Is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally culpable for the atrocious deal which US President Barack Obama and his multinational cohort contracted with Iran? Exuding extraordinary opportunism, MK Ya’ir Lapid screams just that into every available microphone.
Opportunism according to the dictionary definition is “the conscious policy and practice of taking selfish advantage of circumstances – with little regard for principles or consequences. Opportunist actions are expedient actions guided primarily by self-interested motives.”
Lapid’s fortunes had flopped spectacularly in the March elections. His political bankruptcy would have been all the more crushing had Labor posed a more credible alternative. As was, Lapid avoided utter ruin only because his list afforded a midway shelter for those who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for either large party.
This leaves Lapid with the pressing need to keep his name in the headlines and make political hay of whatever transpires – like the signing of the Vienna deal on the ayatollahs’ nukes.
Hence Lapid, who during the entire campaign pooh-poohed the notion of an existential Iranian threat to Israel, became an overnight outspoken critic of the Vienna concoction. Yet, remarkably, he doesn’t blame the American president but the Israeli prime minister. Why? Because the Gospel according to Lapid decrees that Bibi should have made nice to Obama. Had he done so, all would have been copacetic.
Relations between Israel and Obama were sweet, avers Lapid, until Netanyahu singularly soured them by kicking up superfluous fuss. Had Netanyahu not taken Israel’s case to the joint session of Congress, the love would have stayed syrupy.
Lapid curiously contends that Netanyahu riled Obama to the point of rendering him irrepressibly vindictive. The nightmare appeasement of Iran is therefore a disaster Bibi alone inflicted upon Israel’s populace. Lapid’s one-dimensional perspective precludes the suggestion that Obama might have curbed his umbrage. It’s natural and quite understandable for Obama to take his frustration with Bibi out on all of us.
In Lapid’s simplistic world, moreover, it wasn’t unthinkable that Netanyahu keep mum about how Obama imperils Israel. From here it’s but a short hop to Lapid’s clamor for that tried and worn Israeli staple – the inquiry commission. It’s the hackneyed Israeli way of settling political scores and it resonates with the more superficial subscribers to groupthink among us.
The inquiry puts the accused party in the frame a priori (and in the Lapid universe it’s definitely not Obama), while offering the masses amusements along the pitiless conventions of ancient Rome’s gladiatorial matches. The populist appeal is undeniable.
Presumably, we can better cope with the challenges ahead if our collective attention is diverted to judicial showdowns about who bears guilt for Obama’s purported grudge and retaliation.
We might have entertained different expectations from an ex-minister who served in Netanyahu’s own cabinet and who, before his belated epiphany, never complained in real time about the pain Bibi causes Obama. We might even have expected Lapid to comment about how treacherous and wrongheaded the entire Obamaesque view of the Mideast is.
Had Lapid not lost the plot, he might have realized that the enemy isn’t Netanyahu and that Obama has taken America from a friendly orientation toward Israel to one that is categorically inimical, his misleading blandishments notwithstanding.
In actual fact, Obama is no ally of Israel and already wasn’t before he and Netanyahu locked horns for the first time. This has nothing to do with Netanyahu and everything to do with Obama. From the outset of his first term, Obama aided and abetted those forces in Islam most viscerally hostile to Israel, most belligerent and most vituperative about any hint of coexistence.
The betrayal of Israel is only one facet of Obama’s calamitous strategy.
We might have expected Lapid to grasp the elementary distinction between the national interests of both Israelis and Americans (which mesh perfectly) and between the Obama Administration’s agenda (which negates Israel’s most basic survival interests as well as the basic interests of the American people).
The very least which we must expect of Israel’s prime minister is that he would sound the alarm – tug as hard as he can on the world’s fire-bells. The fact that the international community is loath to listen doesn’t make the warnings any less crucial.
Does Lapid truly believe that Netanyahu should have taken a leaf out of the Edvard Benes book, sat down dejectedly on the edge of his bed and sobbed his heart out? That’s what the president of Czechoslovakia did in 1938 after the disgraceful signing of the Munich Agreement (which Benes knew had sealed his country’s fate).
To blame Netanyahu for the alleged failure to preempt the Obama-engineered sellout is as intellectually offensive as blaming Benes for the failure to prevent the Chamberlain-engineered sellout of his day.
Prolific historian and Benes-contemporary Edward Taborsky described Benes as “the unfortunate victim of an exceptionally adverse confluence of circumstances.” Czechoslovakia could not be saved, not because of Benes’s failure, but because of “the absence of proper Western support when it was most needed.”
