Bruce Levine's picture

    Just What Did Bibi Netanyahu Say About Two States?

    I had expressed my opinion in a comment thread relating to the Israeli election that the prime ministers's alleged disavowal of the two-state solution was incorrect.  I subsequently came across this editorial in today's New York Daily News supporting what I also believed and had perceived to be a lonely argument.  In particular, the News demonstrates how Benjamin Netanyahu's alleged disavowal of his prior support for a two-state solution was taken out of context by both the MSM and the Administration. (See my comment in thread linked to above dated today (3/19) at 9:07 a.m.).

    Among other things,I believe that (1) the Administration could have but intentionally chose not to allow for the possibility that the statement was not an unambiguous reversal of whatever support Netanyahu previously had given for a two-state solution; and (2) the Administration is using Bibi's statement as part of its strategy (as a pretext to effect that strategy) to garner support for changes in the Israel/US relationship that many in the left-of-center blogosphere have been debating for years, but which will be complicated by those in Congress who do not wish to buck the president but also do not wish to disappoint supporters (or donors as the president might call such supporters).

    In particular, I and others have anticipated, well before Bibi's campaign statements, that the Administration was prepared to pivot  from its position that only a negotiated settlement could create a lasting agreement, to a position or positions, more in line with much of the international community.

    In any event, the editorial in this morning's News makes a compelling case that, if the U.S. is truly contemplating a change in its basic strategy (presumably through international agreed-upon terms for a final settlement between Israelis and Palestinians), then it should not simply rely on what the Administration has publicly concluded to be a disavowal of Netanyahu's prior endorsement of two-states.  Here are some pertinent excerpts from the editorial (my bolds): 

    If the circumstances ever proved right, there is no doubt that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinians. Reports that he ruled out a two-state solution are pure bunk.

    On the eve of his stunning election victory, Netanyahu offered a reality-based assessment of the perils that he — or another Israeli leader — would face in working out terms for a Palestinian state under present conditions.

    Here is what he said in an interview with an Israeli news site, his key word being today:

    “I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel. There is a real threat here that a left-wing government will join the international community and follow its orders.”

    . . .

    Israel would necessarily have to surrender territory to the Palestinians under any two-state pact. Netanyahu’s indisputable point was that doing so, as the facts on the ground now exist, would better position hostile forces to launch assaults. He was sober in also concluding that those facts are unlikely to change while he is prime minister.

    One can agree or disagree with the sincerity of Netanyahu's ultimate views on a two-state solution.  But he has often stated and more recently so (and undoubtedly at least in part for political reasons), that the current conditions on the ground make the reality of establishing a Palestinian state logistically impossible.  He sees a direct link between Hamas and other extremist Islamist groups like ISIS, about which he may or may not be correct.  But it is equally correct that but for ongoing Palestinian/Israeli joint security cooperation in the West Bank, Hamas would be in control there as well.

    There may or may not be merit to Netanyahu's position on the relationship between a chaotic Middle East and agreement on two-states.  And, indeed, there could be legitimate reasons for the U.S. to join other nations, either at the UN and/or with the EU with or without the Arab League, in choosing to, for example, publicly endorse terms for a two-state solution.  Indeed, many of you have argued that we (alone or collectively) should do just that and some of you may truly believe it to be the only way to get a deal.  And you could be right, but hopefully you will come to that decision, just as the Administration should, based on something other than simplistic constructions of imprudent statements of policy made in the heat of a campaign. 

    I believe that the Administration knows how to be diplomatic.  In this case, just as the General Secretary of the Arab League immediately dismissed Bibi's statement as campaign rhetoric, the Administration could have taken a similar approach in response to Bibi's provocative and ambiguous campaign statement.   The Administration has made a deliberate choice, I submit, to elevate Bibi's alleged disavowal of two-states, to the point where it would be the basis for dramatic changes in American foreign policy.  

    Bruce S. Levine

    New York, New York

    You can join me at Twitter @levine_bruce for, among other things, lots of neat retweets relating to labor issues and foreign policy.  Sometimes I become a bit nutty too, such as one can in 140 spaces or less.  It could be entertaining. . .or not.  



    Update: The Jerusalem Post is reporting that in an interview Bibi had with NBC that should be airing today, he "walks back" his opposition to 2 states.  

    Here is the report by NBC News indicating that the interview would be reported on during the nightly news.

    It is interesting to see Israelis refer to Obama as a monkey and an Amalek in the comments section.

