President Barack Obama stands alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the funeral of Shimon Peres, on Mt. Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, Sept. 30,2016.
By Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss
December 03, 2017
“There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently,” Obama said last November, of Netanyahu.
Former Trump aide Mike Flynn’s guilty plea in federal court to lying to the FBI makes all-but transparent Benjamin Netanyahu’s meddling in U.S. politics. As the United Nations Security Council was preparing to condemn Israeli settlements one year ago, Netanyahu was calling everyone he could to try to block the measure. There can be little question that he or his dear friend Sheldon Adelson reached out to the Trump transition team. Now two members of that transition team are in trouble for trying to stop the resolution, Flynn and (reportedly) Jared Kushner, whose family Netanyahu is close to. But the resolution went through anyway, with the Obama White House abstaining.
Netanyahu famously once said that the United States “can be easily moved.” There are many examples of his seeking to move United States policy. Let’s forget about the Russians for a moment and look at Netanyahu’s record. Here are nine examples of interference that would make Vladimir Putin blush.
• In 2002, Netanyahu urged Congress to authorize the use of force against Iraq, because it was building nukes and an invasion would transform the Middle East.
“There is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking, is working, is advancing towards to the development of nuclear weapons. Once Saddam has nuclear weapons, the terror network will have nuclear weapons…
“If you take out Saddam, Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region, and I think that people sitting right next door in Iran, young people, and many others, will say the time of such regimes, of such despots is gone.”
Congress approved that use of force.
• In 2011, Netanyahu addressed Congress and said Jerusalem is not a settlement. He got 27 standing ovations, many of them led by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman and Democratic boss, who shared a big donor with Netanyahu and who has said that there must never be daylight between the Israeli government and the U.S. government.
• That speech was written with the help of Gary Ginsberg, a high exec at Time Warner who is a friend of Netanyahu’s and has penned several Netanyahu speeches. I exposed this collusion, but no one in the media has ever followed up on it.
• In 2012, Netanyahu all but campaigned for Mitt Romney against Barack Obama. Netanyahu’s backer Sheldon Adelson held a fundraiser for Romney in Jerusalem and issued coded messages supporting Romney’s efforts, in what Joe Klein called an “unprecedented” interference by a foreign leader in a U.S. election. Obama was of course re-elected.
• In 2015, Netanyahu spoke to the U.S. Congress in a joint session and urged them to reject the Iran Deal being pushed by the U.S. president. The move by a foreign leader was also unprecedented, and may well have backfired. The deal went through.
• Donald Trump decertified the Iran deal this year–with the urging of Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson. Jane Eisner of the Forward reasons that that this was Netanyahu’s achievement. “[T]he prime minister skillfully (and dismayingly) turned Iran into a wedge issue in American politics, something that Trump gleefully exploited.” Some of that skill: three pro-Israel billionaires, including Adelson, gave money to Trump and pushed him to heed the Netanyahu line.
• John Kerry says that Netanyahu (and Egyptian president al-Sisi) urged the U.S. to bomb Iran before the deal went through. “Each of them said to me, you have to bomb Iran, it’s the only thing they are going to understand,” he said last week. The U.S. did not of course bomb Iran.
• The Atlantic ran a cover article in 2010 warning that the Iranian nuclear programme was about to go past the point of no return and that if the U.S. did not attack Iran, Israel was going to attack Iran. The article, written by the former catspaw for Israel, Jeffrey Goldberg, parroted Netanyahu’s rhetorical efforts to manipulate Washington leaders.
“But the view from Jerusalem is still more dire: a nuclearized Iran represents, among other things, a threat to Israel’s very existence…. [W]ho, if anyone, will stop Iran before it goes nuclear, and how?”
• After seeking to subvert the president’s Iran deal in 2015, Netanyahu was invited to the Democratic-Party-affiliated think-tank Center for American Progress for a fawning conversation with Neera Tanden, the Clintonite who headed the think-tank. The invitation alienated many of the think-tank’s own intellectuals; but Tanden later crowed that it brought in a big donor: Jonathan Lavine, a Boston philanthropist to liberal causes who also supports the Israeli right wing. “Netanyahu was worth it,” she said. And: “We’ll never be called anti-semitic again.”
• As she readied her run for the presidency in 2015, Hillary Clinton shrewdly balanced her support for the Iran deal by coming out strongly against BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign targeting Israel. Clinton did so as the result of extensive discussions between top political aides and Benjamin Netanyahu, who had called on the Jewish community to “attack” BDS, as revealed by emails leaked by Wikileaks (thanks to the Russians, some say).
Notably, Stu Eizenstat, the Clinton aide who bragged that he visited Israel two or three times a year, met with Netanyahu, and Eizenstat then counselled Clinton’s top foreign policy aide, Jake Sullivan, on the need to strengthen ties to Israel. He said that if Clinton gained the White House, “Bibi should be invited for early talks on how the partnership with Israel can be strengthened…”
Eizenstat also sought to undermine the Obama administration’s policy on Israel on Netanyahu’s behalf:
The Obama White House-Bibi relationship is obviously deteriorating to the point of no return. It is more poisonous than US-Israeli relationship in my lifetime….
The Prime Minister’s efforts to back-off his immediate pre-election statements about Israeli Arab voting and opposition to a two-state solution have not only been rebuffed by both the President, and most recently, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, but they have effectively questioned the Prime Minister’s candidness. Olive branches have been spurned. Fuel was added to the fire with the allegation of Israeli intelligence intervention in the Iran talks.
There is a distinct possibility that the Administration may seek a new UN Security Council Resolution embodying the two-state solution, with 1967 lines and agreed land swaps, and some vague statements about Jerusalem. If and when an Iran framework agreement is announced this week, this combustible situation will explode…
This obviously places Hillary in an extremely difficult position, caught between the President she served and the organized parts of the Jewish community, I have talked several times recently, including yesterday afternoon, with Malcolm Hoenlein, president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. They have refrained from directly criticizing the President, but he told me that he and most of his organizations are extraordinarily concerned about the situation, and highly desirous of Hillary making some statement to calm the turbulent waters.
A lot of that leverage on Clinton was financial. Her major donors included many Zionist Jews, notably Haim Saban. She backed away from the Obama administration on Israel, and also came out with a letter to Saban opposing BDS. She also published a promise to meet with Netanyahu “in my first month in office.” Whatever Trump was doing for Netanyahu, Clinton was going stride-for-stride. (And today Saban thanked Jared Kushner for trying to stop the UN Security Council resolution against settlements, which the big Democratic donor called a 50-year “tradition” in Israeli society.)
I know there’s more, that list is just from cleaning out my pocket. Any reasonable person must ask, Why did the Obama administration endorse a resolution against settlements in 2016 that it had vetoed in 2010? What pressure was exerted in the first case that was no longer meaningful when he was leaving office?
And when will the press ever make this the issue? It’s not as if Israel’s own strategy in the Middle East, occupation, segregation, and occasional massacre, has worked out well for anyone…