Oh nostalgia! You’ve surely heard about Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest ad that shows him lecturing Barack Obama in the White House eight years ago and says it’s a sign of Netanyahu’s strength.
The ad features the encounter between Obama and the Prime Minister in May 2011 right after Obama dared to suggest that the ’67 lines were the basis for negotiation. Netanyahu trashes Palestinians in the ad, which is an excerpt of the PBS documentary, “Netanyahu at War:”
PBS Voiceover: “This time Netanyahu would lecture Obama, taking a hard line on the peace process.”
Netanyahu to Obama: “It’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen. And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians, it’s not going to happen.”
Ben Rhodes: “I’ve never a foreign leader seen a speak to the president like that and certainly not in public. I’ve certainly never seen it in the Oval Office.”
Netanyahu: “Israel obviously can’t be expected to negotiate with a government that is backed by the Palestinian version of al Qaeda.
Peter Baker, New York Times: “You’re watching the president there, his face in his hand, and you can tell it’s not going over well. It’s his house and to be lectured in his office rankles.”
Netanyahu to Obama: “You cannot go back to the 1967 lines. Because these lines are indefensible.”
Dennis Ross: Bill Daley is standing next to me and he’s going, “Outrageous. Outrageous.”
The ad ends with a campaign message: “Netanyahu, Right. Strong.”
The ad has horrified liberal Israel supporters. J Street:
@netanyahu has built his re-election campaign on racism, fear-mongering and outrageous smears. Now his new ad highlights his disrespect for @BarackObama and contempt for the peace process. Is this the bipartisanship @AIPAC was touting this week?
Former Obama adviser Ben Rhodes also mentions racism and Palestinians:
Democrats have to reckon with the fact that the Prime Minister of Israel has a political brand built on fear, racism, open-ended subjugation of Palestinians and gleeful disrespect for Democrats.
The ad is particularly uncomfortable because everyone in the Democratic congressional leadership says that Israel must not become a partisan issue– but they have nothing bad to say about Netanyahu. Nancy Pelosi insisted on this dream at the rightwing lobby group AIPAC early this week:
Our pledge remains the same. Israel and America are connected now and forever. We will never allow anyone to make Israel a wedge issue. That pledge is proudly honored in this Congress where support for Israel remains ironclad and bipartisan.
Liberal Zionists like J Street share the hope that Israel won’t become a partisan issue, because a wedge threatens Israel’s support in the U.S. Dylan Williams of J Street has challenged the rightwing branch of the Israel lobby to speak out and hold things together:
@AIPAC & @AJCGlobal really have nothing to say about @netanyahu‘s campaign ad boasting about disrespecting President Obama? If they truly cared about bipartisanship on Israel, they’d take a break from their own progressive bashing to call out such contempt quickly & forcefully.
The ad is a good reminder of something. Netanyahu bashes Obama because Israelis hate Obama! And they love Trump! Liberal Zionists want to deny that. Just as Ben Rhodes doesn’t want to remind us that Obama had to swallow that humiliation in 2011. Obama was running for reelection. Obama had vetoed the settlements resolution at the U.N. Security Council just a month before, catering to Netanyahu and the Israel lobby.
Now we’re in a Humpty Dumpty situation. This week even the New York Times says the Democratic consensus on Israel is falling apart– in some large measure because people of color don’t buy apartheid and religious nationalism. As Matt Duss of the Sanders campaign says, addressing the Democratic base:
Netanyahu’s racist campaign now includes this ad about how he disrespected the first black president in his own house.
The election in Israel is producing even greater strain for the old consensus. If Netanyahu wins, then progressives will use him as a punching bag in the presidential race. And if Netanyahu loses and Israel doesn’t change its conduct one bit, the liberal Zionist claim that it’s all Netanyahu’s fault will crumble.
This post initially said that the lecture took place in March 2011. It’s been corrected to May.