Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be visiting Washington during the first week in March. His annual visit coincides with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) summit in Washington, at which he is expected to speak. He will also be addressing a joint session of Congress on March 3rd as a guest of the new Republican majority. Per Speaker of the House John Boehner, Netanyahu will be providing additional insights regarding the threats posed by Iran and by Islamic terrorism, which the president had “papered over” in his State of the Union address. Boehner has in mind promotion of policies that would be contrary to those embraced by the White House, most particularly President Barack Obama’s intention to continue negotiations to come to an understanding over Iran’s nuclear program. That would mean Congress’s imposing new and intentionally deal breaking sanctions on Iran just to show it we are serious and a possible demand that any agreement with Tehran be subject to legislative approval.
Netanyahu has frequently warned that Iran’s construction of a nuclear arsenal is just around the corner. He has been making that claim regularly since 1996 and apparently is not particularly bothered that his warning has proven to be inaccurate since the Mullahs have yet to develop the long anticipated weapon of mass destruction. He will no doubt again express his view that there is a secret Iranian weapons program that imminently threatens both Israel and the United States. It is not clear if he will produce a cartoon showing a ticking bomb as he famously did at the United Nations in 2012.
Concerning the terrorist threat, Netanyahu will undoubtedly play the Charlie Hebdo card, insisting that it is the duty of the West united with Israel to oppose Islamic barbarism. It will be convenient dodge as it allows him to avoid answering for what Israel is doing to the Palestinians and it conveniently conflates all believers in a specific religion with political violence. No matter what Netanyahu says he will undoubtedly be cheered both when he speaks to Congress and also by the 1,500 attendees at AIPAC, which will include many Congressmen, journalists, and even Supreme Court justices. He will be treated like visiting royalty even though his message is essentially one of hate.
It is my understanding that a number of groups are organizing to protest both AIPAC and the Netanyahu visit. I hope they will be highly visible and noisy as hell, possibly forcing some of the summit attendees to think about just what they are supporting. I also urge the demonstrators to focus on Netanyahu’s actual message because everything that he has come to Washington to sell is essentially false.
Starting with Iran, the entire narrative of Iran as a nuclear threat is bogus, largely invented in Israel and the United States and in part based on manufactured evidence. I am not suggesting for a moment that Iran is a friend to the American people, but its malignancy has been much overstated by the Israel Lobby and its friends. It does not threaten the United States in any way and it hardly impacts on the security of countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of which should be worrying about their viability based on their own behavior rather than due to an exaggerated Iranian menace. The reality is that the United States government has twice in 2007 and 2011 confirmed that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. Even Israel’s Mossad agrees and both governments admit that Tehran has not made the essentially political decision to proceed with such a program.
Not only has Iran neither developed nor tested a nuclear device, she has never enriched her uranium stocks to anything approaching weapons-grade. Her Fordow “secret” plant and other nuclear sites now have IAEA inspectors in place, the heavy-water reactor at Arak is not operational and many centrifuges are not operating. Most Iranians and many Americans understand that a negotiated settlement over the program as an alternative to a major regional war is highly desirable.
Netanyahu’s second point will be that the world is threatened by Islamic terrorism, requiring democratic nations to stand by Israel. But standing by Israel and adopting the Israeli standards for dealing with terrorism are precisely the problem. The only places in the world where Islamists have the remotest ability to take power are in those countries where the United States adhered to the Israeli model and intervened militarily, leaving chaos in its wake. Today that would include Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria. Highly publicized terrorist attacks in Europe and in the United States have killed relatively few people and produced a predictably panicked response but do not threaten either a national security crisis or the stability of any government. In the U.S. since 9/11 there have been 69 deaths, either terrorist or criminal, that can plausibly be linked to Muslims or Islamic sensibilities, less than five a year. During the same time period 200,000 Americans have been murdered, making terrorism by local Muslims pretty much a statistical anomaly. For what it’s worth, the policies being pursued overseas by Washington during the same time period directly or indirectly contributed to the killing of as many as half a million Muslims while turning at least three million more into refugees, which inevitably fuels terrorism.
A third point that Netanyahu will not be making as he is a beneficiary of it is the astonishing power of the Israel Lobby in the United States. As John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt demonstrated in their book, the Lobby is in reality a loose aggregation that is bound together to promote what are perceived to be Israeli interests. It includes think tanks, PACS and other lobbying groups, journalists and media outlets, Christian evangelicals, leading figures in academia and it is all backed up by deep pocket donors who both fund political candidates and provide the fuel to keep everything moving. Pat Buchanan once described Congress as “Israeli occupied territory,” but to be sure he was being too kind and Tom Friedman’s observation that it is bought and paid for by the Lobby might actually be closer to the mark. In an actual occupation there would characteristically be at least some resistance but in the United States Congress there is virtually none now that Ron Paul is retired. If any daring congressmen stay home sick when Netanyahu speaks it will be a surprise and the only real question regarding the impending joint session address is how many standing ovations the Israeli leader will receive. Will it exceed the 29 he recorded last time around?
So there are three good reasons for saying “no” to Benjamin Netanyahu, or, even better, telling him to go away and stay away. First, he is striving mightily to involve the United States in a war with Iran for which there is no compelling national interest and which will cost Americans heavily in both lives and treasure. Second, he has poisoned Washington’s relationship with the Muslim world through the largely successful selling of his message that all believers in Islam are essentially terrorists. And third, he and his associates in the Israel Lobby are a cancer in our political system, using money and even coercion to bring about a “special relationship” that is hardly a relationship at all but is instead a mechanism to impel U.S. subordination to Israeli interests.
It is shameful that Netanyahu will be in Washington at all on a mission to tell the U.S. Congress what to do, but one can always hope that both he and Speaker Boehner have finally gone too far. Will this be a wake-up call for the American public, aware at last that it is being led by the nose by a foreign country aided by its own venal and corrupted quislings? One can always hope, and it might just be that Netanyahu will finally pay a price for his hubris with his own voters next month and be turned out of office. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say that we have seen the last of Benjamin Netanyahu?