I dislike writing about the Middle East. It’s a quagmire in which all sides stubbornly resist serious efforts to reach a peaceful compromise. Lots of blame to go around.
But let’s be honest: Benjamin Netanyahu is grabbing for an extra share of blame. And let’s let him have it. Really. First, you’ll recall, he stepped into U.S. foreign policy — aided and abetted by a core of right-wing Republicans — to try and sabotage a nuclear agreement with Iran. That was despicable, and it was a crucial part of Netanyahu’s pitch for re-election, and one in which he was successful. Of course, his last-minute political denunciation of any hope for a two-state agreement in the Middle East sabotaged any prospect of meaningful peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Winning election on the backs of political sabotage is shameful. Right-wing radicals in Israeli are pleased with the results; everyone who thinks and cares about Israel’s future is or should be worried.
Netanyahu’s actions now threaten Israel’s stability in the world. Some leaders in Europe are now discussing imposing economic sanctions on Israel for its anti-peace decisions. The United States may well decide not to oppose support for a Palestinian state in the United Nations. Political backing for Israel in this country is slipping. And don’t blame that on anti-Semitism; that’s a canard. The reason is opportunistic politicians who are endangering their own country.
I’m not suggesting the United States abandon its support for the Israeli nation. Israel remains and should remain an ally. But we should not accept our ally’s political behavior when it pushes against the best interests of our country. We must do what is best for America. I can’t conceive under any circumstances for that to include abandoning Israel, but I can see us asserting our own needs on the world stage even when that alarms right-wingers in Israel. Nor can I see all of the nations of the Middle East remaining America’s enemies forever. Eventually there must be a peace, one that not only ensures Israel’s survival but also allows for others to live in peaceful proximity — if they will.
Netanyahu’s words this past week sadly and regrettably suggest to the rest of civilization that peace is now farther away. And — this is important — do not forget that Netantahu has been bankrolled all the way by the American Jewish gambling casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson owns a partisan newspaper in Israel which toadies to Netanyahu and the worst instincts of the radical Likud political party. What seems so disgraceful is that in his actions Adelson has been guilty of selling out America in order to encourage Netanyahu’s feckless, irresponsible behavior. In doing so, he and his Jewish allies may find a serious backlash developing in American attitudes towards Israel. And Adelson could find himself with another label by a lot of Americans: a Judas.