    Interesting or disgusting, but Israelis, like the rest of the world including this fine nation, I guess reserve the right to have their assholes and racists.  I think it's important to keep in mind that the comments sections of major international internet newspapers might not be the place to assess the views of the great swath of a nation's people.  Indeed, many of these folks might be next door neighbors to you and me on this side of the pond.

    So what so many of us naively saw as a 180 resulting in a head plant was really a spectacular 360 with a spin, a common stunt with a very low 'difficulty' rating, but he stuck the landing. Israel judges scored it a 10. 

    I think it's more accurate or fair to say that Bibi was deliberately ambiguous for political purposes, what he said understandably raised eyebrows, and that one could reasonably conclude that Bibi is and has always been full of malarkey.  

    Reuter's quotes Netanyahu in his interview as follows:

     Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied on Thursday that he had abandoned his commitment to creating a Palestinian state, but said current political conditions made that possibility more remote.

    "I don't want a one-state solution. I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that, circumstances have to change," Netanyahu said in an interview on MSNBC, appearing to back away from comments he made during the Israeli election campaign that drew heavy U.S. criticism.

    His rhetoric may have won the Iraeli voters but outside of Israel it makes opposition to Palestinians requesting recognition by the UN seem ridiculous. As it stands Israel controls the money received by the Palestinian leadership. Israel can withhold funds any time it feels justified. Netanyahu cannot say that he did not talk about the fear of Palestinian-Israelis voting. Standing by Netanyahu means standing by a two-tier system for Palestinians. If Abbas does not make a move towards recognition by the UN, Palestinians will view him as a weakling.


    I don't mean to ignore the merits on the state of affairs but it requires more attention than I can give and it's somewhat tangential to my principal point, namely that the president has always indicated that he was interested in a more balanced, and certainly a different approach, with respect to middle east policy.  And, to the extent the Administration should choose to rely upon any purported clarity in Bibi's alleged disavowal of 2-states such that the US would be caused to reconsider long-standing bipartisan support for a negotiated settlement for 2 states, that to me would be disingenuous and suggestive of using Bibi as pretext, as political cover in fact, for the Administration to do what it has made no secret to many of us over the years that it would consider doing.  

    As to what elected Bibi, I'm sure he got some last minute votes because of his ugly rhetoric in the last days of the campaign. But I bet Bibi got a lot more votes because of how little trust the Israeli people have for the American president. You can choose to rely on newspaper comments to conclude some sinister motive behind this mistrust, but I would push back and suggest to you that Israeli society is far more diverse than that.  

    I don't want to turn this into what involves other issues, relevant issues, concerning the various bases you cite for changing policy.  I am focusing on what I believe the Administration said yesterday, namely that it was obligated to reconsider long-standing, bipartisan policy with respect to Israel, and specifically because Bibi allegedly was unambiguous in renouncing his views on two states.

    Maybe the president would do better if he were as candid as some of his supporters are with respect to the merits of changing Middle East policy, generally, and policy towards Israel in particular.  I think it would help this particular supporter anyway.  In the end, I think it would be poor judgment and reflect a lack of reliability were the president to change decades-long policy on the basis of the alleged disavowal of the two-state solution by Bibi under these circumstances.

    Note: I've edited this only because I did it in a rush and there were lots of errors. Sorry.


    Bibi Baby did not speak in an historical vacuum. There are many years of overt targeted action and deliberate targeted refusal to act in other instances which must color any sentient person's judgment of Bibi's electioneering statement as to whether he meant it or not, and the same goes for his politically crafted walk-back the instant the election was over. History suggests that circumstances will never be right by Bibi's lights.  

    I will say that it is under any circumstance a reflection of poor and unreliable judgment were an Administration change policy based on these comments.

    There are many aspects to this administrations policy re Israel. If your statement refers to the U.S. stated policy of working towards a two state solution then I agree, it should not change based on Bibi but I think that Bibi has said out loud what is easy to believe and hard to deny; that is that he will not be an honest partner in working towards a two state solution. What is most worrisome, IMO, is that this political posture won him the Israeli election.  The U.S. has supported Israel against Palestine virtually unconditionally and again, IMO, that policy should change.

    I agree with you that there are any number of reasons caused by Bibi over the years that might encourage a change in policy. There are many reasons for the president to change policy, but to date the president's team has stated that the only reason it is commencing an evaluation is due to the campaign statement that is the subject of this piece.

    Look, I cannot defend Bibi on the merits on many things, and I wouldn't try to.  But that's not my point.  Let's see what the president's folks say today -- will we hear that reevaluation of American policy is being undertaken because of Bibi's alleged disavowal, or will we hear what the Administration really thinks.  Maybe, in the end, it doesn't matter to some, and I understand that every American has their set of issues, etc.

