Your Money or Your (Political) Life
Bibi Netanyahu’s experience with the United States government—all Israeli governments—has been one of continuous shakedowns over the years. Actually, Bibi didn’t start the habit of milking the American treasury. That started a few decades ago when in the 1970s, Israel’s Prime Minister, Menachem Begin and Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat finally signed a truce after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war in which Israel captured the Sinai desert. It was returned by Israel to Egypt after the United States, represented by Henry Kissinger, promised to dump a lot of weapons from America onto Israel’s Army.
During the Sinai negotiations, Kissinger signed a separate top secret Memorandum of Understanding that promised almost everything we had in our arsenal to Israel in return for handing back the Sinai to Egypt, as well as releasing the thousands of Egyptian prisoners of war it had captured. He promised to Israel a level of annual aid of $2 billion over the ensuing five years, allowing Israel to maintain its occupation of the West Bank, which itself was against U.S. policy. He committed America to be responsive to Israel’s defense and economic needs. The US would continue to offer both economic and military aid into the unknown future.
Kissinger also promised to provide Pershing missiles—manufactured for the delivery of nuclear warheads. This would have worked had it not been for a column published by Jack Anderson, who exposed this volatile gift to Israel. The ensuing publicity by Anderson and the Washington Post actually killed that part of the deal.
But it was a bonanza for Israel at virtually no cost to it for the trade.
With this precedent in mind, Netanyahu came to Washington this month following his year-long publicity campaign wherein he continually threatened to attack Iran, that is, unless America wanted to do so. That’s when the next chapter of Israel’s shakedown was written.
Because Obama could not afford an Israeli attack on Iran during his re-election campaign, he was low hanging fruit, ripe for picking. Had Israel gone ahead with a bombing campaign on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran’s retaliation would surely cause world oil prices to go even higher than the current rumors of war have driven them, and would likely draw attacks on U.S. interests anywhere in the world.
To illustrate that “no good deed goes unpunished” so far as Israel is concerned, after the tens of billions of dollars American taxpayers have involuntarily handed over to Israel, that was not enough for Bibi. He saw the opportunity for a world class shake down of America by threatening Obama with another Middle East war, and it worked.
Obama was helpless in this contest. With the US’s fragile economic recovery moving at a snail’s pace, any spike in oil prices would almost certainly drive Obama from office and would elect either the shape-shifting Mitt Romney, or the unbalanced Rick Santorum as our new president. (I’ve deliberately omitted any threat of being elected by the war-like Newt Gingrich, as both he and his threat have significantly diminished as even Republican voters have found him too extreme for their freaky tastes. I’m thinking of the Republicans’ enthusiastic applause when Rick Perry would brag about executing 235 prisoners, or when another would allow a sick person without health insurance to die, or when most of them promised to bomb Iran).
Obama probably reflected the fears of all the rest of us that neither a souring economy nor the election of one of the Republican candidates for President would be good for the people of America.
Understanding Obama’s perilous situation, Bibi decided that now was the time to strike. He spoke at the AIPAC convention in Washington—the lead group in America lobbying for an American attack on Iran—and in his private meeting with Obama he surely warned Obama that if America would not start a war, Israel would. Bibi well understood that Obama could not afford another Middle East War, thus, the pay-off was surely in the offing.
That was the point when Obama reportedly offered Bibi a massive bribe of American taxpayers’ money to wait until after the election this fall. And that was when Bibi’s ongoing near panic about Iran’s nuclear threat suddenly disappeared, resulting in the exchange of money and weapons by Obama, for a temporary peace by Bibi, who agreed now that his attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could wait.
All this was good for Israel, but was it good for America? Only if it keeps the Republican primary sideshow from becoming a reality show.
JAMES ABOUREZK is a former U.S. Senator from South Dakota. He is the author of Advise & Dissent: Memoirs of South Dakota and the U.S. Senate, a memoir now available only on Amazon’s Kindle. His e mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org