How Benjamin Netanyahu Betrayed America
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday visited the White House for the first time since his failed attempt to scuttle the Iranian nuclear deal. And as the news past week once again showed, his first order of business should be to apologize to President Obama and the American people. After all, on the very day Obama's would-be Democratic successor Hillary Clinton penned a love letter to Bibi and Israel in Forward, Americans learned that Netanyahu's pick to head up Israeli public diplomacy accused Obama of anti-Semitism and proclaimed Secretary of State John Kerry had the "mental age" of a 12-year old child.
Of course, Netanyahu's transgressions against Israel's last, best friend on earth are far more serious than the rantings of a settler propagandist apparently committed not just to the perpetual occupation of the West Bank but to the construction of a Third Temple in the bitterly contested Old City of Jerusalem. No, Bibi's sins go to the very heart of the U.S.-Israel relationship by violating the three pillars of the alliance: no partisan interference, no jeopardizing American lives, and no second-guessing American Jews.
If these three principles don't sound familiar, that may be because in June 2015 Netanyahu's American-born, former Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren took to U.S. airwaves and op-ed pages to declare two of his own. Pushing his book Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, Oren unleashed a blizzard of opinion pieces slandering President Obama and whitewashing the historical record.
Rejecting the position of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, he published a June 19th lecture in the Los Angeles Times supposedly explaining "Why Obama is wrong about Iran being 'rational' on nukes." In Foreign Policy that same day, Oren channeled Dinesh D'Souza by describing "How Obama opened his heart to the 'Muslim World'." And in "How Obama abandoned Israel" just three days earlier, Bibi's former envoy rewrote decades of history to pretend "Netanyahu and the president both made mistakes, but only one purposely damaged U.S.-Israel relations." President Obama, Oren charged, had violated his two tenets of the U.S.-Israel relationship:
The first principle was "no daylight." The U.S. and Israel always could disagree but never openly. Doing so would encourage common enemies and render Israel vulnerable...
The other core principle was "no surprises." President Obama discarded it in his first meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, in May 2009, by abruptly demanding a settlement freeze and Israeli acceptance of the two-state solution.
Of course, Oren was laughably wrong on both counts. Nothing about the Obama administration's call for a two-state solution for the Palestinians was a surprise to anyone. That had been American policy under Presidents Bush and Clinton as well. As for Israel's ever-expanding settlement construction in the West Bank, at least as far back as 2002 President Bush insisted "Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop." Speaking in Jordan on March 31, 2008 during her last swing through the region, then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reiterated Bush's firm opposition to new settlement activity in the West Bank, even as the Israeli government announced plans to build hundreds of new homes there:
Asked, however, about Israel continuing to approve construction of new housing in contested territory, Rice criticized the close U.S. ally.
"Settlement activity should stop - expansion should stop," Rice said.
Like the American-Israeli alliance overall, Oren's "no surprises" mantra has been a one-way street from the beginning. Israel stunned the Eisenhower administration with its 1956 Suez campaign jointly conducted with France and the UK. Washington was caught off guard by the Israeli incursions into Lebanon in 1978 and 1982. Ronald Reagan was appalled by the Israeli strike on Saddam Hussein's reactor at Osirak in 1981 and the carnage in Beirut he labeled "a holocaust." (That Israel had recruited Jonathan Pollard to spy on its benefactor didn't help matters. And it's also why Americans defense analysts rank Israel among the top cyber espionage threats to the United States.) It's no wonder that Israel found a great deal of daylight between itself and Washington over these and so many other issues. It was, after all, the Israeli demand for U.S. loan guarantees to underwrite its settlement plans that prompted Bush 41's Secretary of State James Baker to lecture Prime Minister Shamir--and worse. As the CBC recalled, that unease stemmed from yet another U.S.-Israeli clash over expanding settlements in the West Bank:
In the early 1990s, when then president George H.W. Bush became annoyed at Shamir's refusal to stop building settlements, he cut off $10 billion in loan guarantees, which Israel needed to resettle Russian Jewish immigrants.
At the time, James Baker, Bush's secretary of state, publicly recited the White House switchboard's phone number, declaring to Israel: "When you are serious about peace, call us!"