    Anyway, I am not taking issue with notion that reasonable people might conclude that negotiations won't work because Bibi isn't committed to 2-states so the next thing to do is to stop siding with Israel at the UN and start endorsing substantive resolutions.  I'm focusing on what the Administration is saying and doing in this case.  

    "... that to me would be disingenuous and suggestive of using Bibi as pretext, as political cover in fact, for the Administration to do what it has made no secret to many of us over the years that it would consider doing. 

    Would you clarify what is the non-secret thing the administration is considering.


    Changing policy in the Middle East generally and with respect to Israel specifically. Not a surprise to me at all.  

    Here's a report on today's statements by both Josh Earnest (WH) and Jen Psaki (State) on the need to undertake a reevaluation of American policy because of what Bibi said in the campaign on 2-states:

    “We believe he changed his position just a few days ago,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, asked about the interview on Thursday. “So certainly,” she added, “we can’t forget about those comments.”

    The United States has been protecting Israeli interests in the United Nations in service of negotiations to achieve a two-state solution, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Thursday.

    “This is a principle that he no longer subscribes to, and that his nation no longer subscribes to. That means the United States needs to rethink our approach,” Earnest said.

    The blowback has begun. Israel is being labeled an apartheid state. Given his Arab-baiting in the election, Bibi is being asked if he is a racist

    Palestinians respond to the election predictably. They no longer have Israel in the two-state option. They can pursue statehood by other means

    I'm not sure if you wanted me to respond to this or if it's just here for information.  But my piece is about where the president is and what he says about it.  That's why I thought I'd put a link to what Barak Ravid is reporting about the telephone conversation between the president and the prime minister.


    BREAKING: Obama told Netanyahu that in light of his new position against Palestinian state U.S. will re-assess its options on the issue

    — Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) March 19, 2015

    Barik Ravid is a very well-known correspondent for Haaretz. 

    Can anyone explain to me why Israel is considered an ally of ours?  Why we pay them so much money, and when, if ever they have fought along side us?  This is not snark; I really don't get it and would like to know. Netanyahu's behavior towards our PRESIDENT has been the way a person might act towards someone who owes HIM money!  Gratitude?  Forget it  

      And was the point of this essay that when Bibi said he did not support a two-state solution, that it was OK because it was just pandering for votes?  Does anyone believe that the complete destruction of The Palestinians is not his ultimate goal?  If not why not?

    Dick Cheney and Bibi Netanyhu are twins separated at birth.  And they are both responsible for the ruination of their respective countries. 

    OK!  Let the firing squad begin!

    I don't mind answering but that's a lot of stuff, and that's not what I wrote about.  I hope you don't take that as a refusal to address that question.  On the money thing, consider this: more than 1/2 of it (maybe like 1.8 billion) is for arms that must be purchased in the USA.  That money gets funneled into all kinds of localities throughout the country, and generates an unknown amount of additional revenue that comes with the smaller businesses doing business around a manufacturing plant with a new contract.  Not justifying any of this, but I think if one speaks of "all this money" being spent, it's fair to look at the whole picture.  In addition, Israel is a great laboratory rat for all kinds of weapons that the U.S. develops, alone or jointly with Israel.  Like Iron Dome.  

    But in the end your question is a fair one and perhaps you can take or have already taken solace in what we could very well soon see, an extraordinary change in the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.  Those changes, however they might be seen, may or may not survive the next president.  But I think you can say that those in the Democratic Party who, like you, genuinely question the value of the alliance between the United States and Israel, have been given a voice in the long-term through whatever actions  the president may take in deviation from long-standing bipartisan support for Israel.  That is now a thing of the past in my estimation. Don't know if that helps.

    I don't know what you mean about a firing squad.  I will say that your question(s) require a whole new post, and while fair and relevant, perhaps for another day? 



    Netanyahu's actions do remind us of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty during the 1967 war.The incident was covered up. It exemplified that the Israelis could do anything and not be called to account because Israel was an ally.

    Even Thomas L. Friedman thinks Netanyahu is a disaster for Israel.

    Not sure what "even Tom Friedman" means.  Maybe you can illuminate me on that one. Or not. :)  Yes, I believe he's Jewish; is that your point?  If so, noted.

