Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Urged on by Netanyahu..."

During the Cold War, in the course of pursuing perhaps the most successful long-term foreign policy strategy in human history -- containment of the Soviet Union -- the United States did a lot of stupid, cruel, counterproductive things -- overthrow elected governments, prop up corrupt autocrats, support quasi-fascist insurgencies. It did all of them, though, in the perceived national interest, however short-sighted or ruthless the calculus of the decision-makers -- even when, in the case of Nixon, that perceived national interest was avowedly a matter of national prestige.

Imposing new sanctions on Iran now would be in a different category of foreign policy malfeasance. The Times editorial board's wording casually captures what's cockeyed:
A rare opportunity for a diplomatic resolution to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program is at risk because many lawmakers, urged on by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, are insisting that Congress impose tougher economic sanctions, perhaps next week as an amendment to the defense bill. 
"Urged on by Netanyahu" is an understatement. Netanyahu holds the U.S. Congress in pawn -- so obviously that the paper of record records the fact parenthetically. Senators and Congressmen of both parties boast openly that Israel's interest -- or rather, its leaders' wish list -- is their paramount consideration. No one coming cold to the disgusting Hagel confirmation hearings could come to any conclusion but that the senators were convinced that their electoral fortunes depend on pandering to the Israel lobby -- - a toxic alliance of Jewish groups that have made a shibboleth of chauvinism and Evangelical fools and frauds looking forward (or professing to look forward) to the end of days. .

When a foreign leader openly attempts to undercut the negotiating strategy of the United States in its efforts to resolve his own country's conflicts, and receives standing ovations ad nauseum in a speech before Congress while flaunting his intransigence at length, as Netanyahu did in 2011, something is obviously, dangerously askew in U.S. policymaking. When Congress reacts to the possibility of rapprochement with an enemy of 40 years by rewarding clear signs of a will to deal with a new act of diplomatic aggression, that skewness is bearing toxic fruit.

As a Jew, I feel in my bones that this can't go on. If you understand American "support" for Israel as unconditional support for the positions and wishes of its leadership at any given moment, and you regard such support as the ultimate good, you should know, as a Jew, that it's too good to be true. It will not stand. There will be a backlash. At some point, the U.S. government putting Israeli interests (or wishes) ahead of American interests will trigger a disaster, and sycophantic support will give way to furious scapegoating. Eventually, too, the Evangelical worm will turn, and the fantasists will decree that Armageddon requires Israel's destruction rather than its aggrandizement. Israel would do well to make peace with its captive antagonists -- and thence with its neighbors -- before the wind changes.

P.S. It's often argued that with regard to Iran, Congress has played a useful role as bad cop to Obama's good cop, pushing sanctions far enough to motivate Iran to deal. That may be true in part, but that's not what motivates the hard line, and that good effect will be undone (and Congress's bad faith exposed) if Congress puts across new sanctions now.  On the other side of the scale, U.S. credibility is undermined by the perceived necessity in all branches of government to placate Netanyahu and his allies.  How can anyone, anywhere in the world outside the U.S. and Israel, read protestations like this, coming out of the State Department in defense of a pending interim deal, and view the U.S. as a free actor, let a lone a good faith dealer:
The US official acknowledged that Israel strongly opposes a confidence building step that would provide Iran any sanctions relief, even one that would by some estimates double Iran’s nuclear breakout time in the first phase alone.

“When it comes to our Israeli friends, and Israel’s security is foremost for us, it is worth noting we share exactly the same objective,” that Iran should not produce a nuclear weapon, the US official said. “We both believe diplomacy should be given a chance, but we diverge on tactical [steps]. We believe there should be a first step. We completely share Israel’s desire for a comprehensive agreement. But we don’t think it’s possible” without a first-step agreement....

“Where Israel is concerned, I respect the prime minister [Netanyahu] and..I understand he will say or do what he needs to do,” the US official said. “We may not see eye to eye tactically, but we stand shoulder to shoulder in ensuring Iran will not have a nuclear weapon. The President [Obama] has done more to ensure Israel’s security than any other president. We have a close bond. I expect we’ll get through this.”

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