Danny Cardwell's picture

    Netanyahu: America's Favorite Thug

    There’s been so much written about any potential influence Vladimir Putin could exert over Donald Trump that the influence Benjamin Netanyahu already has over him was largely ignored. The United Nations Security Council’s decision to call the Israeli settlements illegal, coupled with the incoming Trump administration's reaction to it, has pushed those of us still engaged in the political process back to our partisan cubbyholes on all things Israel. On Fox news, this story is being sold as President Obama’s final act of hostility against Israel: there might be some screw you aimed at Israel on the president’s part, but that doesn’t negate the principles that undergird the U.S. decision to abstain from vetoing Resolution 2334. The 4th Geneva Convention is the basis for the settlements being illegal. Our past UN vetoes have only emboldened Israel to keep building on contested lands. At the end of 2014 Israel begrudgingly slowed down the construction of settlements, but overall Israel has built more settlements during the Obama administration than during the Bush years. I’ve read articles and tweets from some very smart people who saw the UN’s decision as something to celebrate, but the reality is: the daily life of the average Palestinian and Jewish person affected by this decision is likely to get worse. 

    Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction to this resolution confirms what I’ve always thought about him: he’s a thug. I respect his gangster mentality even though I don’t respect his governance. I know thuggish behavior when I see it; Just like Kevin Hart’s "Uncle Richard Junior", Netanyahu is a thug. He could survive in any hood or prison on the planet. This is why he and Vladimir Putin have had a distinct advantage over President Obama, and why they will likely have more influence over President-Elect Trump. Real recognizes real. Violence, and even a propensity to engage in violence isn’t enough to make someone a thug. There are men who engage in domestic violence as a way of experiencing power over another person; that is faux strength. Bibi isn’t boxing the Palestinian people in because they are weak and he has more military might: he’s doing it because they are in his way. His real fight is with the international community. He sees the UN and any state actor who doesn’t acquiesce to his geopolitical plans for Israel as the real enemy. Netanyahu used President Obama’s diplomatic sensitivities and desire to be respected against him. President Obama would beat around the bush to criticize Israeli policies while Bibi would deflect the criticism and get in front of a microphone and clearly issue disrespectful statements against him. Netanyahu will be able to push Donald Trump in any direction he needs him to go. Most Americans, have an uncritical support of Israel. We will blindly support them no matter the circumstances and a Trump administration will only embolden him. Donald needs to be seen as strong and supporting Israel is one way to accomplish this.

    Trump looks up to strong leaders because of the respect they command; he goes around bragging about himself while guys like Benjamin Netanyahu  and Vladimir Putin just exude the strength and confidence he wishes he had. I don’t believe Trump could’ve handled some of the potential conflicts of interests the way his two favorite state actors did. The Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict should’ve been an area where Netanyahu and Putin butted heads, but they didn’t. They were able to sit down and talk about their intentions inside of Syria. President Obama was hammered by conservatives for not supporting Israel, but when the United States and NATO were condemning Russia’s support of the Assad regime Netanyahu was as quiet as a church mouse. Think about it, Assad is down with Iran and Hezbollah, but Bibi wasn’t concerned with Putin propping up a regime that supports state actors who openly oppose the Jewish state? That’s O.G. behavior. When Bloods are making money with Gangster Disciples they don’t let the relationship between the (G.D.’s) and Crips get in the way of that. Americans are so reluctant to call out power brokers when they engage in thug behavior. I don’t believe Trump could’ve navigated that situation as calmly as either leader. He needs to be validated at every turn, and I don’t think his ego could handle someone willfully engaging with a known enemy.

    Since Resolution 2334 was passed, critiques of the Jewish state and a possible two-state solution have ranged from technocratic policy papers worthy of a PhD to Twitter garbage worth less than 140 characters. Both approaches will yield the same outcome: nothing! There’s no such thing as a two-state solution if the land you’re trying to divide looks like it was carved up by gerrymandering Republicans from the south. The settlements must stop! The starting point for most discussions over who has the right to this land usually devolves into a game of Trivia Pursuit covering the last five thousand years and prophecies stretched across three religious books. Too many people are trapped in the Sisyphean game of determining the chicken or egg of middle-east aggressions. I understand the need to historicize, but there are too many people who (in my opinion) place more importance on events of the 13th and 14th century than decisions made in 1947 and 1967. The dispute over access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque typifies this: my big brother was alive when Israel occupied it.

