Netanyahu’s empty reconciliation

Welcome back to Washington, Prime Minister Netanyahu. In case you’re truly looking to turn a new leaf this week, here are a few tips:

As you know, today, November 9, is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the curtain-raiser for the Holocaust. It would be a personal favor to every single Jew if you did not push this button in your White House visit or in any persuasive effort during your stay here.

Please do refer to the Holocaust as part of modern Israel’s origin story and part of its enduring narrative, but not as the excuse for every choice you make about Israel’s security needs. Please don’t try to prove the Holocaust happened, as you did to the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, months after that same body had strongly condemned Holocaust denial.

You’ve become so comfortable using the Holocaust as your calling card, and drawing spurious comparisons (Ahmadinejad was Hitler? The Iran deal was Munich?), that simply making stuff up didn’t seem like much of a stretch. And yes, it is easy to call out your lie about the Mufti convincing Hitler to murder the Jews, because every credible Holocaust historian has already done so. As a bonus request, please don’t use your retraction of that lie to further dismiss all Palestinians as die-hard anti-Semites.

Don’t let your underlings get away with calling President Obama an anti-Semite or his Jewish aides self-hating Jews, pretending to disavow them without ever firing anyone. Perhaps you can plead some limits on censuring your coalition partners, because you need them to govern, though you did choose your own government. But when the individual you pick to run your “public diplomacy” is already on record with such claims, it’s no longer about whether you eventually fire him — it’s about what were you even thinking??

Of course, we do know what you were thinking. You were thinking that you don’t even care, perhaps because your true American allies are like-minded Republicans and those Democrats who let you do as you please, along with those like Bill and Hillary Clinton whom you can’t easily paint as being anti-Israel.

You were thinking you can get away with it, because all that matters are the friendly audiences that will keep you in power at home, and cheer you outside the Pennsylvania Avenue security perimeter. You were thinking you can tell President Obama that you genuinely value his friendship, even as you prepare to rush up the street to receive the Irving Kristol Award, named for the father of the American Jewish community’s leading anti-Obama propagandist.

Yes, I’m only an American, but not so naive to think you’ll suddenly begin listening to strategic advice from anyone. It’s all about the tactics — showing American Jews and Israelis back home that you can still enter the White House through the front door, showing that your honesty (like that of Ben Carson or any other U.S. politician) is not as relevant as the underlying truths — that Palestinians can never be given full independence, that Israel is under attack, that the Holocaust proves…whatever you choose to offer up.

Your crocodile tears for the 20th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination and the cause of peace no longer offend me — they’re simply farcical. Try to realize what it means for a U.S. administration to wash its hands of the two-state solution, and please don’t pretend your hand-picked ambassador to the United Nations isn’t an open opponent of the two-state solution. Or your Justice Minister. Or your former protege, the Education Minister. Or half of your cabinet.

You can suggest as usual that supporters of the Iran deal aren’t as concerned about terrorism or Iran’s destabilizing influence in the region, that we haven’t learned the lessons of the Holocaust or the Inquisition or the Crusades. You can ask why we’re so quick to give up on the peace process, when you’ve renounced (or “clarified”) your earlier statements about never giving up control of the Jordan Valley.

You can spin verbal palaces around all the obvious facts and all our good and impugn our honor and integrity (while denying that you’ve done so). All the disingenuous passive-aggressive rhetoric in the world won’t change the damage you’ve managed to wreak on Israel’s relationship with the United States and with this administration, and with the very notion of Israel as a non-partisan and bipartisan oasis.

Even pro-Likud FoxNews was outraged by your decision to come to Washington last winter and deliver the Republican rebuttal against the President’s Iran strategy. Many Israelis will be so naive to think it matters that you say the Iran deal nastiness is now “behind us”, when every Washingtonian knows there’s no way out of it — because you’ve shown no regrets over your handling of the situation (for which even many Israeli skeptics of the deal fault you), including your speech in the U.S. Capitol.

Certainly, for the Democrats suffering a drop-off in pro-Israel campaign contributions because they supported the Iran deal, this is not “behind us.” What might you do to correct the perception that those Members of Congress were betraying Israel and the memory of the six million?

You still take Americans and our President, including Jews, for granted. While Washington is struggling with Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other Middle East hot spots, it’s Americans (and Russians, Jordanians, and Turks) who represent the front line against terrorism. Our fellow Americans sympathize with ordinary Israelis under attack, but how can we convince them this ranks with U.S. soldiers coming under attack or Americans being held hostage, or Russians being blown from the sky? Without resorting to the Holocaust…

What it means, Mr. Prime Minister, for the White House to give up on the peace process is that — for the first time since 1967 — Israel is no longer seen as part of the solution. It is now a divisive, squeaky wheel, much like the NRA.

And that one, sir, is on you.

Finally, please tell your explainers to stop insisting that ‘Obama started it’ or that someone in the White House called you a “chicken shit”. He may be losing the Mr. Universe contest to your BFF Vladimir Putin, but Barack Obama is still the President of the United States. You need him, and you need the United States, far beyond the $3 billion or potentially $5 billion Israel receives each year.

As many Israelis would say, you really owe us nothing. But you grew up here, among us, and you ought to know better. So what do you owe to yourself, and what do you owe to Jewish history, past and future? I keep hoping it’s worth more than yet another lecture to your superpower patron.

About the Author
Shai Franklin, a consultant with U.S. and overseas clients, has served as an executive with American and international Jewish organizations.
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