    I focused on his analysis of things rather than his Jewishness when I used his name. He generally finds ways that the West will work its way around problems in the Middle East. During the war, a measure called the "Friedman Unit", equal to roughly six months, was used to determine when the tide would turn in favor of the West. Several units passed without progress. For Friedman to lose enthusiasm for Bibi is saying something.

    Again, I don't know what any of that means, sorry, let alone what it has to do with my post or why you wrote "even" before Tom Friedman.  Free comment section, but please don't be offended if I don't respond to everything that's posted. 

    I viewed the comment as snark against Frieman the analyst, not against Friedman as a Jew. No offense was intended. Sorry.

    RM, thanks but I wasn't offended and there is no need to apologize.  I know you have strong feelings.  

    I'm glad to hear Bibi saying he is for a two state solution, but there is his earlier remark about Israel controlling security in the West Bank. That sounds like Palestinians won't get full independence.

    The deal you think might be attainable, assuming no Bibi I guess, would in your view have to provide for Palestinian security alone on Palestine's eastern border? Tough sell I'd think, but who knows what the UN might propose if that's where the president chooses to resolve this.  One could argue that Israel lived by the UN so now it must . . . stay tuned, but just remember that a week or two ago Secretary Kerry was castigating the UNHRC for its long-standing and blatant bias and discrimination against the State of Israel.  Some people might think that the United States does Israel a favor when Kerry stands up for Israel like that.  I say that it would be unAmerican not to stand up for Israel under those circumstances.  Tough days ahead for Israel.


    Well, I'll try again:  Why is ISRAEL considered an ally?  When have they ever stood beside us as brothers in arms during a conflict?  Why did Netayahu get away with showing utter disrespect to his benefactor (our country, and our president) when a simple "Thank You" would have sufficed.  It worked out for him to be a fear mongering blowhard, but the world is worse off  

    OK, I have rephrased my post from a couple of spots above, but since the questions I asked were ignored, I thought maybe restating them in other words might work. 


    Maybe it is, but you refuse to answer the questions that would prove it so. 



    I'm sorry you feel that I have danced around your questions such that, inter alia, you are writing to me in capital letters.  I actually feel that I have gone out of my way to answer just about every question you have posed to me, and I appreciate the interest you've shown.

    Bur I'm not writing to convince you to want Israel to be an ally, or to understand why some people treat Israel as an ally.  I don't know why the great swath of the American people seem to be perfectly committed to a close and fuzzy relationship, but that's the case I think.  But  I accept that you and perhaps others think Israel is not a good ally or no ally at all. And you can write about that, even on my comment thread.  I'm not taking issue with your view, and respect your right to disagree with me.

    But please don't demand that I answer a question like you have up above.  


    I really can't spend too much time on this, but I don't want to end up feeling like we can't continue a conversation that you and I started but never finished before my hair was this grey.  I hope we do continue a dialog.  Ironically, and maybe I'm not explaining my point well to you, but I honestly believe that this should be seen as an important time for folks who have been questioning the nature of the relationship between the United States and Israel.  So I'm just saying that I'm trying to write about that, and I'm taking it you think that's too narrow a scope (or something like that?). 

    Anyway, I'm going to take a stab on your question about Israel standing with the U.S., presumably on a field of battle.  I don't know what field you're talking about, but let's assume you're talking about our previous ventures into Iraq of the last two decades.  The U.S. could not and would not publicly seek assistance from Israel in any of them, because whatever Arab/Islamic supporters we had in any coalition would never publicly join any coalition that included Israel.  

    Two additional points for what they are worth.  I bet if we had a look-see into what the United States gets in intelligence alone from Israel we would see that it has been and continues to be critical to the American military, and you would see far more cooperation and support than your question to me suggests.  Second, Israel refrained from responding to missile attacks from Iraq during the First Gulf War, only because the U.S. asked it to do so.  Similarly, the Administration now brags about how it prevented Israel from striking Iran militarily so that it could attempt to first negotiate with Iran.  That's a good thing, yes, but it is also reflective of US/Israeli military cooperation, which I think is what you're question is driving at.  If not, you'll have to elaborate.

    Second, I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer for Bibi Netanyahu, and why he showed such disrespect.  I will say that I agree with you that his decision to speak to Congress and the manner in which it was arranged behind the back of the president, was just awful and I'm not going to defend what he did.  Nor do I believe, however, that the underlying breaches in the rock solid relationship between the two countries are solely the product of the antics of Bibi Netanyahu.  I cannot remember, and perhaps you can, any time since I started futzing with the internets in the 90s, that any left of center site analogous to dag or TPM or FDL or you name it, could be said to reflect an attitude in the aggregate about Israel that is in any way different than that which is now reflected so clearly by you and others.  Bibi wasn't in charge, for example, during the war with Hezbollah in 2006, or during the Gaza war right after the president was elected in 2008.  Not defending Bibi, but I just feel that the president needs to do more than point to Bibi if major change is being considered, which is the purpose of my post in the first place.  The president should not be making major policy changes based on campaign statements, and I don't think that's the real reason behind any changes now under consideration.