Of course, the greatest Israeli violation of Oren's "no surprises/no daylight" rule is also the most ironic. As he was lecturing President Obama to orgasmic Republicans in Congress, Prime Minister Netanyahu neglected to mention that the country that had duped the United States about its nuclear program was, in fact, Israel.
In 1961, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion promised President John F. Kennedy that Israel had "no intention to develop weapons capacity now" at its Dimona nuclear complex. Seeking to allay American fears about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, then deputy defense minister Shimon Peres told JFK in 1963:
"I can tell you most clearly that we will not introduce nuclear weapons to the region, and certainly we will not be the first."
As Presidents Johnson and Nixon soon learned, the Israelis did not keep their word. But under Prime Minister Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud alliance, the Israeli government is no longer holding up its end of the larger, unwritten bargain with the United States.
That bargain goes something like this. For decades, American administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, have been committed to safety and security of the Jewish State. So committed, in fact, that the United States will guarantee its survival and provide it political air cover with the international community even in many cases where Israeli policy clearly runs counter to American national interest. In exchange, the United States asks only three things in return:
1. Stay out of American partisan politics. American support for Israel is bipartisan. It will stay that way unless Israeli governments start picking sides in the United States.
2. Don't embarrass America and don't get Americans killed. By now, most Americans assume Israel will act in its own national interest, often at the expense of our own. All we ask for our $3 billion in aid each year is that Israel at least try not to embarrass us too much internationally and avoid getting us killed. Of course, Israel will--and should--decide if its thinks reducing Gaza to rubble or managing continuous violence through the indefinite occupation or annexation of the West Bank represents its best path to safety and security. Just don't expect us to defend it indefinitely in words or actions.
3. Don't raise questions about the loyalty of American Jews. No foreign power has a moral claim to the loyalties of any group of Americans. Israel is no exception. As it turns out, support for greater Israel to the banks of the Jordan River may be a litmus test for U.S. evangelicals, but not for American Jews themselves.
But for decades now, Benjamin Netanyahu has broken each of these implicit promises that have bound Israel and America through good times and bad.
Benjamin Netanyahu (R-Israel)
First among Netanyahu's sins is his transparent--and largely successful--attempt to turn convert the Republican Party into a Washington-based affiliate of the Likud Party. And those efforts certainly didn't start or end with his unprecedented campaign to subvert the Iran policy of the sitting President of the United States. That's why it wasn't an Obama administration official who first called Netanyahu's skullduggery "chickenshit." After Bibi went back on a commitment he had made during the 1990's, Haaretz reported, President Bill Clinton did the honors himself:
"'This is just chicken shit. I'm not going to put up with this kind of bullshit.'"
Aaron David Miller, who was Ross' deputy, also documented the days of Bibi and Bill. In his book "The Much Too Promised Land," Miller relates that during their first meeting in the summer of 1996, Bibi lectured the president about the Arab-Israeli issue, prompting Clinton to expostulate when it was over, "Who the fuck does he think he is? Who's the fucking superpower here?"
Clinton could be forgiven his anger, then and later. After all, Netanyahu undermined Clinton's peace-making efforts in 1998 by first visiting a Christians United for Israel (CUFI) before going to the White House. As Jerry Falwell explained, "It was all planned by Netanyahu as an affront to Clinton."
Bibi's affronts to Democratic administrations hardly stopped there. As the world learned in 2014, the Israeli government eavesdropped on John Kerry's phone calls during his attempts to broker a peace with the Palestinians.. When Kerry was pushing hardest on that peace process, one not unlike that the Bush administration sought with Netanyahu's Kadima predecessor, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon accused him of "acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor." (This from a coalition government whose members largely believe God gave all of the land of Israel to the Jewish people.) Kerry was savaged for saying in private what Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert previously said in public: without a two-state agreement with the Palestinians, Israel risks becoming an "apartheid state." While conservative Knesset members call Kerry anti-Semitic, the government-funded Yesha Council of settlements produced a video mocking the Secretary for, among other things, telling Israelis to wipe their asses with a porcupine.
