Did ‘Foreign Policy’ plant false Israeli embassy story — leading to diplomat’s reassignment to Copenhagen?

Israel/Palestine
on 32 Comments

Here’s some high level intrigue, with the stakes being no less than Our Next War.

You might have seen the bombshell piece by Foreign Policy editor David Rothkopf, “A Truly Credible Military Threat To Iran,” saying that Obama and the Israelis are at last getting on the same page for a surgical strike on Iran that would only last a couple of hours and bring regional benefits to everyone.

The article was a bombshell because it seemed the first real evidence of joint military planning. But it has apparently mislanded, and led to a clash inside the Israeli embassy between Michael Oren and his former deputy, Baruch Bina, and in turn led Israeli P.M. Netanyahu to dismiss Bina.

Here’s the story as I understand it.

Rothkopf’s piece electrified D.C. because it had the kind of detailed, nuanced language that usually accompanies a well-sourced and authoritative account. And indeed, Rothkopf is a Washington insider. He is the former roommate of Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.

The money graf:

Indeed, according to a source close to the discussions, the action that participants currently see as most likely is a joint U.S.-Israeli surgical strike targeting Iranian enrichment facilities. The strike might take only “a couple of hours” in the best case and only would involve a “day or two” overall, the source said, and would be conducted by air, using primarily bombers and drone support. Advocates for this approach argue that not only is it likely to be more politically palatable in the United States but, were it to be successful — meaning knocking out enrichment facilities, setting the Iranian nuclear program back many years, and doing so without civilian casualties — it would have regionwide benefits. 

Of course we Americans would be doing the heavy lifting:

While this approach would limit the negative costs associated with more protracted interventions, it could not be conducted by the Israelis acting alone.

And here’s the rosy neocon vision. A joint strike, Rothkopf wrote, would have a

“transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”

Rothkopf’s article first made headlines in Israel as a piece of investigative journalism, but doubts ensued. “A Truly Credible Threat” was soon being retailed as an opinion piece. It slid off the front page of the Times of Israel; and even Foreign Policy seemed eager to let the scoop disappear. Comments on the piece were turned off.

What happened? I’ve been told that military officers in the US and Israel privately denied the report: the U.S. military not only opposes Israeli military action but sees the possibility of a joint strike as remote at best.

This led to speculation that Rothkopf’s piece had been planted by the Israeli embassy.

That’s when the other shoe dropped. I’m told that the piece sparked a major confrontation between Oren and Baruch Bina, Israel’s number two man in Washington, with Bina arguing that it was inappropriate of the ambassador to feed such a line to Rothkopf, because it could only damage U.S.-Israeli relations.

A career-limiting-move, indeed. Oren is said to have called Netanyahu to say that he could no longer work with Bina. And Netanyahu took his ambassador’s side. Yesterday Bina was run out of town. Haaretz:

Deputy ambassador to the United States Baruch Bina was on Wednesday appointed Israel’s man in Denmark, in a move that is expected to end the strained relations in Washington between the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, and Bina.

So: He’s being sent to Copenhagen. That’s Siberia. It’s what happens to diplomats who cross Netanyahu.

And here’s the weird kicker: one of the reasons Netanyahu got rid of Bina is not because he’s not trusted in Washington but because he is: the White House likes working with Bina more than Oren. The same holds true for Ehud Barak. The White House likes working with the former Labor leader more than Netanyahu.

Where this leaves David Rothkopf is anyone’s guess. He’s the editor of Foreign Policy. But the “plant” tale is now being murmured about all over town; and I can’t imagine that the bosses at that shop like being used for neoconservative propaganda purposes. Been there, done that.

Update: A friend told me something about Baruch Bina that fills this story out a little. During the Republican convention in Tampa in August, the American Jewish Committee sponsored a panel on the Middle East at the St. Petersburg Art Museum. Bina was on the panel and cited the leading Palestinian writer George Antonius and compared the Arab Spring to a “third Arab awakening.” My friend says Bina was thoughtful in a way that the other two panelists, Republican congressman Chris Smith and former congressman Mark Green, were not.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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32 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    October 13, 2012, 3:11 pm

    “And indeed, Rothkopf is a Washington insider. He is the former roommate of Israeli ambassador Michael Oren.”

    Well, there are other Washington insiders than former Oren roommates and, for all I know, there are other former Oren roommates who are not Washington insiders.