    Finally, after looking at your question about Israel not being worth its cost to this country, I don't know how you came up with that conclusion, so I would ask you, respectfully, to flesh it out a little so that it can be better addressed by me.  You are the one telling me (in caps? :)) that Israel costs too much.  On what basis do you make that statement?  I think that's the appropriate place to start.  

    But, conversation aside, I believe it is beyond dispute that Americans, not just guys like me (whiney? I remember :)), love the State of Israel as much as if not more than Israelis love the United States of America.  But I also believe that a substantial bloc of grassroot Democrats have now and will in the near future and perhaps beyond have a real say in how the Party will come out on issues with respect to Israel (as ally or otherwise).  I'm just urging the president to be as candid with the American people as you and I would expect him to be-- perhaps not as candid as we are here sometimes but I think you get what I'm at least saying (or not!).






    Similarly, the Administration now brags about how it prevented Israel from striking Iran militarily so that it could attempt to first negotiate with Iran.

    Whenever that happened I missed it but I expect that you know what you are talking about.

    That's a good thing, yes, but ... ...

    Yes, that is a good thing but where you call it bragging, and maybe it is/was, I think it should also definitely be considered a warning as well. That is, if the administration did prevent Israel from striking Iran it could only have happened if Israel was at some point intending to strike Iran. If those in Israel with the power to implement a strike on Iran were intent in the recent past to do so then it must be considered that they might decide again in the near future that a strike is in their best interest and so carry one out. I believe that regardless any changes in U.S. policy that can be plausibly expected, and even if there is bipartisan support for those changes, if Israel strikes Iran the U.S. will support Israel diplomatically, materially, and if it becomes necessary, which it almost certainly will, the U.S. will join in militarily. If that supposition is correct then it is correct that Israel has a strangle hold on the U.S. that is completely unacceptable, at least to me. Neither Israel nor any other country should have the power to choose to commit the U.S. to any war and in this case it could truly become a calamitous one.

    If the situation is such as I have described, how can the administration change that situation while remaining, along with the U.S. citizenry as a whole, a supportive friend to Israel. Should the administration say through private channels that if Israel attacks Iran that it is on its own to deal with the consequences? Should it say so publicly so that the Israeli people become part of the choice to go to war? Or, should the administration allow the situation to continue with a leader in Israel who has said [warned/threatened?] to a standing ovation before our Congress that if Israel must “defend” itself on its own that it will do so?

    Testing. On my screen this comment comes up in the "New Comment" column but with no red link. Checking to see if it happens again. 

    Here's the link about bragging. I'd read the article in full if you're interested in that and other things about the relationship between the two Bs well before recent events.  

    I don't agree with you that the Administration believes that Israel intends to strike Iran.  That's another reason I think the link above is useful, because the Administration believes that it's too late for Israel to do any damage.  Whether Israel tries anything is not something I can predict any better than anyone else, except to say that at some point if it feels that Iran is to close to a bomb it will do what it needs to do to defend itself.  And you're right, President Obama and others are less likely to provide diplomatic support if it comes once a deal is reached, but I think it would depend on the circumstances one ascribes to that hypothetical attack.  Not sure if that will be the ultimate factor in any hypothetical future decision by Israel to take military action in response to Iran's nuclear program.  

    But once again, the purpose of my post is to challenge the president to be more forthcoming and candid about any plans to fundamentally alter the nature of America's relationship with Israel.  And that is not unrelated to the importance of oversight generally and certainly when such grand changes are in the mix. 

    I recognize that article from reading it when it was first published. Following is the entirety of the part pertinent to what you said about the Obama administration bragging about 'how it prevented Israel from striking Iran militarily so that it could attempt to first negotiate with Iran'. All emphasis throughout this comment is mine.

     The official said the Obama administration no longer believes that Netanyahu would launch a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities in order to keep the regime in Tehran from building an atomic arsenal. “It’s too late for him to do anything. Two, three years ago, this was a possibility. But ultimately he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was a combination of our pressure and his own unwillingness to do anything dramatic. Now it’s too late.”
    U.S. officials had described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, pompous, and “Aspergery.” But this was the first time I'd heard him called “chickenshit.”

