Lessons for Netanyahu

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Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu needs to learn a lesson or two from former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on how to have a political “backbone.”

The London Times report from Jerusalem on March 26, 2010 headline was “Benyamin Netanyahu humiliated after Barack Obama dumped him for dinner.”  The specter of future rebukes by a contemptuous Obama seems to have curbed Netanyahu’s taste for standing up for Israel’s interests.

None of Shamir’s toughness seems to have rubbed off on Netanyahu, who began his political career as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, while Shamir was Foreign Minister.  Unlike the way Netanyahu has conducted his relationship with President Obama, Shamir stood firm against heavy pressure from President George H. Bush and his Secretary of State James Baker.  On one visit to Jerusalem, Baker demanded that Israel make far reaching concessions to the Palestinians.  Shamir, while clearly boiling inside, issued this cool response: “Mr. Secretary, you can demand what you choose to demand, but this is our country and we will not agree to do anything that will harm our interests and our future even if it is demanded by our best friend.”

Shamir’s principled defiance against Bush and Baker earned him the respect of the U.S. Congress.  Shamir was able to receive $650 million in special assistance and $700 million worth of military hardware from Congress despite President Bush’s objection.

Ironically, Israel’s economic situation is far better today than during Shamir’s term as prime minister.   And, while Israel finds itself with few reliable friends today (though there is a growing relationship with India, China and Russia), it had even fewer friends during 1988-1992.  America, under George H.W. Bush, was the sole super-power and respected as such – overseeing the demise of the Soviet Union and winning a great victory in the Gulf War, which liberated Kuwait.  Obama, on the other hand, is overseeing the breakdown of the U.S. economy, the rise of China, and the loss of prestige worldwide, especially in the Middle East.

According to the people-in-the-know around Netanyahu, it is Ehud Barak, former leader of the Labor Party and current Defense Minister, who has the most influence on the Prime Minister’s decisions.  Barak, who defeated Netanyahu in the 1999 elections, has forged an intimate understanding with Netanyahu.  Barak, who left the Labor Party and formed his own faction called Independence, is the “leftist” stream in Netanyahu’s cabinet, and in many ways, Netanyahu sees Barak as the person who can provide him “cover “  when dealing with the U.S. and other Western governments.

Netanyahu seeks to be accepted by a wide spectrum of Americans, and is doing his best to rid himself of the supposed stigma of “hardliner” and “right-winger.”  In his acceptance of a two-state solution and a Palestinian State in his Bar-Ilan speech (6/11/2009), he articulated: “In my vision of peace, there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor’s security and existence…” Netanyahu’s speech was a concession to Obama, which contradicted the will of his Likud voters.

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  • Bert

    Netanyahu's response is based on FEAR. Fear of their so-called friends who 'demand' suicidal concessions or else they will punish Israel. All past experience shows that appeasement has never worked and standing strong does work. The pernicious influence of Ehud Barak is undercutting Israeli security. Israel needs a popular rebellion against their own corrupt government as is happening elsewhere in the world.

  • daniel

    No bert, netanyahu's fear is that ehudi will shoot him in the back as he did with bibi's older brother in Uganda

  • Dispozovdaburka

    Bibi is a superstar.
    "They shoot , we build"
    Go Bibi.
    Go Israel.

  • artcohn

    The US congress and People are sqarely behind Israel. Ecept under George Shultz andAlexander Haig, The State Department has always been anti-Israel. Eisenhower, and Bush 1and now Obama have ben very anti-Israel presidents. Netanyahu should play defense until we fid of Obama in less than 2 years

  • ObamaBetrays

    Jews in Israel need to call upon the Jewish community in the U.S. to abandon their unwavering support for Obama. Young Americans shape their political views from comedy shows like the Daily Show hosted by Jewish American Jon Stewart. These shows praise Obama and liberalism and poke fun at his critics. Liberalism sounds good, but often does not work in practice. It would be wonderful to love everyone freely and live in a world without credible threats. Reality teaches us otherwise.

    People need judge Obama on his actions, not his rhetoric. Obama betrays everyone, even his own citizens. In the U.S., Obama currently sides staunchly with illegal aliens, telling them to punish U.S. citizens who oppose their lawless behavior, using them as a weapon against his political adversaries, supporting their illegitimate welfare that is bankrupting the U.S., and threatening to use their swelled numbers to instigate mob rule. The U.S. media cannot keep supporting Obama and ignoring his destructive actions. Otherwise, there will be 6 more years of his disatrous policies.