National Commentary

Netanyahu Tips U.S. Public Opinion Shift

nfbenton-mugOh, those pesky “unintended consequences!” A really big one accompanied the recent controversial address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, organized behind the back of President Barack Obama.

What has come to pass as a result of that ham-handed move is a qualitatively greater differentiation, in the minds of the American public and many political leaders, on the Israeli issue, of Israeli-American relations and of Israel’s role in the world.

This is a huge break from what had been, for so many years, a socially-reinforced rejection of any point of the view but support for “Israel right or wrong” in the U.S., a view that organizations like the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) veritably enforced with the blanket charge that anything less, any criticism of Israel, was tantamount to “anti-Semitism.” Any criticism of Israel was met with such a stinging charge, which carried with it implied racism and insensitivity to the victims of the Jewish Holocaust of World War II.

But now Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rude, bullying and inappropriate move to slight the president of the U.S. has called forth a serious re-evaluation of all that, a development that runs much deeper in the U.S. population than most in Washington, D.C. insider circles, including media pundits, appreciate.

Since that speech, Netanyahu has moved to make matters even worse for American public opinion with another re-election stunt, this one to torch decades of arduous and often tortured U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East aimed at a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He vowed never to accept a two-state solution apparently in an effort to garner a few extra votes from the radical right inside Israel. Then there was the Wall Street Journal report that Israeli intelligence has been secretly spying on U.S.-Iranian negotiations.

The popular opinion is that Netanyahu has soiled U.S.-Israeli relations by getting President Obama’s nose bent out of joint. But it goes much deeper. He’s alienated a huge chunk of the U.S. population, and not just the president or elements of official Washington. That’s going to become a big factor for how politicians in the U.S., including presidential hopefuls, are permitted by their constituencies to deal with Israel going forward.

So the shaky electoral victory that Netanyahu was able to pull off last week, a narrow sewn-together parliamentary majority that shows the world a deep and abiding political schism within the Israeli electorate, was a Pyrrhic one. He may have won a battle but at the expense of the proverbial war.

Netanyahu committed the fundamental blunder of making U.S. support for his nation a partisan matter within the U.S., and now, except on a most superficial level, no one, not all the king’s horses or all the king’s men, is going to be able to piece that Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Still, no political leader in the U.S. is going to suggest abandoning support for Israel. That’s because, behind the figureheads of Netanyahu and his right-wing Republican counterparts in the U.S., there are the strings attached to those puppets choreographed by the U.S. military and industrial complex.

These are the architects of the catastrophic U.S. invasion of Iraq and the rise of ISIS and related terrorist operations. Such forces are hell-bent to make endless war the hallmark of the U.S. posture in the Middle East, and the big potato has been Iran. They really don’t care if Israel survives all the wars they’re intent on provoking. Ironically, the peace faction cares much more.

Had a Republican remained in the White House after 2008, the U.S., despite the Iraq fiasco, would have been in all-out war with Iran long before now. Reports by Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker about covert U.S. military plans against Iran during the W years made that clear.

An online report by “The Intercept” cited how a January conference call between a major bank and a major U.S. arms manufacturer assessed the “depressed weapons sales” that would result from an Obama-negotiated Iran deal. It was noted that a lot of residual instability in the region would remain “growth areas” for the U.S. manufacturer.