This is a marvel. The New York Times Magazine published a long article about Benjamin Netanyahu’s unsuccessful effort to get Obama to attack Iran and successful effort to get Trump to abandon the Iran deal, and authors explain Netanyahu’s outsize influence on the White House by saying that he has the ability to “sway public opinion” in the U.S. Netanyahu told them as much.
American public opinion was the key, and the ability to shape it in some ways cut to the very heart of Netanyahu’s political persona. “In the last 30 years, I appeared innumerable times in the American media and met thousands of American leaders,” he says. “I developed a certain ability to influence public opinion, and that is the most important thing: the ability to sway public opinion in the United States against the regime in Iran.”
This argument might be a bit more persuasive if in the course of 7,000 or 8,000 words the Times had mentioned Sheldon Adelson, Trump’s biggest donor and Netanyahu’s backer too, who called on Obama to nuke Iran. John Bolton is a major figure in the article, but Bolton only got access to Trump by calling him from Adelson’s office in Vegas (as Politico reported).
Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have given $175 million or more to Republican Party coffers and is “driving” Trump’s Middle East policy, says the Guardian. Adelson has “more influence” than the Secretary of State, says an NYT columnist. Adelson speaks of himself as a “citizen” of Israel. Follow the money, right? The Adelsons are never mentioned.
Netanyahu’s influence is stated as a given, like oxygen. He even has the ability to “use our politics” to his advantage, say, during the 2012 election. How did the leader of a pint-size nation acquire that Svengali ability? There is no mention of the Israel lobby. AIPAC, the leading lobby group, is mentioned only in passing, a place where leaders give speeches.
Which is not all that surprising given that one of the article’s authors, the Israeli Ronen Bergman, speaks regularly at AIPAC and praises the organization for what it does for Israel. As he told a closed AIPAC meeting last year:
You know, I’ve been all over the U.S. with AIPAC and it’s always a great pleasure, as an Israeli. I always tell AIPAC, you do so much in the U.S., and I know that Israel is not the spirit of where you work, but you need to do a little more to explain to Israelis how much they owe AIPAC. Israelis are not aware. I am aware… I know that you’ve got our backs. It’s such a great feeling.
The authors suggest that Netanyahu knows “public opinion” better than U.S. presidents and Americans hate Iran. This cannot be the case. Americans don’t want more wars in the Middle East. The Iran deal was overwhelmingly supported by the American public. When Trump trashed the deal, Eli Clifton wrote Trump was responsive to three pro-Israel billionaires: “[T]oday’s unpopular announcement may have been exactly what two of Trump’s biggest donors, Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, and what one of his biggest inaugural supporters, Paul Singer, paid for when they threw their financial weight behind Trump.”
Ben Rhodes offered a similar explanation of Netanyahu’s leverage on Obama– donors — after Obama dared to say that a peace deal should be based on the ’67 lines and Netanyahu got the Jewish community to take his side.
“Netanyahu’s smack at Obama came just as the 2012 presidential campaign cycle was cranking up, and it succeeded in igniting a firestorm of criticism… A number of congressional Democrats distanced themselves from the speech. I was given a list of leading Jewish donors to call to reassure them of Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides. It was far too painful to wade into these waters with no prospect of success. Netanyahu had mastered a kind of leverage: using political pressure within the United States to demoralize any meaningful push for peace just as he used settlements as a means of demoralizing the Palestinians…”
Again and again in the Times article, “The Secret History of the Push to Strike Iran,” we see Israel having an outsize influence over White House decisions.
Some in his administration feared that if Obama told Netanyahu about the nascent talks [with Iran], the Israelis would leak word of them to tank any future deal. ..
Yes and who could “tank” the deal? The authors mean the Israel lobby– AIPAC, which worked hard to kill the deal.
Netanyahu brags of his influence.
In an interview in August in his office in Jerusalem, he acknowledged the possibility that Trump, like Obama before him, might try to avoid a war and instead attempt to reach a settlement over Iran’s nuclear program.
“But this time,” Netanyahu said, “we will have far greater ability to exert influence.”
The Times article continually confuses Israeli and American interests. In what way does Hezbollah, always cited as an Iranian proxy, threaten the United States? Only former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dares to say that the tail is wagging the dog:
“If it looks like the United States is going to do whatever Israel’s bidding is, on any issue, then I think the United States loses any leverage,” he said. “Our fundamental goal has to be to protect our national security interests. What is in the United States’ interest? And yes, we are a friend and an ally of Israel, but I think we always have to maintain a relationship that looks at the bigger picture of that region and what needs to be done to preserve peace in that region.”
The article contains some amazing revelations. Like: the last Israeli Prime Minister before Netanyahu could accept an Iranian nuke. Ehud Olmert says:
“Just as Pakistan had the bomb and nothing happened, Israel could also accept and survive Iran having the bomb.”…
Translation: U.S. policy is being set by Netanyahu’s red lines.
Or that Obama tried to take Netanyahu on in May 2009 and failed, because he “adopted most of the Palestinian narrative.” Obama and Netanyahu’s first meeting at the White House in May 2009 was “interminable.” Obama lectured Netanyahu about not building in the settlements, the PM says.
Speaking now, Netanyahu says that “Obama came from another direction, one that adopted most of the Palestinian narrative,” and ruefully cites the “not a single brick” line to argue that the American president was against him from the very beginning.
Yes and Obama abandoned that opposition, and now Trump has trashed Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement. Because Netanyahu knows public opinion? Hogwash. The authors have fallen for Netanyahu’s hype.