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Weissman writes: "Stuck in the here and now, we can only judge Bibi Netanyahu as the nightmare man he plays on television."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo: Andrew Burton/Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo: Andrew Burton/Reuters)

Israel and Iran: Is Netanyahu Winning or Losing?

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

29 September 13


f you have two Jews, you'll have three synagogues," my mother loved to say, and she would have taken delight in all the conflicting Jewish opinions about Obama's new penchant for striking deals rather than launching military strikes. Of all the mixed reactions, an op-ed I found in the Israeli daily Haaretz pushed me to think new thoughts.

"The truth," wrote the always interesting Avi Shilon, "is that Israel, in contradiction to Netanyahu's belligerent declarations, does not want to attack Iran, not alone and not with the help of the United States. That is a last option, whose effectiveness is not guaranteed, even in the opinion of those who favor a military strike. Israel - also in contradiction to Netanyahu's declarations - does not really fear a second Holocaust, but rather the very fact that Iran possesses nuclear weapons, which weakens Israel strategically and is liable to cause the proliferation of nuclear weapons."

Shilon challenges the conventional wisdom, hardly confined to Jews, that the blustering Netanyahu could now be losing out to Obama's new initiatives on Syria and Iran. These are tactical defeats, the journalist concedes. But, he argues, they mask a resounding strategic success.

"The disarmament agreement in Syria produces a result more effective than any bomb - even if it is not implemented in its entirety," Shilon writes. And now, in his opinion, Netanyahu wants nothing more than "to carry out in Iran what will happen in Syria," the peaceful dismantling of Iran's nuclear capability.

But, alas, poor Netanyahu, his bluster and fear-mongering must go on. "The trap in which Netanyahu finds himself lies in his inability to boast of an achievement," Shilon concludes. "If he declares he is satisfied, he will lose. He must continue to threaten. And, even as he continues clandestine cooperation with Obama, he must feign "ostensible disappointment in the Americans." In the end, Shilon believes, "historians will judge his Iranian policy positively."

Whose historians, I wonder, since I find little evidence in the real world that Netanyahu only plays Jewish jihadi as part of some Machiavellian strategy. But Shilon's logic has a certain plausibility, however distasteful its implications.

Netanyahu's incessant badgering - and the threat that he might order an Israeli strike on Iran - pressured Obama to repeat time and again that he was keeping the military option "on the table," a stance the Iranians correctly saw as bullying. Netanyahu pulled Obama into a covert war against Iran, including the use of the Stuxnet computer worm to attack the county's nuclear facilities. Netanyahu pressed Obama and his European allies to enforce the crippling economic sanctions that forced the Iranians to their current "heroic flexibility." Now, along with powerful friends like Rupert Murdoch and his Wall Street Journal, he could derail the coming of any Iranian-American détente. In all this, Netanyahu has no doubt enjoyed enormous success.

Shilon, the latest biographer of Menachem Begin, also hints at a parallel between the current Israeli prime minister and his predecessor. First stigmatized as the terrorist whose followers blew up the King David Hotel, Begin later won acclaim as the statesman who made peace at Camp David. Shilon heralds a similar resurrection for Netanyahu. Though I have always rejected Begin's politics, I do not think that Bibi comes anywhere close to filling the old man's shoes.

Stuck in the here and now, we can only judge Bibi Netanyahu as the nightmare man he plays on television. His latest drama is to push Washington to demand that the Iranians give up enrichment and most other elements of even a peaceful nuclear program. Call it chutzpah on steroids.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which the Iranians have signed, guarantees them the right to enrich uranium and produce plutonium as long as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspects and monitors what they do. Israel refuses to sign the NPT, enriches uranium and separates plutonium without IAEA safeguards, and has an all-but-acknowledged arsenal of nuclear weapons

My mother, may she rest in peace, told a story. In 1929 or 1930, her mother - my Grandma Rae - was visiting her family in what was then Palestine. She happened to be at the beach near Tel Aviv one morning and saw hundreds of used condoms strewn about. She felt quite upset, until a wise friend put what she had seen into perspective. The condoms reflected the real meaning of Zionism. Living in a nascent "Jewish State," Jews would no longer be a persecuted minority and would become just like everyone else. They would have their own brilliant lawmakers and scientists, and their own gangsters and prostitutes.

Hardly original, the idea appears in early Zionist literature, which I long ago rejected because of its inescapable disdain for the rights of Palestinians. But the story gives a human insight into an always flawed Jewish nationalism that Netanyahu has distorted into "anything goes."

The story also illustrates how the world works. Every nation thinks itself special and wants to play by its own rules. Brits dream of their lost empire as they talk of punching beyond their weight in global affairs. The French look at the crisis in Syria and see an opportunity to exercise their mission to civilize the world. Iranians fulfill their destiny as inheritors of a great Persian and Islamic civilization. Chinese fulfill theirs as the ancient center of the world. Americans think they are exceptional, "a shining city on a hill" with the God-given right to set the rules, as President Obama had the balls to do in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

Playing by different rules may have been the thing to do in the Hobbesian jungle of the old game of nations. It will not work in an increasingly globalized world. But until the bigger powers give up their imperial pretensions and learn to play by the same rules as everyone else, the Israelis - and Iranians - will feel perfectly justified in playing whatever cards they can get away with.

Netanyahu is doing this in spades. If Avi Shilon is right, and on this I believe he is, the nightmare man and his supporters are truly dealing from the bottom of the deck, consciously stirring up irrational fear of a second Holocaust at the hands of Iran simply to bolster Israel's strategic role as a regional super power. Jews and non-Jews alike should reject this as the cynical ploy it is.