Like Netanyahu, Benes tirelessly tried to warn his country’s disloyal allies of the disaster they were about to unleash. Taborsky notes the “rich flow of Benes’s rhetoric… He would endeavor to wear down and overwhelm his opponent by a steady avalanche of logical argument.”
The same can be said of Netanyahu but here the resemblance ends.
Benes was so accommodating that “his gentleness of heart and his known addiction to compromise became serious weaknesses. There are occasions when righteous anger and brutal frankness serve one’s cause better than tolerance,” Taborsky concluded, almost as if he were referring to Netanyahu.
“Once in a while,” he wrote, “the need may even arise to burn all one’s bridges and make a last win-or-die stand. Such behavior was utterly alien to Benes; he would have considered it foolhardy, an unwarranted gamble which no responsible statesman could afford.”
In other words, Benes behaved vis-à-vis Chamberlain just as Lapid intimates that Netanyahu should have behaved vis-à-vis Obama. But Benes’s mild manners did him little good. Contrary to Lapid’s sophomoric contentions, a compliant temperament doesn’t necessarily temper realpolitik duplicity.
Chamberlain is popularly portrayed as having abandoned Czechoslovakia out of naiveté but, like Obama at present, he was utterly nasty to anyone who got in the way of appeasement. In his address to the British people on September 27, 1938 – a couple of fateful days before the signing of the Munich Agreement – Chamberlain made it seem that Czechoslovakia is the troublemaker, that it harasses Europe’s fellow-democracies with impertinent expectations:
“We cannot in all circumstances undertake to involve the whole British Empire in war simply on her [Czechoslovakia’s] account. If we have to fight it must be on larger issues than that.” With a few name-switches, we can almost hear Obama saying the same about Israel.
The Obama-Chamberlain analogy isn’t novel but few may realize just how deep the resemblance in reasoning and rhetoric runs. Obama’s attitude to troublesome little Israel is chillingly like Chamberlain’s was vis-à-vis the unfortunate Czechs. Listen to how Chamberlain defended his perfidy:
“Since I first went to Berchtesgaden, more than 20,000 letters and telegrams have come to No. 10, Downing Street. Of course, I have been able to look at a tiny fraction of them, but I have seen enough to know that the people who wrote did not feel that they had such a cause for which to fight, if they were asked to go to war in order that the Sudeten Germans might not join the Reich.”
With a few name-switches, we can almost hear Obama saying something similar about the American people’s aversion to conflict.
The Czechs, Chamberlain stressed in his day, aren’t popular with his constituents: “That is how they are feeling. That is my answer to those who say that we should have told Germany weeks ago that, if her army crossed the border of Czechoslovakia, we should be at war with her. We had no treaty obligations and no legal obligations to Czechoslovakia and if we had said that, we feel that we would have received no support from the people of this country. “
Chamberlain then went on:
“To accuse us of having by that advice betrayed the Czechoslovakian State is simply preposterous. What we did was to save her from annihilation and give her a chance of new life as a new State, which involves the loss of territory and fortifications, but may perhaps enable her to enjoy in the future and develop a national existence under a neutrality and security comparable to that which we see in Switzerland today.”
We already hear Obama similarly contending that he is only doing the right thing by the Jewish state. Without undue cerebral contortions, we can almost hear him crow about saving us and giving us unappreciative Israelis “a chance of a new life…” to enable us “to enjoy in the future and develop a national existence under a neutrality and security comparable to that which we see in Switzerland today.”
On the brink of one of the most tragic blunders of the modern era, Chamberlain resorted to upbeat hyperboles the likes of which are today immodestly enunciated by Obama (aside from updated idioms): “Therefore, I think the Government deserve the approval of this House for their conduct of affairs in this recent crisis which has saved Czechoslovakia from destruction and Europe from Armageddon.”
Opportunists have a hard time owning up that there are events in human annals that even the best efforts of the best leader cannot prevent. Such admissions are intrinsically counterintuitive to opportunist aims.
Indeed, the truth itself is counterproductive to opportunist ploys. The truth is that Benes couldn’t have undone the combined cynical interplay of the appeasement-intent governments that chose to sacrifice his country. Likewise, Netanyahu could not have undone the combined cynical interplay of the greedy governments who disingenuously deny sacrificing the Jewish state.
The difference, though, is that whereas Benes wept and went into exile, Netanyahu isn’t about to give up. Therefore Obama dislikes Israel even more than Chamberlain was peeved by Czechoslovakia.