Then there was the 2012 presidential election in the United States. Bibi made no secret of his desire to his former Boston Consulting Group colleague and then Republican nominee Mitt Romney replace Barack Obama as President of the United States. As far back as 2007, Romney adopted Netanyahu's proposals to indict then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on war crimes charges and to press state pension funds to divest their holdings in company doing business with Tehran. (The latter effort lasted 24 hours, or as long as it took for the AP to discover that Romney's old company Bain had precisely those kinds of investments.) In exchange, Mitt touted his virtual endorsement from the Israeli PM. As he boasted during the 2012 campaign:
"I've also known Bibi Netanyahu for a long time. We worked together at Boston Consulting Group. And the last thing Bibi Netanyahu needs to have is not just a person who's an historian, but somebody who is also running for president of the United States, stand up and say things that create extraordinary tumult in his neighborhood...Before I made a statement of that nature, I'd get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say, 'Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do?'"
And when push came to shove on the Iranian nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration along with France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China, Romney and his Republican allies had Bibi's back. The prospect of inviting a foreign leader to address Congress for the sole purpose of scuttling the current President's policy was so disturbingly unprecedented that even Michael Oren and Chris Wallace of Fox News denounced it as "cynical" and "wicked." And the architect of it all was Oren's successor Ron Dermer, the man known in Washington circles as "the Republican Senator from Israel."
That's description isn't far from the truth. Before Ron Dermer became the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, he was Netanyahu's jack-of-all-trades, including hatchet man. But before he was "Bibi's Brain," the son of Miami worked with GOP word master Frank Luntz, the man who brought you the "death tax" and "a government takeover of health care." As Ben Smith wrote in Politico, "Ron Dermer's many American friends say that if he'd stayed in America, where he was born, he'd probably be political director of the Republican National Committee or managing a GOP presidential campaign." And as Haaretz also reported during the recent Israeli elections, Dermer got in trouble back home for being a political hack on two continents:
Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer was reprimanded last Thursday for violating the Civil Service Commission rules and taking part in forbidden political campaigning on behalf of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in interviews he gave to the American media.
Bibi: An Embarrassment and a Risk for the U.S.
Long before his disgraceful intervention in the American debate over the Iranian deal or his arrogant White House lecture of President Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu insulted staunch friend of Israel Joe Biden during his first visit there as Vice President in 2010. After Bibi blind-sided Biden by announcing plans for new settlement construction in East Jerusalem as the VP was en route, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman suggested Biden offer some friendly advice to Bibi's government:
"Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don't let friends drive drunk. And right now, you're driving drunk. You think you can embarrass your only true ally in the world, to satisfy some domestic political need, with no consequences? You have lost total contact with reality. Call us when you're serious."
As it turned out, Biden had a different--and even sterner--message for Netanyahu's government. Politico described the stark warning Vice President Biden delivered to the Israelis after their public humiliation of him:
People who heard what Biden said were stunned. "This is starting to get dangerous for us," Biden castigated his interlocutors. "What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace."
The vice president told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel's actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.
America's best friend may think a never-ending occupation of the West Bank may be vital to its national security interests, but Biden wasn't alone in making the case that U.S. interests require a different policy. As Foreign Policy detailed at the time, then-CENTCOM commander and then conservative idol General David Petraeus made stressed that very point to the U.S. Joint Chiefs. Chairman Michael Mullen was apparently shocked by what he heard:
The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, [and] that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region.
If Netanyahu's long-time and high-profile rejection of Palestinian statehood posed a growing risk for American forces throughout the region, his threats of unilateral Israeli military action against Tehran's nuclear facilities promised much worse.
As I noted in March ("This is What War with Iran Will Look Like"):
Leaders of the national security establishments in both Israel and the U.S. have spoken clearly on what war with Iran will look like and what it will cost. Short of a total invasion and occupation of that nation of 75 million people, the deployment of Iranian nuclear weapons can only be delayed, not halted, by military action. And the resulting carnage and chaos throughout the Middle East would make the U.S. conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq seems like picnics in comparison.
At a minimum, thousands of Iranian civilians would die in an American attack against Tehran's nuclear installations. Even if the Israelis alone launch a strike against Iran's nuclear sites, Tehran will almost certainly hit back against U.S. targets in the Straits of Hormuz, in the region, possibly in Europe, and even potentially in the American homeland. And Israel would face certain retaliation from Hezbollah rockets launched from Lebanon and Hamas missiles raining down from Gaza.