    But, as I read this story, it was Oren than planted the story, Bina who blew the whistle and was punished, Washington who lost a useful diplomat to talk to (Bina), and Rothkopf who got fooled (or worse was a willing shill). (Bina’s reassignment is a reminder that diplomats represent their head-of-government, not the government more generally, and not the country or the people.)

    Why is a guy like that (still) running a foreign policy rag of any repute?

    • kapok
      October 14, 2012, 12:13 pm

      FP has no repute. Anybody who reads and believes it is an ass.

    • traintosiberia
      October 14, 2012, 1:12 pm

      I would not have factored the the history of him being a Nathahoo roommate but I do now given the theme of this article, he accepting the lies from Israeli embassy without even vague confirmation from Obama administration and denial of the pervasive power of the Lobby. He is like Judith Miller who was rerouting Curveball and Chalabi through the official channel who would then quote Judith Miller or some one like Jeff Goldberg as independent observations by the investigative journalists on the ground .
      In his next appearance Mitt or his surrogates in Republican Party may end up citing the article that starting the war as the most reasonable, unavoidable, and eventually rewarding things to do.

  2. David Doppler
    October 13, 2012, 3:32 pm

    Obama should communicate through all his ties to non-Likudniks in Israel that he can no longer work with Netanyahu. Oust him in the elections, or US aid to Israel will suffer.

    I have to confess that the Republican focus on the Libya story smells of neoCon influence, as well. Romney’s knee-jerk response lambasting Obama over Libya reminds of John McCain’s idiotic “We’re all Georgians now,” remark, and only the whiff of sulfur left by neoCon manipulators who sought to trigger that war with Russia could be detected. Or of the very quick Neocon accusation that the first Anthrax clearly originated in Iraq. When the government is full of Neocons, no one can trust that information is good or is being cooked to serve some devious plot. The issue isn’t, will there be an October surprise? It’s which October surprise will they spring?

  3. Krauss
    October 13, 2012, 3:42 pm

    Amazing.

    Remember, Rothkopf also tried to deny that the Israel lobby even exists(a favourite tactic among the lobby’s loyal men).

    Walt responds and methodically plucks apart Rothkopf’s somewhat clumsy(and frankly unsophisticated) attempt to hide the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

    link to walt.foreignpolicy.com

  4. ColinWright
    October 13, 2012, 3:44 pm

    Well, this is just a despairing screech on the part of the ‘bomb bomb bomb Iran’ brigade. No genocidal war for Christmas. Maybe you’ll get the pony next year. Sorry.

    Otherwise, if this guy really was reasonable and all that, good thing he got sent to Siberia. Reasonable Zionists are the most dangerous kind. Give us the lunatics. The more people see what’s really in the sausage, the better.

  5. Les
    October 13, 2012, 3:54 pm

    David Rothkopf is CEO and editor at large of Foreign Policy.

    FOREIGN POLICY is published by the FP Group,
    a division of The Washington Post Company

    link to foreignpolicy.com

  6. MRW
    October 13, 2012, 3:54 pm

    Mark Perry’s article two weeks ago in the same rag underscores how Netanyahu has lost favor with senior US Military brass. It’s not just the Obama administration. It is the top of our entire military apparatus pushing back. Former Centcom commander Hoar, now consulting with the Pentagon on ME policy, couldn’t be clearer. The article drips with disdain over Israel’s idea of bombing Iran, even though it discusses how a crazy Israel might do it.
    link to foreignpolicy.com

    Rothkopf’s piece, on the other hand, shows up the Israeli lack of understanding of military preparedness. No serious or senior US Military planner would talk or think like this: The strike might take only “a couple of hours” in the best case and only would involve a “day or two” overall, the source said, and would be conducted by air, using primarily bombers and drone support. As if Iran were Grenada. The complete idiocy of the transformative outcome statement, said to produce everything except ‘a new galaxy in a land far, far away’, shows the thinking of a fool.

    When I read Rothkopf’s article yesterday, I realized that Netanyahu and Israel are completely off the rails diplomatically. I can imagine this has only cemented Centcom’s resolve.

  7. Egbert
    October 13, 2012, 4:02 pm

    A joint strike, Rothkopf wrote, would have a “transformative outcome: … reanimating the peace process …”

    <sarcasm>Ha haa haaa haaaaa! He had me until then. </sarcasm>

    Reanimating the long dead corpse that is the Peace Process, endless talking about reasons to not have talks whilst Israel expands its theft of Palestinian land and presses the boot harder on the Palestinian’ neck. Who is this maroon?

