Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The leader of the Middle-East's only nuclear power speaks to Congress

Binyamin Netanyahu's speech to the US Congress tells us much about him and much about the Republican lawmakers fawning over his every word.

The Israeli prime minister has been engaging in a reckless gamble, as he deliberately sets out to alienate the president of his country's only reliable friend in the world.  This is the man who openly sought a Romney victory at the last US presidential election and who has now once again flouted the non-partisan rules of international engagement by taking up his invitation from the Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, to speak to a joint session of Congress without doing the president the courtesy of even letting him know.

Mr. Netanyahu may be holding on to a belief that no matter how much he offends Mr Obama, the US president would not, in the last resort, leave him and Israel hanging in the wind.  And yet Mr Obama has shown that he is willing to redraw the map of American political allegiance in the middle-east if it suits him, especially in the aftermath of an Arab Spring that left the region in a continuous state of turbulence and unpredictability.  It is just possible that by speaking to a Congress which carries little actual foreign policy heft, in defiance of a president who does, Mr. Netanyahu may have placed himself firmly on the outside track as the Secretary of State continues to pursue a deal with Iran.

Let's hope so at any rate.  Netanyahu is a man who revels in confrontation, sees himself as a latter-day Churchill and, modestly, the leader of all Jews in the world.  There are definitely shades of Iran's former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in Netanyahu's own messiah complex.  He also heads up a nation which has not been shy of employing vigorous aggression against enemies imagined or real.  His military's foray into Gaza last year killed somewhere over 2,000 Gazans, including 513 children.  There were also admittedly Israeli deaths - 66 soldiers and 5 civilians.  And, of course, while Iran protests that it merely wants to develop a uranium enrichment programme, and is nowhere near producing a nuclear weapon - all under intense international scrutiny - it is Israel which continues to deny its own actual nuclear capability, revealed in the 1980s by disillusioned scientist Mordechai Vanunu.

Israel is no slouch, either, in dealing with citizens who reveal uncomfortable truths.  Vanunu was kidnapped while in Italy - having earlier fled Israel for Britain - and after a closed trial spent 18 years in prison, 11 of which were in solitary confinement.

Mr. Netanyahu pursues the politics of violent sectarianism with relish.  He used the post-Charlie Hebdo marches to egoistic effect, and has entered the political arena of another sovereign nation with an indecent partisan glee.  This is no statesman, and he does his country severe discredit at a time when he might have been better off trying to embellish its tattered credentials as a bulwark of stability and tolerance in its region.

He is well joined by congressional republicans.  It is not surprising that some dissenting Democrats have likened the Netanyahu speech to the calls for war against Iraq in 2003 (a war firmly supported by Netanyahu at the time).  The international sores of the last Republican administration's malign foreign policy remain clear in the murderous scars across the Iraqi nation and the rise to power of ISIS.  Netanyahu and his Republican allies may be made for each other, but the world would be well rid of both if their respective electors woke up to the dangerous reality of their blinkered sectarianism.


1 comment:

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