That's why it came as no surprise in May 2012 when a majority of Netanyahu's own defense chiefs opposed an Israeli strike on the mullahs' nuclear facilities. That same month, the New York Times reported that Israel's former intelligence chief Meir Dagan "has said that a strike on Iran's nuclear installations would be 'a stupid idea,' adding that military action might not achieve all of its goals and could lead to a long war." Why?
"A strike could accelerate the procurement of the bomb," claimed Dagan, who spoke at a conference held at the National Security Studies Institute in Tel Aviv. "An attack isn't enough to stop the project."
Dagan posited that military action would align the Iranian population behind the regime, thus solving the country's political and financial problems. Moreover, he asserted that in the case of an Israeli strike, Iran could declare before the world that it was attacked even while adhering to agreements made with the International Atomic Energy Agency - by a country that reportedly possess "strategic capabilities."
"We would provide them with the legitimacy to achieve nuclear capabilities for military purposes," he said.
Short of a large-scale invasion and occupation of Iran by American forces, U.S. military action might still only delay the Iranian bomb Tehran would doubtless go into overdrive to produce. That's why former Bush Defense Secretary Bob Gates and CIA head Michael Hayden raised the alarms about the "disastrous" impact of supposedly surgical strikes against the Ayatollah's nuclear infrastructure. As the New York Times reported in March 2012:
A classified war simulation held this month to assess the repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran forecasts that the strike would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to American officials.
And the costs in lives and treasure would be staggering. In November 2012, the Federation of American Scientists estimated that a U.S. campaign of air strikes would cost the global economy $700 billion; a full-scale invasion could have a total impact of $1.7 trillion. Two months earlier, a bipartisan report including signatories Brent Scowcroft, retired Admiral William Fallon, former Republican Senator and Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, retired General Anthony Zinni and former Ambassador Thomas Pickering warned Americans about the cost of trying to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program once and for all:
A unilateral Israeli attack would set back the Iranian nuclear program by only 2 years and an American attack by 4 years. But if the objective is "ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear bomb," the U.S. "would need to conduct a significantly expanded air and sea war over a prolonged period of time, likely several years." In order to achieve regime change, the report says, "the occupation of Iran would require a commitment of resources and personnel greater than what the U.S. has expended over the past 10 years in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined."
The anticipated blowback?
Serious costs to U.S. interests would also be felt over the longer term, we believe, with problematic consequences for global and regional stability, including economic stability. A dynamic of escalation, action, and counteraction could produce serious unintended consequences that would significantly increase all of these costs and lead, potentially, to all-out regional war.
Second-Guessing the Loyalties of American Jews
Ultimately, Netanyahu and his allies in the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) suffered a total defeat in their all-out war to block the Iranian nuclear deal. But as polling from Pew and Gallup revealed, Bibi and his GOP allies won the public relations battle with the American people.
Well, not all of the American people. A survey conducted by the LA Jewish Journal found that Jewish Americans backed the Iran nuclear agreement by a 20-point margin. Of course, that should come as no surprise, as Jewish voters constitute one of the most consistently loyal Democratic constituencies in America. And that record represents a stinging rebuke to Bibi's repeated claims that he is "the representative of the entire Jewish people."
As it turns out, American Jews aren't with Netanyahu and his increasingly right-wing backers in both Israel and the United States. Jewish voters here didn't just reject Bibi on Iran. They stand against the GOP Likudniks on almost everything. White evangelical Protestants, however, are another matter altogether.
This week, former Minnesota Rep. and one-time 2012 GOP presidential frontrunner Michele Bachmann warned that job number one for U.S. evangelicals is the mass conversion of Jews in preparation for the End Times and the Second Coming of Christ because "He's coming soon." Now, it would be one thing if Bachmann, who recently claimed South Carolina's record rains in October showed that "U.S. turns its back on Israel, disasters following," was a lone voice in the political wilderness. But her views are shared by millions of American evangelicals, whose organization Christians United for Israel (CUFI) provides the platform and resources to ensure that God's chosen people occupy the entirety of the land of Eretz Israel. As the organization's "Israel Pledge" puts it:
"We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right."