  8. American
    October 13, 2012, 4:25 pm

    I saw that when it first went up at FP and labeled it as more propaganda.
    Typical crap put out on US-Isr togetherness attack to be picked up by Iran and others.
    Never liked Rothkopf, he strikes me a total tool. And Oren of course is in the Guinness book of records under biggest Liars.

  9. traintosiberia
    October 13, 2012, 5:34 pm

    “”transformative outcome: saving—- assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”

    This is the Money Graf.
    The crowd is being led by the veteran psychopath off the cliff again with the Delphi’s Oracle promising them a Pax Americana.

  10. Citizen
    October 13, 2012, 7:13 pm

    John Bolton will have his way, whether you vote for Obama or Mittens.

  11. HemiFaulk
    October 13, 2012, 7:14 pm

    Sometimes its necessary to draw Art and Culture together, as follows:
    link to en.wikipedia.org

    the plans ain’t plans and “surgical strikes” is beyond absurd!

    Scalpel Test Drive maybe
    attacks on Iran with planes and bombs is like a blindfolded hooker sayin’ hey fellas nice to meet yah!

  12. Annie Robbins
    October 13, 2012, 7:37 pm

    wow, great reporting phil

  13. jimmy
    October 13, 2012, 7:44 pm

    from every thing I read here there and every where…

    the non-members…are nothing more than peasants…

    while the tribe runs the WHOLE show…

  14. Bruce
    October 13, 2012, 9:03 pm

    Foreign Policy Magazine is owned by The Washington Post. Do you think they mind one of their publications being used for neoconservative propaganda purpose? They’ve already turned over WaPo’s editorial page to the neocons.

  15. Keith
    October 13, 2012, 9:07 pm

    I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss this. It may not happen, but the possibility of some sort of attack on Iran or Syria is a very real possibility. Remember the Wesley Clark quote? “…in the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.…” (Wesley Clark, Winning Modern Wars, p. 130).
    link to globalresearch.ca

    Obviously, Iraq didn’t go as planned setting the timing back, however, look at the countries on the list. All have been attacked in one form or another or are currently under attack in one form or another. And, yes, it was a neocon game plan, however, it would appear that the plan is now official US policy, possibly as a consequence of the “Arab Spring” which presented empire with both challenges and opportunities.

  16. DICKERSON3870
    October 13, 2012, 10:29 pm

    RE: “I can’t imagine that the bosses at that shop like being used for neoconservative propaganda purposes.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: I can, but otherwise this is great reporting.

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Foreign Policy]: “. . . On September 29, 2008, The Washington Post Company announced that they had purchased Foreign Policy from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.[2] . . .”
    2. ^ The Washington Post Company Acquires Foreign Policy Magazine September 29, 2008
    SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

  17. Annie Robbins
    October 14, 2012, 12:54 am

    Advocates for this approach argue that ..(insert blablabla)..it would have regionwide benefits. One advocate asserts it would have a “transformative outcome: saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come.”

    let’s get real, the only ‘save’ is the resuscitation of netanyahu’s reputation after that UN cartoon fiasco as well as reconfirming (again) america is at the beck n call of israel’s every whim. dreamland. it’s a last shot at priming obama for war and a confirmation they know romney hasn’t a chance in hell of winning the election.

  18. Annie Robbins
    October 14, 2012, 9:41 am

    It’s not the size of the threatened attack, but the likelihood that it will actually be made, that makes a military threat a useful diplomatic tool. And perhaps a political one, too.

    a diplomatic and political tool for whom? it would be like handing the israelis and their american journo cohorts a big sledgehammer and a megaphone to use against the WH throughout the following plummeting them with repeated reminders of their ‘commitment’ to attack iran.

    rothkopf must think we’re all idiots.

  19. traintosiberia
    October 14, 2012, 9:54 am

    This is why I dont believe in a conspiracy theory I believe in the laws of the conspiracies ,overt,visible,and available for the people with tools ( powers ) to apply.

