Uri Avnery is without doubt the most intellectual, philosophical, prescient leftist Israeli seer I have ever met. Like TS Eliot, he has a habit of using the fewest words to tell the greatest truth. Every essay 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 Benjamin Netanyahu’s agreement to address the US Congress at the invitation of Republicans tomorrow – two weeks before an Israeli general election – and 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.
Congressmen of both parties have grovelled and fainted and shrieked their support for Bibi and his predecessors with more enthusiasm that the Roman hordes in the Colosseum. Last time Bibi turned up on the Hill, 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 17 March. 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… like Abraham, who was ready to slaughter his son to please God, 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. Bibi’s speech to Congress will be as disproportionate as his soldiers’ bombardment of the world’s mightiest slum.
And he’ll do just fine. We’re told the Democrats are upset. We are informed that Obama is very, very – really – very angry. But the Democrat presidentess-in-waiting is no problem for Bibi. It was Hillary, remember, who told us last summer that she wasn’t sure it was “possible to parcel out blame” for the Gaza slaughter “because it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war”. The media stories may have obscured what was happening. “I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and children and all the rest of that [sic], makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.” So the fewer reporters, the closer to the truth about the dead women and children and “all the rest of that”, we’ll all get. No wonder liberal Zionists, according to The New York Times, are worried that Hillary is getting too close to Bibi.
As for the Republicans, well take a look at ‘ol Jeb Bush, promising that all will be a clean sweep if he becomes the US commander-in-chief. There’ll be no focus, understandably, on “the past” – Daddy George and Big Bro George W. But his probable advisers in a future presidency include Paul Wolfowitz, John Hannah (Cheney’s old “national security adviser”), Michael Hayden (who misled Congress about torture) and Condi Rice, after whom an entire oil tanker was once named and then un-named – in other words, the same mangy crew who produced “weapons of mass destruction”, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, trillions of dollars in debt, torture and that infamous “mushroom cloud” (a real “fog of war”, if ever there was one). Columnist Maureen Dowd says that Jeb Bush should be holding to account those who inflicted “deep scars on America”. But why should he? The only thing unmentioned by Jeb is that in 2003, Israel was also producing the same scams about WMD and Saddam’s links to “world terror”.
Bibi won’t be reminding Congress of this on Tuesday, of course. It will be Iran’s WMD and the Islamic State’s links to “world terror” which will have Congress on its feet. It’s a pity Bibi wasn’t born in New York. Then we could have US President Netanyahu – and stop pretending there’s any difference between the Israeli and American governments.