    This assessment represents a momentous shift in the way the Obama administration sees Netanyahu. In 2010, and again in 2012, administration officials were convinced that Netanyahu and his then-defense minister, the cowboyish ex-commando Ehud Barak, were readying a strike on Iran. To be sure, the Obama administration used the threat of an Israeli strike in a calculated way to convince its allies (and some of its adversaries) to line up behind what turned out to be an effective sanctions regime. But the fear inside the White House of a preemptive attack (or preventative attack, to put it more accurately) was real and palpable—as was the fear of dissenters inside Netanyahu’s Cabinet, and at Israel Defense Forces headquarters. At U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, analysts kept careful track of weather patterns and of the waxing and waning moon over Iran, trying to predict the exact night of the coming Israeli attack.

    Today, there are few such fears. “The feeling now is that Bibi’s bluffing,” this second official said. “He’s not Begin at Osirak,” the official added, referring to the successful 1981 Israeli Air Force raid ordered by the ex-prime minister on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.

    I read that as saying very little that could be described as bragging and almost totally saying that as time has passed the situation has changed and so has the analysis and the administration is no longer nearly as afraid as they once were. But what difference does it make? Why was the administration afraid of Israel starting a war thousands of miles away from us? I'll get to that later by referring back to what I said before.

    I don't agree with you that the Administration believes that Israel intends to strike Iran.

     You also misread my comment like I think you did parts of that article. Even though I have long believed that the administration did fear an attack on Iran by Israel, and I personally still do, I did not say that. What I said was,

    "That is, if the administration did prevent Israel from striking Iran it could only have happened if Israel was at some point intending to strike Iran".

    That is correct regardless how the administration prevented an attack, if in fact they did do so, because for them to have prevented an attack it would necessarily be the case that Israel would have otherwise attacked.

    And you're right, President Obama and others are less likely to provide diplomatic support if it comes once a deal is reached, but I think it would depend on the circumstances one ascribes to that hypothetical attack.

    Wrong again, I said exactly the opposite. I said that even if the U.S. changed [some of] its policies towards Israel that in the case of a strike by Israel on Iran that the U.S.  
     "... will support Israel diplomatically, materially, and if it becomes necessary, which it almost certainly will, the U.S. will join in militarily"

    And finally, you ignored my assertion that Israel holds an unacceptable stranglehold over the U.S. because it can drag us into a war against our wishes and our best judgment. I followed with questions as to how best to change that situation while maintaining a friendly and helpful alliance with Israel. Doing so would  fundamentally alter the nature of America's relationship with Israel for sure.  And, that situation is not unrelated to the importance of why such grand changes should be in the mix and should be openly discussed by Obama but also by everyone else concerned.

    Sorry you think I was so sloppy in responding.  It was not intentional.  Reading through your corrections I'll focus and rest on the final paragraph.  I don't get why you say Israel has a stranglehold on the US.  I don't get that at all.  I would put it this way.  If the US convinced its ally Israel that diplomacy should be given a chance, and that appears to have happened because diplomacy has been given a chance and continues, then Israel has deferred to the U.S., and the U.S. is the agent at the table on behalf of Israel and its Gulf allies, among others and in conjunction with the P5 plus 1 coalition.  That agency doesn't waive the right of Israel or any other country to act in self-defense if a deal doesn't hold.  I don't consider that a stranglehold.  And what makes you think that the U.S. would go to war for Israel?  

    Finally, this post is about the fact that the change that may be on the horizon based on the comments of the president should be discussed with increased candor, as opposed to making it all about Bibi.  My sense is you don't disagree with what the purpose of my post; we are poised for a dramatic change in US/Israel relations.  I would think that I would be the only one around these parts with more than a little reservation about this reality, but then I write about it, acknowledge it, and only ask for candor from the president who is poised to make the change that could finally come.  Don't yell at me for getting what you want for heaven's sake! lol :)  You can yell at me and I know you will anyway if I haven't read something correctly-- again.

    "When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less."
    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master— that's all."

     Bruce argues convincingly that the Administration is choosing to misunderstand  Bibi's two state's quote. Probably true. What else is new?

    Of course the exact words Bibi used were whatever he felt would maximize Likud's prospects Tuesday. The only thing we can be sure of  is that his lips moved.But, again, who cares?  He did and said last week  whatever he thought was in Israel's interests.As the Administration is doing this week..Unfortunately probably working better for Bibi than for Barak.But basically it doesn't matter  because of course, as should be true,they'll do , or say, or "understand", whatever's in their particular country's interests.Or they think is.

