Expect all eyes on Netanyahu over the next few days, having arrived in the US for a 3 day visit which includes a meeting with Obama tomorrow culminating in a much anticipated address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.
The Jerusalem Post cites an Israeli official “We are aware that in this atmosphere we are swimming against the current” and the Guardian quotes one senior researcher at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Centre, Jonathan Spyer, saying it would be “an enormous challenge for Netanyahu to reverse that trend.” The trend being the euphoria that’s swept the American public over the prospect of a breakthrough with Iran.
Daniel Levy’s current article at Foreign Policy, Maximum Bibi, breaks down Netanyahu’s urgent dilemma given the “diplomatic opening” created by the election of Rouhani as Iran’s president. Explaining why Netanyahu doesn’t want the US to cut a deal with Iran, Levy posits Netanyahu doesn’t want Iran powerful and independent, Israel likes its hegemony in the region, uncooperative neighboring regimes are ok if they’re considered “beyond the pale” by U.S. standards, nothing we don’t know. But I became excited when Levy cited Iran as being ‘extremely useful’ at diverting attention away from Palestine. I think more and more people are putting the pieces together, not that Levy just discovered this, but that fear-mongering over Iran is roundly recognized as linked to Palestine:
Israel’s leadership would consider the emergence of a third type of regional actor — one that is not overly deferential to Washington but also is not boycotted, and that even boasts a degree of economic, political, and military weight — a deeply undesirable development. What’s more, this threatens to become a not-uncommon feature of the Middle East: Just look at Turkey under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or Egypt before the July 3 coup, or an Iran that gets beyond its nuclear dispute and starts to normalize its relations with the West.
There are other reasons for Netanyahu to oppose any developments that would allow Iran to break free of its isolation and win acceptance as an important regional actor with which the West engages. The current standoff is an extremely useful way of distracting attention from the Palestinian issue, and a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran would likely shine more of a spotlight on Israel’s own nuclear weapons capacity. But the key point to understand in interpreting Netanyahu’s policy is this: While Obama has put aside changing the nature of the Islamic Republic’s political system, Israel’s leader is all about a commitment to regime change — or failing that, regime isolation — in Tehran. And he will pursue that goal even at the expense of a workable deal on the nuclear file.
……………. The prime minister is nothing if not consistent: He was similarly intractable when the Palestinian leadership and the Arab League put forth pragmatic proposals. While the PLO’s leadership accepts Israel’s existence, the 1967 lines, and an accommodation on Israeli settlements (including in East Jerusalem) by way of land swaps, Netanyahu has shifted the goal posts — rejecting the 1967 lines and refusing to take yes for an answer. With the Arab League’s “Arab Peace Initiative” offering recognition of Israel and comprehensive peace in exchange for withdrawal from the occupied territories, Netanyahu is again following this pattern of rejectionism.
There’s more and I recommend the whole article. Levy concludes by saying Obama needs to become “defter” at outmaneuvering Netanyahu, and “the interests of global and regional security” might “require a short, sharp burst of boxing in Bibi.”
And that’s music to my ears.