    D S is asserting that Obama cant t be trusted about negative fallout since he has overestimated negative consequences in other areas . D S is ignoring that the sanction is hurting Greek,Italy,India,and scores of other nations while Israel does not for its parasitic one way relation to US money and even oil. It has hurt US companies and it has hurt US prestige and eroded goodwill .It has killed Israian citizen.It ahs contributed or not reduced high oil prices in US. Above all it is the Israeli pressure that has forced US to engage in falsehood and manipulation to increase the sanction which by itself is an act of war and is an unprovoked one It is the Israeli pressure that has pushed US to force other countries (despite the harms to their self interest ) to adopt Israeli lines .D S is also seeding doubt in the voters minds about Obama and asking him to take notice of his weakness .
    Author is asserting how Romney is articulating a clear idea on foreign policy in contrast to “doubting Thomas” Obama .To highlight the issue he reminds everybody of the stark absence this time of any usual gaffe that Rommeny always ends up engaging to.
    Instead of mentioning of public fatigue and cost author could have raised the simple fact to the consciousness that the war and unwarranted wars are costly. Wars on false pretenses are always prolonged for the non-existent threat never cease to exist as a threat .Paranoid delusion does not go away by killing the person accused of plotting and hatching the worst scenario.It needs a different strategy.The author could also have raised the morality and legality of the war instead of how easy and quick a surgical limited attack of Israeli version will serve electoral purposes of Obama and suit the taste buds of American palates . In another time of more sanity and prudence this will amount to incitement to violence . Instead of saying that US is dragging its feet, author could have reminded how Israel is driving US to war.
    By promising and rehasing same old formula of low cost low man power limited duration of wars along with high rewards both for America and the locals the author is selling the same snake oil sold by not that long ago by Wolfowitz,Perle,Kagan,Wurmser,Ledeen,Sharon, Gissin and Nathahoo that destroyed Iraq, US economy and men and women in uniforms and advanced Israeli interest .
    To cap it all author along Israeli insiders in the administration is trying to soften any resistance to war .They are also creating a passive acceptance of inevitability even among the diehards anti war pro American by pointing the conspiratorial nature of the decision making at the highest place of the administration.This generates apathy,cynicism,and hopelessness that are detrimental to any participatory democracy. If these are not the losses then God helps us. Question should be raised :Is Israel destroying our democracy ?

  20. gingershot
    October 14, 2012, 12:36 pm

    These Israeli Lobby-functionaries ARE part of a vast grand conspiracy, ARE in close coordination with Israel and her objectives, and ARE a clear and present danger to not only the US but everybody around the world that Israel and her Neocons are trying to direct the US to attack

    There are layers and layers of these functionaries – secondary and tertiary layers behind the Neocons – tons of Tom Friedmans, David Brooks, Alan Dershowitzs and characters like Martin Indyk and this Rothkopf – all echo chambering each other and providing the ocean that a terrorist like Netanyahu swims in

    Forget about the ‘vast left wing conspiracies’, the ‘vast right wing conspiracies’, or culture wars

    There is only one battle and that is the battle against the Israeli Lobby and Israel

  21. Annie Robbins
    October 14, 2012, 1:32 pm

    bina is not the only one headed for siberia

    Ziki Ramon, director of the ministry’s European Union department, was appointed Israeli ambassador to Portugal and Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, who served as head of the Diaspora Division, was appointed Israeli ambassador to Australia.

    i’d wager Israeli ambassador to Portugal is a step down from Israel’s ministry director of the EU. and Shmuel Ben-Shmuel was (or is) Deputy Consul General of the Israeli Consulate in New York and australia is an important post as citizens of australia have been highly critical of israel although, from what i’ve heard, their elected politicians line up like ducks for the lobby.

  22. RoHa
    October 14, 2012, 10:30 pm

    “He’s being sent to Copenhagen. That’s Siberia.”

    It may be a career downgrade, but Copenhagen is a lovely place to live. If they really wanted to punish him, there are plenty of worse places.

  23. piotr
    October 15, 2012, 3:58 am

    When we meet in sweet Siberia
    Where the snow is so superior
    You can bet all right
    That the Christmas will be white
    In cheery Siberi—-a

    Copenhagen has rather mild climate and you may loose your white Christmas bet there. My memories of Copenhagen are very nice except for rather obnoxious and picky consulate of a Middle Eastern country that I had to visit three times before getting a visa (it required 2 hour trip each way for me). Copenhagen has a lot to offer and the local food is very good, although it can be hard to stay kosher (or sober, beer is very good, and Danes are pathologically congenial).