    So I cringe a little watching Bruce consume his energy and time trying to distinguish between the particular levels of hypocrisy employed by the two killer B's. Particularly because whatever words these guys use we know that as long as Bibi is in charge there ain't going to be a two state solution and there is nothing, no thing, the PLO-or Obama- can say or do to change that.

    So am I right that making you cringe is not a good thing?  Seriously, I don't mean to parse.  I also don't think it's bad to use what the Administration and its representatives actually say as a benchmark for discussion about what could be a fundamental shift in American foreign policy  with respect to the Middle East generally, and with respect to Israel specifically, which I address in this particular piece.

    And so, point taken to the extent I'm focusing too much on the words of the president and his staff and the specific and exclusive basis they announced (and repeatedly so and presumably will continue to do so if it sells) for conducting a reconsideration of decades-old bipartisan policy toward Israel.  I think that's less than a genuine explanation, not to mention how (excuse me) hypocritical it is in light of how the president has backed off on certain material promises or pledges or representations or statements that he made on his own campaign trail. 

    But I'm not into playing gotcha with the president.  I do think he has to show more leadership, and I've seen him be that leader in the past, if he intends to fundamentally alter the relationship between the United States and the State of Israel that has had consistent bipartisan support since at least 1973.  And, respectfully, I understand the reasonableness and the merits, all things equal, of using an international coalition to rule on a two-state solution.  Make no mistake, however, and certainly not because of a little cringe (come on toughen up! :)), proceeding that way will be a fundamental change in American foreign policy.  I think such changes deserve more of an explanation from the president, and I really don't think in doing so I'm choosing one hypocrite over another.  


    Netanyahu transformed support of Israel into a partisan issue in the United States. He is a godsend to the Islamists. Bibi transmits a message of hatred of all Muslims. A young person in Gaza.knows that they will never have a life not controlled by Israel. There will be no freedom while Bibi is in charge. To most of the world, the situation is Bull Connor on steroids. Settlers encroach on Palestinian land and no one is coming to help the Palestinians.Palestinian youth face injury or death when they throw rocks in response to frustration.The major problem here is Bibi, the Israeli government, and the Israeli voters. I think polling will show that a significant number of Americans wonder what benefits we gain by falling into lockstep with a nation called a democracy but engaging in disenfranchisement of millions of people under its control.

    I think Bibi contributed greatly to the loss of bipartisan support.  So too has the president, which may or not be justified by the facts underlying his consideration of fundamental change, but those facts, beyond Bibi Netanyahu, have not been addressed by the president as I believe he should.  Given your fundamental feelings about Israel that, to me, are so clearly reflected in your series of comments in this thread, I would think that you would assert that that the president has many sound reasons  the president's reconsideration of decades-long bipartisan foreign policy with the State of Israel.  I'm not sure why you're committed to justifying such a major change on the back of a foreign leader.  You want change, you say it's necessary and I will for the purpose of discussion assume that everything you have included in your comments in this thread is correct and justification for why change is needed.  And so it looks like it could be coming now, this change you seek, and inquiring Americans wanna know about it, but you seem to wanna rest on Bibi.  OK.

    My feeling is not just about Israel, it is about the quagmire of the Middle East. I don't see many viable options. If you take down tyrants like Assad, you are left with crazy Islamists. Some of the Syrian Rebels are joining ISIS. Those who want to go toe to toe with Iran ignore the size of their Army. Israel seems to want a fight, but Hezbollah alone fought them to a standstill. Show me something positive that would happen if US troops get heavily involved in the Middle East again.


    I don't understand where you could conclude that Israel, right now, has an interest in fighting anyone, Hamas in Gaza (included), and because, among other things, of the instability and vacuums emerging all over that region.  But I don't dispute the quagmire you describe.  I just think, and I think I was saying the same thing last summer about ISIS (I hope! :)), that if we're going to take military action or change policy with a major ally, then it's a serious thing that requires serious leadership and candor from the president.  I don't see that in the hyperfocus on the campaign statement right now.


    If the Nuclear talks are scuttled, what is the endgame?

    I don't know, which is one of the reasons I've been urging the president and rational democrats and others to work out appropriate oversight without a fight so that, inter alia, we can learn about just these kinds of questions.  If the only choice now is trying a deal negotiated versus going to war, I can't think of a reason why I would not accept the deal, unless for some reason the deal were so bad that it would actually increase the chance of going to war.  So, good question, and join me in encouraging appropriate oversight!  Or, in the alternative, blame Bibi! :)

    Thanks for a great exchange. 

