‘Israel Wants Change’

As many as 35,000 Israelis turned out for a rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square Saturday night for an anti-Bibi rally themed "Israel Wants Change."

Meir Dagan, the former Mossad chief, said all Israelis agree on the need to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon "but going to war with the U.S. is not the way to stop it." 

He had earlier said Netanyahu's speech to the Congress on March 3 was "bullshit."

The premier had nothing new to say in Washington about Iran, despite his promise to reveal new information, and he had nothing at all to say about a very urgent problem facing his country but one he persistently tries to avoid:  peace with the Palestinians.

Other speakers at the rally pointed out that in his obsession with Iran, Netanyahu has ignored the occupation, the economy and the housing crisis, and has done great damage to relations with the United States.

Ephriam Sneh, the retired general, former West Bank commander and senior cabinet minister, said Netanyahu has "made the security of Israel hostage to the settlers."  "Bibi sacrificed good relations with the US to keep the status quo on the Palestinians" and "to appease right-wingers."

Dagan said that in his six years as prime minister Netanyahu "has not led a single genuine process of change."  Instead, he found endless excuses to avoid serious peace negotiations.

Netanyahu has repeatedly said "there is no partner for peace," and there may be a lot of truth to that, but Mahmoud Abbas could say the same thing and be equally accurate. 

Bibi's obsession with Iran is not just because of its nuclear ambitions but also because he sees it as an excuse not to deal with the Palestinian issue.  He likes to say he can't deal with Palestinian statehood until the Iran issue is resolved. And even then, he already has another excuse. Islamic extremism. 

Give them a state and it will soon be taken over by Islamic extremists who will use it as a launching base for driving Israel into the sea.  

He has been boasting about his triumphal visit to Washington ever since he landed back at Ben Gurion Airport. He got a lot of applause and a lot of attention, but he didn't change anyone's mind – at least not in Washington; it remains to be seen if he changed the minds of any voters at home.

President Obama said he heard nothing new from Netanyahu, no practical proposals for dealing with the nuclear threat, just the same old rhetoric.   The Jerusalem Post reported Bibi didn't get a bounce in the polls from the campaign trip financed by Israeli taxpayers. With a week to go before the voting polls show his Likud party is just one mandate behind the Zionist Union ticket, but it's really too close to call.

If Netanyahu forms the next government, his greatest challenge won't be Iranian nukes or the Palestinian unrest but the urgent need to rebuild the relationship with the Obama administration that he has done so much to trash and crash. His first move will have to be replacing the political hack at his embassy with a competent and professional ambassador who will be taken seriously by the Executive Branch.

On American television Sunday Netanyahu lectured Obama to "remember who your ally is and who your enemy is." The prime minister would do well to take his own advice.  He repeated what he said to Congress, "I respect President Obama," but he has a perverse way of showing it.

If Netanyahu is reelected his first job will be repairing the damage he has done to the US-Israel relationship.  The word from the White House for Bibi is, "You broke it, you fix it."

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.