    So I would not shed tears for Baruch Bina. The strategically crucial posting in Ulaan Baatar could be more challenging. While technically not in Siberia, it is quite close and the climate is the same. This Monday, the maximum temperature was +1 C, and the low at night -12 C. And it is still more than two months to Christmas. Local beverage, kumiss, is perhaps delicious but, alas! not kosher (fermented mare’s milk).

    • LeaNder
      October 15, 2012, 9:19 am

      Hmm? Piotr, I would like to hear a longer version of your story. ;)

      “He’s being sent to Copenhagen. That’s Siberia.”

      The world from the US perspective. I knew a now retired EU ambassador who managed to represent the EU on all these lovely warm islands, where incidentally he wanted to live. He last represented the EU in Jamaica. ;)

      Deputy ambassador to the United States Baruch Bina was on Wednesday appointed Israel’s man in Denmark,

      Forward, January 19, 2011, Labor Unrest in Israel’s Foreign Service Is Felt in Capitals Around the Globe

      As a result, filling diplomatic posts at the embassy in Washington, once considered the crown jewel of Israel’s foreign service, has become increasingly difficult. Several recent vacancies for top diplomatic jobs in Washington had applications from only one or two candidates, while less important posts in cities such as Bratislava or Helsinki saw dozens of applicants, partly due to the fact that salary scales for positions in Europe have been updated more recently than for those in America.

  24. piotr
    October 15, 2012, 4:25 am

    I really like this “transformative outcome”. Left out are other benefits of attacking Iran, as it will improve the potency of men, beauty of women, intelligence of children and eliminate colic among the babies. Clearly, it is not about the nukes.

    Of course, those old enough heard the same story before. Attack on Iraq was supposed to have transformative outcome. If I recall, it was supposed to be good for the peace process in several different ways, but at that time the “process” was not so moribund as to require “reanimation”. 11 years ago reanimation technology was projected to be in routine use by now:

    link to theonion.com

    However, even though Science section of Onion magazine is a more reputable news source than leaks from unnamed diplomats, corpse reanimation technology is still did not show an actual reanimated corpse.

  25. Rusty Pipes
    October 15, 2012, 1:22 pm

    Maybe we should start calling FP, Freier Policy, because someone is sure being taken for a sucker with this type of reporting.

  26. piotr
    October 15, 2012, 4:53 pm

    To be fair, Foreign Policy gives a forum to a larger spectrum of opinion, for example Steven Walt’s blog, where he lately discusses “How to sustain public support for wars of choice”. The answer is rather lengthy, but in a nutshell 3 things are required:

    1. Lies
    2. Lies
    3. Lies

    One lie is not enough. Re 1: there is an absolutely terribilicious problem out there, e.g. civilizations as we know may end, or Persian Empire will kill all 300 Spartans who are really, really cute. Re 2: We can solve that problem, e.g. we will make the second battle of Gaugamela and joyful Persians will abolish their Empire, Spartans will live happily ever after (and more cute then ever before). Re 3: it will cost peanuts.

    • Rusty Pipes
      October 16, 2012, 3:27 pm

      Re 3: it will cost peanuts.

      And we barely have any peanuts left since Dubya slashed government income with taxcuts for the rich and stoked government debt with neo-con wars of choice.

  27. NickJOCW
    October 16, 2012, 5:28 am

    The piece was a something of a shoulder shrug from the start. The issue has ever been the consequences, hereinafter referred to as ‘transformative outcome’, of attacking Iran and they remain the same whether you bomb the odd enrichment site or flatten Teheran. I particularly liked the airy timescale: The strike might take only “a couple of hours” …and … involve a “day or two” overall. Humph.

  28. piotr
    October 17, 2012, 5:15 am

    Transformative outcomes in the annals of history: “if Croesus attacked the Persians, he would destroy a great empire – this would become one of the most famous oracular statements from Delphi.” Which indeed happened, but Persian empire existed for more than 200 years afterwards, unlike the kingdom of Croesus. [Observe also that Iran was overrun by the enemies several times, but most attacks were a failure, including the death of a few Roman emperors or chief commanders,]

    Transformative outcome of Iraq war: Iraq is the ally of Iran and Syria, if somewhat discreet. Which is perhaps OK, but it did not had to cost a trillion dollars.

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