It’s now been over a month since the Netanyahu speech was announced in Washington as a morning-after rebuke to the president’s appeal for Iran negotiations in his State of the Union speech, and the drama yielded yet another great reward yesterday when Secretary of State John Kerry said Netanyahu was “wrong” to oppose the U.S. preliminary deal with Iran and criticized Netanyahu for his advice to the U.S. before we invaded Iraq in 2003.
“The Prime Minister was also profoundly forward-leaning about the importance of invading Iraq under George W Bush, and we all know what happened with that decision.”
Below is the Netanyahu testimony on the Iraq war, at CSPAN. Excerpt:
“If you take out Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region… The task and the great opportunity and challenge is not merely to effect the ouster of the regime, but also to transform the region.”
Kerry’s criticism links Netanyahu implicitly with the neoconservatives who pushed the war to transform the Middle East, and makes all but explicit the idea that the neocons pushed the war out of concern for Israel’s security. A friend wrote to me yesterday that Kerry was channeling Walt and Mearsheimer, the realist scholars who described the neocons-for-Israel agenda in their landmark 2006 paper The Israel Lobby.
Talking Points Memo leaped on this idea, leading its story:
Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to a potential nuclear deal with Iran, calling it as wrongheaded as the prime minister’s backing of the Iraq War.
Typically, the New York Times made light of the issue. It said about 17 paragraphs down in its story that Kerry had “needled” Netanyahu on this point. But it wasn’t a needle. Chris Matthews, also excited by the Iraq angle, last night called the Netanyahu speech fallout a “crapstorm” and led off his show with the controversy.
We know this tonight. This fight is escalating… And Secretary of State John Kerry is hitting Netanyahu on his history of hawkish statements including one pushing the United States to invade Iraq, saying how great it would be for the region. It was a very tough shot from the secretary, a sign of how tough this fighting is getting.
Matthews calls it a tough shot, not a needle. I can’t believe the New York Times. It will do anything to avoid looking seriously at the Israel agenda of the Iraq war-planners. Which, thanks to John Kerry, is becoming conventional wisdom after all.
The dual loyalty issue came up on Hardball when Charlie Rangel came on and while professing loyalty to Israel and saying that the two countries are “joined at the hip,” stated his shock to discover that Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer “comes from Florida.”
He’s formerly a Democrat or a Republican activist, as his father was. So he goes over to Israel and now he comes back here playing friendship with his Republican partners.
Yes, what’s that about? And why can a privileged American Jew move to that country and have political power while a Palestinian who was born there can’t go back to his home?
The AP coverage says that Democrats are in a bind on the speech:
Netanyahu’s plans to speak to Congress have irritated many Democratic members, but also have put them in a difficult spot – fearing they will look anti-Israel if they don’t attend.
And why do they fear looking anti-Israel? That’s about campaign donations. AP notes that more Democratic legislators announced they would skip the speech–
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky becoming the latest on Wednesday.
Kaine said Netanyahu’s speech was “highly inappropriate” given its proximity to Israel’s March 17 Israeli elections.
Schakowsky said she was concerned that the address could end up scuttling delicate negotiations with Iran.
“If the talks are to fail, let Iran be the party that walks away from the table rather than the United States,” Schakowsky, who is Jewish, said in a statement.
Kaine joins Senate colleagues Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) in skipping the prime minister’s address.
The New York Times reports that Netanyahu is pressing forward on his agenda, taking on Iran.
At a campaign event in Israel on Wednesday, Mr. Netanyahu stood firm, ratcheting up his criticism of the developing deal with Iran. Referring to the world powers negotiating with Tehran, he said “it seems they have given up on that commitment” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
“I respect the White House and the president of the United States,” he was quoted as saying. “But on such a critical topic that could determine whether we exist or not, it is my duty to do everything to prevent this great danger to the state of Israel.”
One of the big political beneficiaries of Netanyahu’s blunder is the liberal Zionist group J Street, which now looks exactly like AIPAC, the old Israel lobby, and is getting more and more support inside the Democratic Party. It has a giant ad in the New York Times today that is disgraceful in its emphasis: it accuses Netanyahu of trying to manipulate the Israeli elections. Who cares about the Israeli election when US foreign policy is on the line? Not a word about Netanyahu’s effort to get the U.S. into a war with Iran. That is the real danger of this speech. But you can see all J Street is worried about is damage to the US-Israeli relationship. Thankfully, as this drama escalates, Americans will talk about the real question, the one John Kerry framed: Should Netanyahu help get us into another war?
Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer has his own graphic that he tweeted. His most alarmist crazy message yet.
Oh and here is more payoff from the speech. Nicholas Kristof in the Times reports angrily from the West Bank, and says that Netanyahu should talk about the occupation in his speech.
the occupation is particularly offensive to me because it is conducted by the United States’ ally, underwritten with our tax dollars, supported by tax-deductible contributions to settlement groups, and carried out by American bulldozers and weaponry, and presided over by a prime minister who is scheduled to speak to Congress next week.