A ‘go it alone’ claim still rings hollow today

Berl Falbaum

On March 3, 2015, in an unprovoked insult to then President Barack Obama, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress at the invitation of Republicans, and concluded his remarks with the following remark full of unbridled and totally unnecessary hubris:

“For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves.

“This is why — this is why, as prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”

While he was in the U.S., in Washington, a guest in the Capitol, he did not express gratitude for all the financial and other help. Instead, he told President Obama Israel did not need him or the U.S. Netanyahu was wrong then and he is wrong now in alienating President Biden as he did Obama 9 years earlier.

The divide between Jerusalem and Washington over Israel’s conduct in the war with Hamas deepened this week as the United States abstained on a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire. It passed 14-0.

Netanyahu reacted with fury; his office issuing the following statement:

The U.S. abstention is ‘a clear departure from the consistent position of the United States at the Security Council since the beginning of the war. The United States has abandoned its policy in the U.N. today.

‘In light of the change in the U.S. position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided that the delegation will remain in Israel.’

The reference to ‘the delegation’ involves an Israeli military team which was scheduled to meet with Biden administration officials in Washington and discuss how to minimize the humanitarian disaster in southern Gaza, particularly in Rafah, where more than 1 million civilians are sheltering from the war.

White House national security spokes­person John Kirby expressed the administration’s dismay that Israel decided not to attend the meeting.

‘We’re very disappointed that they won’t be coming to Washington, D.C., to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah,’ said Kirby, adding that U.S. policy has not changed as it relates to Israel.

Cancelling that meeting was politically destructive and an act of petulance. It does not hurt the U.S. but, instead, gives fodder to critics who charge that Israel is not interested in a solution, and further alienates supporters who are on the fence.

Perhaps a compromise could have been reached and it would have demonstrated a willingness to try and mitigate civilian deaths in Gaza. Bottom line: There was absolutely nothing to lose in participating in such a strategic meeting, even if it failed to produce a plan acceptable to both sides.

In the Hebrew-language paper, Ma’ariv, Ben Caspit described Netanyahu as ‘delusional’ and called his actions ‘madness’ and ‘terrifying,’ adding, ‘This man is putting us all at risk.’ Similar criticism came from newspapers across the country.

(At this writing, Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, was meeting with Secretary Lloyd J. Austin and other Biden officials, separately from the meeting originally planned.)

Before we gone on, let’s put some undisputable facts on the table: Hamas is totally responsible for the war which started with unimaginable butchery October 7; Hamas is also responsible for the horrific civilian death toll; and the war would end tomorrow if Hamas laid down its arms. And, release of the hostages must be a priority.

Moreover, is the world blaming Israel unfairly? Absolutely! Is the U.N. resolution one-sided? Again, absolutely! And, yes, Israel must destroy Hamas so it never again poses a threat to its security. But …

But Netanyahu needed — needs — to recognize the realpolitik of the crisis. Crying ‘unfair’ or ‘double standard’ does nothing to help beleaguered Israel. His ‘all or nothing’ and ‘let the critics be damned’ policies have only isolated Israel in the world.

He could have proceeded with his military strategy and tactics if only he had explained Israel’s dilemma in conciliatory and measured diplomatic language.

Just two weeks after the savage attack, I wrote that Hamas ‘had already won’ because it was clear that the world was turning against Israel. And Netanyahu did nothing but pour oil on the political fire with his fiery, inflammatory language.

He has angered and irritated Biden who put his presidency on the line for Israel. Biden may well lose Michigan in the upcoming election given the large Arab electorate in the state and, if that happens, it may well be over. Trump already has said if he takes Michigan, he wins it all.

Netanyahu also has enraged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, arguably, the second most powerful official in Washington. While I believe Schumer went ‘over the line’ with his recent speech calling for new elections in Israel, it demonstrated how Netanyahu has turned some of Israel’s staunchest supporters into critics.

In their decades in public life, Biden and Schumer had Israel in their kishkes.

Are some of Biden’s actions/statements the results of politics? Of course, so are Netanyahu’s. The difference is that the president is trying to stave off critics so he can maintain, overall, a pro-Israel stance while Netanyahu is catering to far right-wing elements in his government that have made Israel a pariah in the eyes of the world.

The prime minister also needs to understand a more appeasing demeanor would give Biden some political cover with critics.

Notwithstanding Netanyahu’s conceit that Israel does not need allies to defend itself, Israel cannot survive in isolation. For instance, if the U.S. ends its present 10-year, $30 billion loan program, now in its sixth year which, incidentally, was signed by Obama, and also stops sending military equipment to Israel, the country would be in trouble, deep trouble.

As I have written before, other countries may end economic partnerships, intelligence sharing activities, and other vital cooperative arrangements.

The Abraham Accords may be in trouble and a possible peace agreement with Saudi Arabia may now be a lost cause.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, it is time — long overdue — to stop with the ‘we can go it alone’ harangue. Why? Because you can’t.

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