    Israel can’t bear the full responsibility for trying usher in peace, but they have to be willing to extend an olive branch instead of burning them down. I won’t deny the existence of bad actors in the region. There are religious zealots who want to spread a global caliphate; likewise, there are those in the Israeli government and the west who would gladly reduce parts of the middle-east to ruble. Both groups are foolish. Every security gate leads to a pat down; which creates tension; which leads to knife and brick attacks; which leads to mortar fire. This cycle works in any order. War is sometimes necessary, but Israel and the west can't kill their way out of this problem. As Americans, we have to accept the reality that our governments financial support of the Israeli military comes with a price greater than the cost of bombs and rockets. America has to be open to the idea that everything Israel does isn't right.

    America will always love Benjamin Netanyahu; he is the ultimate law and order politician. In his zeal to maintain what he understands as peace he ignores any role his government plays in adding to the hostilities. If he had his way no one would question him about the settlements or any of the daily indignities visited on Palestinian people by settlers. Bibi, like any gangster, wasn’t upset that the settlements were deemed illegal, he’s always known they were; he was upset that Obama and Kerry allowed him to be snitched on. His comments are very telling, “Friends Don't Take Friends to UN Security Council.” He doesn’t even consider the legitimacy of the Resolution. Peace for most reactionaries is at odds with justice. Most often peace is equated to people suffering in silence. In 1967 Dr. King used the term No Justice No Peace as a unifying cry between protests for Civil rights and against the Vietnam war. 49 years after the Israeli invasion that led to the capture of the Al-Aqsa Mosque it looks like it could be another 49 years before Justice has a chance to usher in peace. Again, chicken or egg logic won't solve this problem. I wouldn’t tell anyone in that region they shouldn't be afraid, but I would hope they cope with their fear better than the individuals who allow it to dominate their decision making. Benjamin Netanyahu is thug, but at least he’s not a coward. A coward might have taken the nuclear option by now.

    “the Zionist argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine has no intelligent or legal basis in history.”           Malcolm X


    Danny - this is a good and importance piece.  I agree wholeheartedly with your criticisms of Netanyahu.  President Obama and John Kerry did about as good as they could I think in trying unsuccessfully to cajole Israel to forsake its cruel and self-defeating policies - especially the settlements - towards the Palestinians.  Clinton's outright rejection of those policies in her speech to AIPAC when she called for us to take our relationship with Israel "to the next level" hurt her among progressives and possibly African-Americans.

    I agreed with the piece you wrote following AIPAC. That was one area where Hillary tried to get to the right of Trump on. I believe we can be critical and supportive at the same time. I don't think we will have any constructive criticisms coming from the Trump administration. I hope you have a great day and a better new year!

    Thanks Danny.  Best wishes to you and yours as well of course!

    I appreciate your work here Danny, thanks.  Have personally taken quite a bit of incoming after taking the position that, although I think it's fair to question the wisdom of an 11th hour resolution like this and while I don't believe the UN is fair to Israel, I understand the president's position and agree with him.  Simply put, supporters of Israel are being held hostage by the most hardcore, ideologically or religiously-driven settlement proponents.  Also simple is the notion that there is a plain distinction between supporting Israel's security and supporting unfettered settlement growth having nothing to do with security.

    One correction I think is in order  You write of disputes over access to the Al Aqsa Mosque/Temple Mount, and that Israel at some point occupied that space.  Not sure what you mean.  While not undisputed, it is the position of many that prior to 1948 and from at least the middle of the 19th century (and predating the modern zionist movement beginning in the 1880s), Jews constituted a majority of the population of Jerusalem.  In 1948, every single Jewish resident of the Old City of Jerusalem was expelled by British-led Jordanian forces (in what we now refer to as an ethnic cleansing).  Much of the ancient Jewish quarter, including centuries-old synagogues, was reduced to rubble (after the fighting).  And no Jew visited the Western Wall, which abuts Al Aqsa, between 1948 and 1967, despite it being Judaism's holiest physical site.  When Israel defeated the Jordanians in the 6-Day War, after Jordan foolishly entered the war despite pleas from Israel to stay out of it, Israel retook the Old City  along with the entire West Bank.  But it never occupied Al Aqsa/Temple Mount in any permanent sense of that word.  Al Aqsa remains in Muslim clerical control; Jews are not allowed to pray there.  It's anything but a perfect situation, but it is not an occupation of Al Aqsa by the Israelis.  

    Note: Edited in order to acknowledge that 19th century Jerusalem population data are not census-based or scientific in any real-sense of those concepts.  

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate it! Maybe I needed to say access to the Mosque. I really don't know how we can appease all of the interested parties. I sincerely thank you for your addendum. This is treacherous territory. I don't want Palestinian suffering replaced with Jewish suffering. It's too trendy on the left to lump the masses of Jewish people in with the current government, but we should try to mindfully avoid that trap. Have a great day!  

    Thanks Danny, enjoy the day and year as well.  Just to note that Kerry reiterated the only solution with respect to the religious sites in the Old City, and that is joint administration.  Has the advantage and disadvantage of making sense.

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