and America’s president remain. That’s bad for Obama, who is about to embark on another election campaign, but it’s also bad for Israel. At the end of the day, it’s the president, rather than Congress, who outlines and carries out America’s foreign policy. There is a difference between the way the US defends Israel from de-legitimization and international isolation when the president is convinced and wholly dedicated to this mission and when the president and his people operate with no enthusiasm.


Netanyahu attempted to soften the disagreement by complimenting Obama at length for supporting Israel’s security, the means he takes to prevent nuclear weapons from Iran, and his war on terror. However, it is doubtful whether the warm words uttered by Israel’s PM will minimize the hostility and mistrust between the two leaders.


Success on Iran front

The speech did not provide Obama, who is currently in Europe, with ammunition for convincing Britain, France and Belgium, for example, to refrain from recognizing Palestinian statehood at the United Nations. Yet to Netanyahu’s credit, he made a genuine effort to say “yes, but” – in line with Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s advice. It’s unclear whether this effort was sufficient for International Quartet members as well as important European, Asian and Latin American states in respect to the expected UN vote in September.


On some issues, Netanyahu showed impressive success. In respect to what is known as the “narrative,” Netanyahu drew great applause when he spoke about the causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the failure to resolve it since 1948. Congress members showed clear support for Israel’s version, whereby most responsibility lies with the Palestinians and Arabs.


He also managed to be convincing when he explained why Israel demands that a Palestinian state be demilitarized, and why strict security arrangements are needed – including a longtime Israeli military presence on the Jordan River.


A third point where Netanyahu seemed to have succeeded pertains to Iran. The prime minister received great applause when he declared directly, and even bluntly, that the military option must not be taken off the table as a means for curbing Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Netanyahu stressed that in his view, and given historical experience, utilizing military force or threatening to use such force by the US is the only way to secure the desired result.


The prime minister succeeded on another front as well: The very warmth and applause from American legislators showed to the world, and to the Arabs, the firm and deep support enjoyed by Israel among America’s policy makers and public. This, in and of itself, serves as a deterrent to anyone threatening Israel and planning to harm it; it may even prompt the Palestinians to rethink their positions.



פרסום ראשון: 05.25.11, 12:24
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