Debbie Hall

Bibi’s Folly

Like many others, I did not attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before a joint session of Congress this week.  Granted, I wasn’t invited, but had I been, I still would not have attended.  Like many others, I disagreed with Prime Minister Netanyahu giving that speech, but for reasons dissimilar to most.

President Obama initiated this game by chastising Speaker Boehner’s invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak before Congress regarding Iran; understandably so, since the State Department is in the midst of negotiating nuclear terms with Iran.  However, I think the President showed poor leadership skills in going about it as he did.  This disagreement should have occurred in private, but this is where blame of President Obama ends.  At this point, Prime Minister Netanyahu should have reconsidered this invitation.  When it was revealed that Speaker Boehner did not have bipartisan support for issuing this invitation, Prime Minister Netanyahu should have very gracefully bowed out of the speech.  It should have ended there, but it didn’t.

Once the Democratic members of both houses of Congress started weighing in, things became even more constrained.  Though they may be pro-Israel as individuals, they had no choice but to express their unhappiness with the planned speech based on the leader of their party’s unhappiness.  This is politics.

At this point, Prime Minister Netanyahu should have thought very carefully about the possible outcome of infuriating members of the Democratic Party.  The Democrats even gave Netanyahu a way out by requesting he attend a private meeting with them.  Netanyahu, after stating he would speak before any group willing to hear him about the dangers Israel faces, foolishly declined the invitation.

So Monday, in a room absent of much of the Democratic Party leadership, Prime Minister Netanyahu gave his speech.  It was only slightly different from the speech he gave before the UN in 2012 warning of the imminent threat that Iran poses to Israel; and he’s not wrong.  Iran does pose a serious threat to not only Israel, but to every Sunni Muslim country in the region.  He spoke about the eventual nuclear arms race in the Middle East should Iran fail to be reined in.  The surprise came when he spoke about the deal that the US State Department was negotiating as flawed, and I agree with him.  It is flawed.

So why would I refuse to attend this speech had I been given the opportunity if I agree with the content of the speech?  Because Prime Minister Netanyahu delivering that speech is the equivalent of flushing bipartisan support for Israel down the toilet.  If this were a game of Risk, Netanyahu’s battle ship was just sunk.

Make no mistake, this is all ego on both the part of President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu; but when you’re in the weaker position, sometimes you have to let your ego slide for the sake of your country.  Prime Minister Netanyahu just guaranteed that support for Israel would no longer be part of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) platform.  This may not affect Israel if there is a Republican majority in Congress and a Republican President, but if the Democrats win the White House in 2016, and if they hold a majority in Congress in the future, which is likely, Israel will suffer the consequences of Netanyahu’s actions. The DNC platform is not authored by our elected officials; it is authored and voted upon by delegates and there are plenty of delegates who are already anti-Israel.  We saw this at the DNC Convention in 2012 when the vote came up to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the cameras showed some very upset Arab American Democrats and the voice vote was performed three different times. Once it was finally affirmed,the boos issued by the delegates were loud and clear. Because of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s blatant thumbed nose at both President Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership, if there is a similar vote in the future, it will not be affirmed and Democratic members of Congress will have no choice but to vote along party lines.

Since this is ego-driven, President Obama will do exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu does not want him to do, because he can.  When the safety of your citizens is in danger, your goal should be the results you seek. If the goal of speaking before Congress was to change the course of negotiations with Iran, Netanyahu failed miserably and convinced no one to adopt his suggestions.

Prime Minister Netanyahu just made one of the gravest errors of his career and the price will be paid by the people of Israel for years to come.

About the Author
Debbie Hall is a writer and activist living in the diaspora.
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