Maybe you’ve noticed: a groundswell of anger is building toward Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israelis in the wake of the prime minister’s fearmongering speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, and his efforts to stand in the way of the American opening to Iran.
The State Department says we’re in “lockstep” with the Israelis. But if we’re in lockstep, then why is Netanyahu calling the Iranian leader a liar and a charlatan?
Andrea Mitchell showed frank impatience with Netanyahu during an interview with him aired on NBC news last night. When the Israeli prime minister blustered about Iran wanting to destroy Israel, and being led by a messianic, apocalyptic, radical cult, Mitchell demurred, in a Friend-of-Israel way:
Do you think you have a risk of overstating the dangers and hurting Israel by isolating Israel from the rest of the world that wants a diplomatic opening?
Her next questions revealed more impatience with Israeli tactics.
So why not test him [Rouhani]?
Why not give this man a chance?
Then Mitchell put in this final dig:
Even with the US government on the brink of shutting down, on Monday the Israeli leader spent hours with President Obama
I noticed this myself at J Street on Monday, when Vice President Biden showed up late for his speech and offered the following excuse:
I’ve just spent 2 ½ hours meeting with the president and Prime Minister Netanyahu and his team, and then alone in my office for the better part of an hour with just the prime minister and myself, talking about the issues that are of mutual concern. And so I – (cheers, applause) – I truly – I truly apologize for keeping you waiting.
2-1/2 hours of the president’s time? 3-1/2 hours of the veep’s? Not to mention Biden’s trip to J Street…. In the midst of the government shutdown. Jeez.
Meantime, over at the State Department, reporters were saying the same thing Mitchell was saying, that Netanyahu is seeking to thwart our new policy vis-a-vis Iran. The State Department says it’s in “lockstep” with Israel. But if it’s in lockstep, what about the wild accusations Netanyahu is making. From the briefing with Jen Psaki:
QUESTION: I presume you watched, or at least you have an idea of what [Netanyahu] said today at the UN. Essentially, there were two things: One is, absolutely no trust of what Iran is up to, and that they would act alone – Israel would act alone to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb…. It was quite harsh, compared to even to what he said about this yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, he just met with the President and with the Secretary yesterday, and we are in lockstep agreement that we are not going to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon….
QUESTION: But when you say that you’re in a lockstep with the Israelis, does that include… the preferred path being diplomacy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak for what their beliefs are…
QUESTION: You said that you’re in lockstep. However, he is really harsher when it comes to that. Essentially, he’s saying there should be no trust. You can’t trust Iran at all. …
QUESTION: Do you share Prime Minister Netanyahu’s view that Iranian President Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to every comment that every foreign leader makes. I think I can speak to what our view is, which is that President Rouhani – there’s a new opportunity given his election. We will see if they backup their words with actions, and time will tell….
QUESTION: So you think it’s conceivable that President Rouhani is trustworthy?…
QUESTION: [Netanyahu] suggested that the Iranians are like the North Koreans, which as you know, have reached a series of agreements with the United States that the United States subsequently concluded they had violated, right?… So what he is clearly saying is he doesn’t think you can trust Rouhani. Do you think it is possible you can trust Rouhani?
MS. PSAKI: If we did not think a path forward was possible, we wouldn’t be pursuing a path forward. So – and obviously, he is one of the proponents of that.
QUESTION: So did he repeat this idea that Israel would be prepared to go it alone in the meetings yesterday with Secretary Kerry? And if so, what was Secretary Kerry’s advice on that?… Is the United States position in agreement with Israel that they have the right to go it alone if they want to?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that has been our position for some time…
More evidence of backlash. John Judis in the New Republic–which used to be Israel-friendly– calls Netanyahu’s speech “shockingly bad.” Teeming with misrepresentations, and slighting American policy, which is to get a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s speech was also rife with questionable claims. He contended that Iran is developing intercontinental ballistic missiles “whose sole purpose is to deliver nuclear warheads.” And he warned that these missiles would be able to reach New York “in three or four years.” True? Greg Thielmann of the Arms Control Association wrote this July after Netanyahu aired similar claims on Meet the Press, “So far, Iran has never flight-tested a long-range ballistic missile—neither a 5,500 km range ICBM nor a 3,000-5,500 km range intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). Moreover, in striking contrast to its active pursuit of short- and medium-range missiles, Iran has never declared or demonstrated an interest in developing longer-range systems. It would be appropriate to at least bring these facts into the discussion of when (or if) an Iranian ICBM threat might eventually appear.”
Netanyahu’s speech was filled with head-scratching hypocrisy that must have amused those UN delegates that it didn’t enrage….
I don’t know exactly why the Obama administration began threatening military action against Iran, but I fear that it was prompted by a desire to calm Netanyahu, who in 2011 was already threatening military action. The timing makes it appear that way. What’s worse is that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have continued to voice this rhetoric. After his White House meeting with Netanyahu yesterday, Obama stated, “I’ve said before and I will repeat that we take no options off the table, including military options, in terms of making sure that we do not have nuclear weapons in Iran that would destabilize the region and potentially threaten the United States of America.” And speaking at the J Street conference, Biden repeated Netanyahu’s canard that Iran poses an “existential threat” to Israel…
The speech itself was 3,138 words. Of these, Netanyahu devoted 53 words at the end to declaring his willingness to deal with the Palestinians. He devoted another 94 words to setting conditions that the Palestinians are not ready to accept. Is Netanyahu serious about making an “historic compromise” with Palestinians? Or could he be less serious about this than Rouhani is about making a deal on Iran’s nuclear program? Who is the deceiver here?
The commander of Iran’s cyberwar program has been shot dead in an apparent assassination, a British newspaper reported Wednesday.
Mojtaba Ahmadi, who specialized in computer defense, was found dead in woods near Tehran with two bullets in his heart, The Telegraph said, citing a website linked to the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard. He was last seen Saturday leaving for his job at the Cyber War Headquarters, according to the site, Alborz