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Editorial Columnist Commentary Columnist Netanyahu was powerful, and misguided May 28, 2011 01:17 AM By Rami G. Khouri The Daily Star
By any standard, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance in Washington this week was stunning in its audacity and intensity.
However, his speech before the U.S. Congress will probably be seen as negative rather than positive for Israel in the long run, for the fault lines it revealed and the precedents it set.
Netanyahu’s performance exposed four major breaches that may be damaging for Israel: those between him and President Barack Obama; between the American presidency and the Congress; between the pro-Israel lobby in the United States and the rest of the country; and between the Israeli people and their government.
All four dynamics have their ups and downs, but when they converge, as may be the case now, Netanyahu the brash star performer in Washington, may be seen as a political jerk, in Israel and in the U.S.,,,,,,,,
Congressional subservience to Israel revealed itself as so exaggerated last week that many Americans took notice – and some started to speak out. Analysts, columnists and ordinary Americans alike started asking if they should put up with a foreign leader lecturing the president in the White House, and wondering if their Congress represents American or Israeli interests in the Middle East.
This attitude will once again open the debate that started a few years ago (after the publication of the book “The Israel Lobby”) about whether the pro-Israel lobbies are healthy or destructive for Americans. When the American and Israeli leaders mistrust or dislike each other and each other’s policies, and when foreigners intervene between the U.S. Congress and presidency, this can only spell trouble for Israel down the road, if these breaches are not quickly repaired.
The Obama position that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a permanent peace accord should be based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps is not new. But it is significant for the fact that it marks the second major issue (the Israeli settlements freeze demand being the other) on which Obama has publicly declared the preferred American policy as one that is independent of Israeli policy.
Israel cannot accept that the U.S. and its president take positions on issues of strategic concern to Israelis that diverge from the Israeli position. That the U.S. president has now done this twice in two years is the equivalent of an existential threat from Israel’s perspective. That is why Netanyahu went berserk and showed how Israel can effectively dictate the position of the Congress on Middle East-related issues.,,,,,,
With the U.S. Congress now finding its extreme position on Israel somewhat isolated from the relatively more balanced position of the American president and public, Israel is slipping dangerously toward a point where its political support in the U.S. is as much a consequence of frightened, nearly prostituted, legislators as it is a reflection of the deep and firm support for the security of Israel that the United States traditionally saw as a worthy goal in its own right.
These fascinating movements in the Israeli-American relationship are worth monitoring. While being dazzled by Netanyahu’s powerful, self-assertive, performance in Washington, we should pay more attention to the underlying fault lines that such a dramatic show reveals.
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 28, 2011, on page 7. Comments
Ted Rudow III, MA May 28, 2011
Ted Rudow III, MA ( Tedr77@aol,com ) In a major speech on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and on the Arab Spring, President Obama said a Palestinian state must be based on the 1967 borders, the first time a U.S. president has explicitly taken this position. The Israeli government immediately rejected Obama’s comments, calling the 1967 borders "indefensible." --> President Bush, over three years ago, made a similar speech. He said that "There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. [An] agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people." The Camp David summit of July 2000 was the latest in a long line of attempts by Israelis and Palestinians to attain peace in the Middle East. Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion unilaterally declared Israel a nation on May 14, 1948, following the UN partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. And the list go on and on. So the World is fed up! And they have voted unanimously against further occupancy of the Palestinian lands by Israel. "The war crimes and occupation, oppression and inequality that Palestinians are suffering from must end. And it was absolutely despicable to see our Congress pandering to Netanyahu as if he was the president of the United States." Rae Abileah, a Jewish-American activist