As it turns out, American Jews aren't buying it. While 70 percent of Israeli Jews identify themselves as "God's Chosen People," Pew Research surveys show that for American Jews the figure drops to 44 just percent. Far and away the group most dedicated to the proposition that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people is American white evangelical Protestants. And their End Times story doesn't end well for Jews anywhere.
In its October 2013 analysis, the Pew Research Center reported that at a whopping 82 percent, "A majority of white evangelicals believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people, compared with 40 percent of American Jews who believe the same." But just as jaw-dropping as the fact that white evangelical is twice as likely as American Jews (40 percent), and five times more like than "Jews of no religion" (16 percent) are the implication for U.S. policy:
White evangelical Protestants also are more likely than Jews to favor stronger U.S. support of Israel. Among Jews, 54% say American support of the Jewish state is "about right," while 31% say the U.S. is not supportive enough. By contrast, more white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel (46%) than say support is about right (31%).
White evangelical Protestants are less optimistic than Jews about the prospects for a peaceful two-state solution to conflict in the region. When asked if there is a way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, six-in-ten American Jews (61%) say yes, while one-third say no. Among white evangelical Protestants, 42% say Israel and an independent Palestinian state can coexist peacefully, while 50% say this is not possible.
Not possible and for many evangelicals, not desirable. After all, in their eschatology, the conversion of some Jews--and the slaughter of the rest--at Armageddon is part and parcel to the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the Second Coming of Christ. That helps explain why white evangelical Protestants love the Jews, giving them an impressive 69 on Pew's 100 degree thermometer. Alas, that love goes unrequited: "Despite evangelicals' warm feelings toward Jews, Jews tend to give evangelicals a much cooler rating (34 on average)."
For Christian Zionists like Michele Bachmann ("Support for Israel is handed down by God and if the United States pulls back its support, America will cease to exist"), Rick Perry ("As a Christian I have a clear directive to support Israel") and Mike Huckabee ("no such thing as a Palestinian"), Israel serves merely as a means to an end. In that telling, it is a divinely required stepping-stone to the End Times conversion (and much larger slaughter) of the Jews that will accompany the Second Coming of Christ. And that has a real impact on foreign policy. As the controversial head of the Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Hagee, explained in 2006:
"The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West...a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."
With friends like that, Israel doesn't need enemies. And with Republicans like that, it's no wonder American Jews continue to overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
Other recent surveys of American Jews confirm what the exit polls tell us every four years: The Jewish electorate is perhaps the single most liberal voting bloc in the United States. A poll conducted two years ago by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University revealed why the Jewish community continues to reliably vote for Democrats, "election cycle after election cycle":
The poll, which has a four percent margin of error, also found high support among Jews not just for social causes they have long championed including gay marriage (68 percent support) and access to legal abortion (63 percent favor) , but on economic issues such as taxation. Sixty-five percent said they support raising income tax for those who earn above $200,000 a year and 62 percent said they thought the power of financial institutions pose a threat to the United States.
The survey also found that 73 percent of those polled favored the government requiring private health insurance to cover birth control.
As Haaretz noted in reporting on the survey, "Israel related issues seem to have little effect on Jewish voters' decision in choosing between Obama and Romney." That finding echoed the results of an April 2012 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization:
A majority of 51% pointed to the economy as the issue most important to their vote, followed by gaps between rich and poor (15%), health care (10%) and the federal deficit (7%). Only 4% of Jewish voters said Israel was the most important issue for them when deciding who should get their vote. Even when asked to name their second-most-important issue, Jewish voters gave the issue of Israel only marginal importance.
The data would suggest that the Republicans' focus on attacking both Obama's record on Israel and his troubled relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was having little, if any, traction.
Which, of course, is exactly what transpired on Election Day 2012. Barack Obama captured 69 percent of the Jewish vote in 2012. (To put the math another way, Barack Obama actually earned the votes of more Jews than Benjamin Netanyahu.) Even with the on-going right-wing campaign against Obama, his party's massive defeat during the 2014 midterm elections and the growing share of conservative, Orthodox among American Jews, Gallup surveys still showed the GOP support among Jewish voters at 29 percent.
