Dangerous Liaisons: A Brief Reflection on P.M. Netanyahu’s Speech

One would expect that bringing a foreign head of state inside one’s capitol building to bash one’s own head of state would be considered bad form, but today, March 3, 2015, the Republican Party did just that.

Speaker John Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deliver a forty-minute address inside the Capitol Building. This glorified pep rally, which Netanyahu delivered gamely in a fine basso profundo voice, argued that President Obama is wrong to negotiate with Iran to slow the Islamic nation’s nuclear program. Netanyahu, recently proven to have lied about the state of Iran’s nuclear initiative, stressed that America should not accept anything less than Iran totally abandoning nuclear weapons. The P.M. failed to articulate what substantive details would go into such a plan. Instead, Netanyahu went for a clear emotional pitch: He pointed to Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel in the audience and said that Israel must do whatever is necessary to prevent another Holocaust. The Republican-dominated audience ate it up, leaping to its collective feet and cheering as though at a college football game.

In a way, the speech was part of the biggest sport of all, the Republicans’ favorite – the fundamental undermining and humiliation of President Barack Obama. We have previously tried dictating terms to Iran (anyone remember the Axis of Evil?). All that President Bush’s strategy of not negotiating achieved was an accelerated Iranian nuclear program. The recent efforts of President Obama and Secretary Kerry represent the first real chance at normalizing relations with Iran since the 1979 Revolution, as well as a chance to help a more moderate Iranian government enter the broader world stage. These are not bad ideas.

Unfortunately, we have a Republican Party so single-mindedly obsessed with destroying the President’s reputation that they brought a militaristic foreign leader, who last summer launched a disproportionately vicious military response against the Palestinian people, into America’s own Capitol Building to denounce our president. Think about it: A foreign leader who likely committed human rights violations within recent months entered our capitol and, with the permission of half the government, insulted our leadership.

The following messages were sent to the world today via television:

(A) America’s government no longer presents a coherent strategy or face to the world.

(B) Anti-intellectual opposition to dialogue and negotiation dominates the Republican Party.

(C) P.M. Netanyahu is so egotistical that he thinks he can maintain a bellicose tone toward Iran without American support.

(D) The conservative top brass in the Israeli government and the Republican Party may say they want peace with Iran, but by stooping to a militaristic stunt like today’s speech and not spelling out a coherent strategy to counter President Obama’s, the conservatives really prefer military force to negotiation.

P.M. Netanyahu is absolutely right that no one should endure what Elie Wiesel went through. No Holocaust should ever occur again. And Netanyahu is completely within his rights to want to protect Israel. But to parade a venerable Holocaust survivor for a partisan political attack cheapens the invocation of the Holocaust. Moreover, saber rattling and a lack of dialogue are more likely to cause violence against Israel than prevent it. Here at home, Speaker Boehner and his peers should be ashamed of ridiculing the President the way they did. Boehner et. al. undermined U.S. foreign policy for the sake of insulting Mr. Obama.

I sincerely hope Mr. Netanyahu is the last foreign leader who gets to ridicule America’s head of state, as well as American support of nonviolence, inside our own Capitol.

Cover photo source: http://bit.ly/1M5qMy2.


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