A degree of murk attaches to the Israeli election results, to the surprise of none. It is a rule of politics in the Holy Land that if there is an easy way to do a thing and a hard way, the solution is to invent a third, more difficult way. Still, after the dust settles, the smoke clears and the fog lifts, it appears the next Prime Minister will be everyone’s favorite MIT diplomate and well-met diplomat, Benjamin Netanyahu. And anyone who has kept up with his Hebrew lessons knows what Benjamin means: “Man of the right.”
The freshly minted American administration is none too happy being left at the altar. They had hoped to “remake” Israel along with remaking the United States. Any movie buff can tell you the remakes are rarely as good as the original.
The tactic being employed by the administration and its surrogates is fascinating, though founded in falsity. They are planting stories everywhere about how prickly Netanyahu is, so curmudgeonly that even a nice even-keeled guy like Bill Clinton was subjected to a rough ride. Poor Hillary, these commentators cluck, now she is in for it. Unless of course Benjamin has matured.
This sort of setup is a classic pincer strategy elevated by leftists to an art form. If there is disagreement between Obama and Netanyahu, as there will inevitably be, Netanyahu is tarred (you should excuse the expression) as the bad guy. In a word much beloved of negotiators, he will be labeled intransigent. Reuters in a Feb. 9 piece has already dusted off a real nasty word: “truculence.” If Netanyahu sells out his principles and betrays his voters, that will be heralded as a sign of statesmanship. It’s a thing of beauty, this Machiavellian strategy, even if it is pernicious, obnoxious, fulsome and abhorrent.
Listen to this quote in a few recent articles, attributed to Dennis Ross: “Bill Clinton complained Netanyahu acted as if Israel were the real superpower.”
The real truth, well known to both Washington and Jerusalem insiders, is that Clinton hated Netanyahu for no reason other than liberal hating conservative. The late Ralph de Toledano (1916-2007) wrote a phenomenal essay in the Conservative Chronicle during the impeachment trial of President Clinton. He pointed out how relaxed Bill’s body language was around Yasser Arafat, a murderer of Israelis and Americans, soldiers and civilians, adults and children, not to mention a corrupt, dissipated lowlife. On the other hand, when Bill stood next to Benjamin Netanyahu, a fellow Ivy Leaguer with heroic achievements, he was distinctly ill at ease.
Toledano’s point was brilliant and true: Clinton’s problems with Netanyahu reflect on Bill’s character flaws much more than on Benjamin’s.
This story is public knowledge, repeated extensively in political circles: Clinton tricked Netanyahu by suddenly offering a pardon for Jonathan Pollard as a sweetener for a deal in the Wye Plantation negotiations. When Netanyahu showed interest in the proposal, Clinton had George Tenet leak the deal in such a way that a flurry of negative publicity ensued. The upshot was that not only was Pollard not released, Netanyahu was criticized for even suggesting such a thing.
On top of all this, the Clintons went out of their way to personally interfere in the Israeli election, helping Barak defeat Netanyahu. They snubbed Netanyahu, canceling scheduled meetings, while encouraging James Carville to go off to Israel and work on the Barak campaign. This was an unprecedented act of interference in another country’s political process, and displays the classic Clinton vengefulness.
Hillary Clinton is not looking forward to dealing with him for the obvious reason that she stabbed him in the back. The likelihood of him being terribly forthcoming with her is small, although he has hitherto been careful to avoid taking direct shots at her. But every bit of scorn she gets from him in private or public is thoroughly well deserved and could not happen to a nicer person, ahem.
Hopefully Netanyahu’s communication skills will enable him to bypass these weasels and win the hearts of the American public. He maintains a close friendship with Rush Limbaugh, and the two often get together to trade views while smoking stogies. If he has indeed matured, perhaps he can show the American right once and for all how to beat these mean-spirited lefties at their own game.