The infamous “chickenshit” article reared its crude head in the midst of the rising crisis in Jerusalem, just days in between the car-murder of an infant and the attempt on Yehuda Glick’s life. Not long after came the Republican’s historic victory in the US Congress, which may (or may not) have humbled some White House officials, but which certainly drew further attention away from Jeffrey Goldberg’s masterpiece. Some might say the diversion of attention from the article is in everyone’s best interests, and I wouldn’t disagree – yet there are still some issues that need to be addressed.
Let’s get one thing straight – Mr. Goldberg deserves a medal, or at least a hug, for his loyal service to the Israeli cause. Despite the effort to portray the Israeli PM as a coward, the article succeeds in illustrating an argument that Israel has been trying desperately to get across. Aside the ample criticism and ridicule the article received for its actual content, which in and of itself damaged the image of the Obama administration, it is worth examining the subtext of the article.
Goldberg ultimately manages to strengthen Israel’s position on two fronts: First, the real gist of the major criticism against Netanyahu as a coward can be summed up as “he doesn’t do what we tell him to” – that is, Mr. Netanyahu takes the will of his electorate and constituency into account when exercising his discretion and making decisions, instead of accepting and executing any and all American dictates. To the impartial reader this is hardly an indictment of a politician or leader – on the contrary, it takes significant courage to stare down a world power and strategic ally like the United States while standing up for your own country’s best interests. The inevitable conclusion is that Netanyahu is in fact a pretty ballsy guy, holding his ground under intense pressure. The lack of any substance in the claims against Netanyahu is frankly embarrassing and eliminates any shred of legitimacy they might have had.
The second front is within Goldberg’s implicit claim that it is Israel (and specifically Netanyahu) that is exclusively responsible for the deterioration of the Israel-US relationship. (On a side note, this is typical of left-wing political hindsight – it is inconceivable that the Obama administration made any errors or has any culpability in the current scenario, rather only external malicious “others” can be blamed for the many colossal failures). Reading between the lines, the article serves to prove the exact opposite – it reveals a snickering, condescending, patronizing, arrogant and demeaning attitude emanating from top officials within the White House. These are the people, and this is the mindset, that Netanyahu and Israel have been dealing with and with which they are supposed to cooperate. The subtext of the article thus demonstrates convincingly how the White House has played such a significant part in the decline of US-Israel ties. The sensationalist tabloid language used in the article – let’s face it, without which the article would have been almost entirely ignored – undermines Goldberg’s central premise of Israeli responsibility for the current state of affairs, and shifts the burden of proof to the Obama administration, making readers wonder instead whether the Israelis have been coping with this crap all along.
The final tragedy is the transparently cowardly nature of the article’s purpose, which has already been widely discussed in various outlets. With defeat and failure in every policy the Obama administration implements, they now need a “win”, and the White House is turning to the Middle East. Without a chance in hell for a fairy-tale resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict Obama must make major concessions to Iran, and in return may just regain some of his lost eminence – by curbing ISIS with Iran’s help and by signing a nuclear-energy deal with Iran. Knowing they’ll meet stiff opposition from Israel, Obama and the White House have begun preparing the ground for a major fall-out, de-legitimizing and infantilizing Israel’s (vocal and resistant) leadership as a first step. The Obama administration is mortally afraid of admitting its ruinous intentions to its own electorate and to its closest allies – so who’s the chickenshit?