Much as I hate to say it, the time has come to create a set of Obama versus Netanyahu jokes. This clearly has the makings of an enduring genre of gallows humor. Here is one I wrote, to begin mining this rich vein of comical gold.
After snubbing Netanyahu over several White House visits by refusing to invite him to dinner, Obama suddenly reverses course and offers him something to eat. Netanyahu consults his security team, but they advise against accepting, since the food may be poisoned.
“Why won’t you eat?” Obama asks. “You know I am a Roosevelt Democrat and I believe the government should feed everybody…”
“I know,” counters Netanyahu. “I have nothing to fear but the fare itself…”
Presumably things are not quite that bad between Obama and Netanyahu, but this exaggeration highlights the reality. Not only is there no love lost between Barack and Bibi, but there seems to be hate found on Barack’s side. (Ironically Netanyahu’s old nemesis, the man who beat him head to head for Prime Minister in 1999, was named Barak.) This is nothing new either. In one form or another it has gone on for years.
We all recall the White House food snub alluded to earlier, where Obama excused himself to go to dinner and left Netanyahu cooling his heels in the office until he got back. There was the time Obama had Hillary Clinton call Netanyahu and berate him over the phone for 45 minutes about Israel’s settlement policy. There were a number of visits by Netanyahu to Washington when Obama did not make time to meet him. And famously, Obama was heard over a live microphone agreeing with French President (at the time) Sarkozy that Netanyahu was a liar, then one-upping Sarkozy by saying he had it worse, since he had to deal with Bibi every day.
All this came to a towering climax in the recent Israeli elections, when Obama sent his minions to the Middle East in an attempt to unseat Netanyahu. When Bibi accepted Speaker Boehner’s invitation to address the Congress and he used the occasion to badmouth the administration’s negotiating posture with Iran, that was the last straw and then some. Thenceforth it became a no-holds-barred wrestling match, complete with biting and scratching.
Still you would think there was some limit to Obama’s duplicity, some depth to which he would not sink. But you would be wrong.
In the midst of all this tension and contentiousness, when cooler heads should be prevailing, the Obama administration declassified a highly sensitive Department of Defense report on Israel’s nuclear program. This was something Israel does not want out there at any time, but now in particular. When disputing Iran’s right to develop nuclear weapons it is impolitic to note that Israel has had this kind of firepower for half a century.
Here is the background. During the 1950s fledgling Israel recognized its fragility in a hostile neighborhood and began a secret program to develop nuclear weaponry. It could not buy materials from other nations so it was forced to undertake a “look-ma-no-hands” approach and make all its own parts. Boasting a strong group of scientists and a sophisticated class of military and political leaders, the country succeeded in its mission. It held off on building nuclear warheads, but after the Six-Day War in 1967 those were manufactured as well.
It had not yet become fashionable on the Israeli left to doubt the moral basis of the country’s founding and existence. Indeed the nuclear capability had been developed under Labor governments, with Shimon Peres tasked by the late David Ben-Gurion to oversee the operation. Remember, Israel did not have its first Likud government until 1977. Menachem Begin had run in every election since 1948 but it took him twenty-nine years to win. He was a great speaker who drew enormous crowds but lackluster votes. His slogan at speeches became “Pachot leharia, yotair lehatzbia (Clap less, vote more)!”
Begin’s upset victory knocked the academic and media classes out of power, giving rise to a “post-Zionist” era of self-flagellation. Under that influence, Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona, Israel, where the atom and hydrogen bombs are assembled, revealed the country’s nuclear secrets to the Sunday Times of London. Vanunu was arrested upon his return to Israel, where he served eighteen years in prison for espionage and sedition.
There matters have stood for three decades. Everyone knows Israel has nuclear weapons. Israel refuses to acknowledge that fact but will not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Years and wars have passed without Israel taking advantage of its non-conventional armory in any capacity. It has displayed the highest degree of responsible stewardship. The United States has backed it tacitly by not raising the subject in any official forums.
Still the Department of Defense has on file since 1987 an assessment of Israel’s nuclear capacity. The date of 1987 is probably no coincidence. Coming exactly one year after Vanunu’s whistleblowing, it likely reflects an analysis of his revelations rather than some ingenious CIA infiltration of the Israeli atomic community. In any case, the document has been classified since that time and was never made public.
A few years ago Grant Smith, head of the Institute for Research of Mideast Policy, filed suit under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) to see this report. The Department of Defense denied his request but he subsequently procured an order from a Federal district judge to release the information.
Here the White House becomes the fulcrum. Technically there is a court order but practically such orders are “honored more in the breach than in the observance.” The court has no enforcement power other than fines which the White House pays out of its operating budget. Obama in particular has consistently shown he is comfortable ignoring these legalisms.
Bottom line, if Israel played nice the White House would sit on this report and let the court whistle. Instead Obama has broken protocol and for the first time the United States publicized that Israel has nuclear weapons. This “punished” Netanyahu and Israel by giving ammunition to Iran while concomitantly weakening the United States’ own position in negotiations with the mullahs. Has Obama joined Edward Snowden as a conscientious whistle blower? Or are you hearing the dog whistle of anti-Semitism?
It only hurts when we don’t laugh, so we should conclude by writing the next in our new humor series.
Some years after Iran signs a deal with the West to supposedly limit its nuclear capacity, the mullahs show their hand and drop an atom bomb on Israel, wiping out the entire country with the exception of one sole survivor.
Moments later President Obama is on the special hotline with Ayatollah Khamenei.
“You idiot,” Obama screams. “How did you manage to miss Netanyahu?”