A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+7 # Activista 2013-09-29 22:13
Great analysis: "the nightmare man (Netanyahu) and his supporters are truly dealing from the bottom of the deck, consciously stirring up irrational fear of a second Holocaust at the hands of Iran simply to bolster Israel's strategic role as a regional super power"
Thank for the original/courag eous thought article .. what is missing is thE RISK of Netanyahu/Israe l game. Iran is relatively strong - Israel could use nuclear weapons (200 warheads) , USA is controlled by AIPAC .. Obama UN speech - written in Tel Aviv?
I would not glorify " crippling economic sanctions that forced the Iranians ... sanctions are precursor to war/form of war ... sanctions against Iran were also pushed by Saudi, Russia .. oil producers and USA oil speculators - maximizing pro$it ...
But at the end we need creative and original thoughts like Steve Weissman
+1 # Activista 2013-10-01 16:27
But at the end we need creative and original thinkers like Steve Weissman to solve the unending Middle East wars ..
+10 # janie1893 2013-09-30 00:45
NETANYAHU is, indeed, a person of whom we need be frightened. He and men like him use their Jewishness to sell Zionism. It is not only disgusting but very scary. There are millions of Jews who comprehend what Netanyahu and his ilk are doing in the mid-east and they are concerned about what he may do in the near future. Zionism has become the a threat to the rest of the world instead of a home for the people of `the Book`.
+6 # tedrey 2013-09-30 06:02
Excellent. Recommended reading in full.
+9 # Artemis 2013-09-30 07:37
Truly a nightmare man. I hope the Jews who still believe in him will wake up very soon to the reality of the awfulness his mentality has caused and continues to cause - for it affects every one of us, if we are aware of that or not.
+3 # geraldom 2013-09-30 09:19
A good question to ask oneself, assuming that the United States truly does not really want to attack Iran, even if the United States cannot achieve regime change in that country without actually attacking Iran, is what if Israel, on its own and without any legitimate justification, were to unilaterally attack Iran as it did Iraq on June 7th, 1981, when it destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor? And, what if Iran were to retaliate as is their right to do? What will the United States do?

Israel is a strong ally to the United States. It would put the U.S. between a rock and a hard place so-to-speak. If Israel wanted to unilaterally attack Iran, the United States would not be able to stop it and so how will the U.S. respond if Iran retaliates against Israel?
+2 # Douglas Jack 2013-09-30 18:41
Harold, I hear & appreciate the balance you are pointing out in the reality of a totally one sided attack on Iran one hand & a fantasy on the other. Unfortunately Netanyahu lives, acts & feeds off any fantasy it can get. You might note from some of the commenters here that; if you present documented facts as well as bring light to a paranoid-illusi on, they choose to dwell endlessly on the illusion without inquiry or verification. Fantasy folks just narrowly missed bringing us into a super-power WW3 between USA, Canada, NATO & Russia, China, Pakistan & India.

The Finance-Media-M ilitary-Industr ial-Complex provides 60% of Israel's export economy, thrives on war, arms, munitions, security-forces & such fantasies. It's helpful as readers, commenters, citizens & governments not to reinforce fantasy-enabled schizophrenia. Israel's FMMIC .000001% Rothschild et al heavily own & control Israeli popular media, print & broadcast only illusion as they do in Canada, USA & NATO countries. Israel lacks cultural interaction being institutionally designed & controlled. In the west, we don't have good inter-generatio nal female-male cultural interaction, mediators & balances. We're lonely in our detached nuclear-home isolation & become easy prey to falsehoods, repeated endlessly without verification, for institutional approval. Our goal can be to reestablish culture.
+3 # geraldom 2013-10-01 17:24
In a self-response to my own comment, I give you the following URLs:

"Iran Warns Obama 'Flip Flop' Threatens Trust"

The above article came out after Obama once again, as he has done with Syria multiple times, has threatened military action against Iran if the U.S. is not satisfied with negotiations with Iran, and this is after Iran has sent sincere peace gestures. Would you want to negotiate with a party that constantly has a gun pointed at your head? I don't think so. As I've stated many times in RSN, unless Iran is willing to give over complete control of its energy resources to the U.S. and the multinational oil companies, and unless Iran is willing to jump through U.S. hoops and to do our bidding, to give up complete sovereignty as a nation and become another puppet government of the U.S., the U.S. will ultimately do whatever it deems necessary to force regime change, including a full on attack of the country which, as implied by Netanyahu in the article below, will include Israel.

"Israel Ready to Tackle Nuclear Iran Alone"

If Israel were to unilaterally attack Iran on false pretenses, the U.S. will be more than happy to jump in with both feet, especially after Iran retaliates in full against Israel which is their legal right to do based on international law, something the U.S. does not respect.
+5 # reiverpacific 2013-09-30 10:07
It's really refreshing to hear a point of view from an Israeli source other than the the US owner-media's parroting of Nutty-Yahoo's broad-brushed belligerence on behalf of his looney right LIKUD party.
I believe that he was put back in office by a very narrow margin in the recent Israeli elections, which speaks louder than his own international propaganda and hope that this trend continues.
Now I'd like to hear Avi Shilon and other free voices (??) write about Palestine -if he dares.
BTW, I just read on the BBC that Rouhani has asked Obama to consider reinstating direct flight to Iran; that should make Bibi grind what remains of his teeth to stumps!
Thanks for this article RSN.
-4 # jwb110 2013-09-30 10:56
No matter what happens, Israel is a nation with its back to the sea. That placement does not a super power make. They could find themselves fighting a war on two fronts. Ask Bonaparte about that.
+2 # Oscar 2013-10-02 10:01
I am not sure what is your point here. Accepting your premise there is only one possibility for Israel: make peace with all neighbors, specially Palestine as soon as possible. Notice that in that case, Israel will have to be actively seeking that peace.

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