And it's numbers like those that make reactionary Republicans in the U.S. and Israel's irredentists foaming-at-the-mouth angry. While one prominent Israeli rabbi compared President Obama to a biblical mass murderer, in July Israel's strictly Orthodox minister of religious services said that "he did not consider Reform Jews to be Jewish." And when the finger wasn't being pointed at American Jews, some right-wing rabbis directed it at their Secretary of State, proclaiming John Kerry had "declared war on God."
Their literal amen corner in the GOP agreed. Breitbart columnist Ben Shapiro called the Obama administration "obviously anti-Israel" and, despite its large number of Jewish staff and advisors, "borderline Jew-hating." In March 2014, Michele Bachmann lamented to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council that the American Jewish community "sold out Israel."
The incendiary rhetoric heated up as the P5+1 negotiations with Iran reached a climax this year. "This is, I think a critical visit by the prime minister," Matt Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition proclaimed. "If these Democrats would rather put partisan politics ahead of principle and walk out on the prime minister of Israel, then we have an obligation to make that known." Former GOP Congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough went even further, suggesting anyone opposing Netanyahu's March 3 speech to Congress is against Israel and anti-Semitic.
Five years before the Benjamin Netanyahu's manufactured showdown over the Iranian deal, Peter Beinart warned that the growing Orthodox population and the right-wing attempt to convert U.S. support for Israel into a partisan Republican issue would come at a steep price:
For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism's door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.
It didn't use to be this way. Before the likes of Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu, Americans of all stripes could marvel at the miracle of Israel. From the ashes of the Holocaust, Israel built a thriving nation for Jews from all over the world. In the U.S. the kibbutz movement inspired a generation, Jew and Gentile alike. In 1967, we cheered as Israel amazingly defeated the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. (As we later learned, that startling triumph, if not the Israeli assault on the USS Liberty, was predicted by the CIA.) Americans were relieved when Israel withstood the Yom Kippur War of 1973. (The massive U.S. airlift of weapons and global military alert to deter Soviet intervention played no small part in Israel's recovery from the brink. As Henry Kissinger explained to his Israeli critics in 2013, "there was this slight problem that we saved you in '73, right?")
But for many Americans, that intoxicating blend of admiration for and identification with tiny Israel began to change as the nation became the occupying power even some of its founders feared. The 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres in Lebanon after Israel decided to "waltz with Bashir" caused many here to rethink their assumptions. The realities for Palestinians on the ground in Gaza and in the West Bank exposed the reassuring fiction of "a land without people for a people without a land."
Ultimately, the last three American presidents concluded that U.S. national interests are best served by the creation of a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel. More recently, the United States and its closest allies in Europe concluded that a negotiated solution to the potential Iranian development of nuclear weapons was superior to any realistic military alternative. Nevertheless, the commitment of American resources, political power and global prestige to Israel's security hasn't wavered even as premiers and presidents changed.
For years, Benjamin Netanyahu has liked to sum up the American-Israeli partnership this way:
"Israel has no better friend than the U.S. and the U.S. has no better friend than Israel."
Sadly, Netanyahu's mantra is only half true. After all, America's friends don't interfere with our political processes. Our friends don't choose sides in our domestic partisan politics and don't make support for their policies at home a litmus test for policymakers here. Our friends don't get to stand in judgment of either the authentic Jewishness or true American patriotism of Jewish Americans. Our friends don't publicly lecture our President in our house. And our friends don't try to undermine America's policies, jeopardize America's political power and risk American lives abroad without paying some price.
Alas, by all indications, Prime Minister Netanyahu's punishment will be billions of dollars in additional aid for Israel from the United States. His visit will provide a platform to issue dire warnings about a Third Intifada, a boiling over of the simmering tensions from Israel's de facto annexation of East Jerusalem and perpetual occupation of the West Bank that the United States does not condone. Meanwhile, while the media here ponders who needs to mend fences with whom (for example, here, here and here), don't expect Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize for anything.
That would be too much to ask of a man who betrayed America.