    Thank you and ditto. 

    I can't imagine a better spokesman than you , Bruce ,for the position you are taking here. And you are infinitely more knowledgeable than those of us-certainly including me- who are taking issue with you.

    .But, with respect, you are taking at face value the alternating statements of two sides for neither of which is sincerity of the least concern..

    Bibi hasn't now and never will have any intention of cooperating in the creation of a Palestine government .

    .Obama has no real plan to change anything there.and wouldn't really have  all that much interest in  actually doing so except for his knowledge that some day -probably long after he has left office-the wheels will come off our view-with-concern-forever "strategy"  and there'll be  yet another Israeli/Moslem War for which he'll , incorrectly, consider himself responsible because of his failure to act usefully when he had the chance.

    "Incorrectly"  because nothing can prevent that from occurring. Sadly.

    Stay well.

    You be well too Flavius.  Honored you stopped by.

    The Washington Post's David Ignatius has been well-positioned for some off-the-record scoops on Iran and Israel and related matters.  Here's his latest on the Administration's re-evaluation of the relationship between Israel and the United States, "White House Considers Opening Breach in U.S.-Israel Relations".  Ignatius writes that the following options are now being considered, allegedly as a result of Bibi's 2-state campaign statement:

    ●Drafting a new U.N. Security Council resolution outlining the framework for a Palestinian state. Such a resolution might summarize the parameters that emerged during Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiations with Israelis and Palestinians that collapsed last year. 

    ●Deterring Netanyahu’s plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, perhaps through warnings in a planned report to Congress on loan guarantees to Israel. President George H.W. Bush briefly cut off loan guarantees in 1991 to protest settlements, creating a political uproar but no lasting success in halting settlements.

    ●Altering current U.S. policy that opposes Palestinian efforts to take complaints against Israel to the International Criminal Court. Similarly, the United States might relax its pressure against European allies that are advocating sanctions against Israel.


    ●Weighing future vetoes of U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli settlements or other activity. In the past, the United States’ use of the veto to support Israeli positions has been all but automatic. 

    I've thought being 10-15 pounds, and if the situation is right on the ground, it could happen.

    My wife for some reason has tired of hearing about this possibility. I don't know why she's so pessimistic.

    Stay tuned, we'll see. :)

    Bruce, I have been running into apparent glitches when reading and commenting here at Dag for a day or two. Now one of my comments along with your reply has disappeared.I hope it is only on my computer but in case it isn't I will supply a bit of context for what I say at the bottom. Linking to the "more" button on the comment column gets this;

    I recognize that article from reading it when it was first published. Following is the entirety of the part pertinent to what you said about the Obama administration bragging about 'how it prevented Israel from striking Iran militarily so that it could attempt to first negotiate with...

    That is the beginning of my disappeared comment. In that comment I said that the U.S. would go to war in support of Israel if Israel attacked Iran.

    This is the beginning of your disappeared comment found at the same place in which you asked, "What makes you think the U.S. would go to war for Israel?" 

    Sorry you think I was so sloppy in responding. It was not intentional. Reading through your corrections I'll focus and rest on the final paragraph. I don't get why you say Israel has a stranglehold on the US. I don't get that at all. I would put it this way. If the US convinced its ally...

    And finally, here is my response to that question composed before I noticed the disappearance.

    Shouldn’t that sentence have a winking smiley face attached to it or are you serious? There are about a million reasons, give or take, to believe that the U.S. would do as I suggested. Of coarse it can only be an opinion at this point. The following is hardly my whole case if I were to make it but I will pass on composing an argument that supports that belief and just take the easy way out and simply copy and paste the Senate Resolution 65 which gives a couple of hints about the ‘sense of the Senate’ which I don’t think I have to say I think is senseless. I’ll pick up the quote after the long introduction glorifying Israel which is followed by a longer section demonizing Iran. Emphasis is mine but it isn’t yelling, just emphasis. The full text is available here.

    Whereas, on September 21, 2011, President Obama stated, ``America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring.''; Whereas, on March 4, 2012, President Obama stated, ``And whenever an effort is made to delegitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them. So there should not be a shred of doubt by now: when the chips are down, I have Israel's back.''; Whereas, on October 22, 2012, President Obama stated, ``Israel is a true friend. And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I've made that clear throughout my presidency . . . I will stand with Israel if they are attacked.''; Whereas, in December 2012, 74 United States Senators wrote to President Obama ``As you begin your second term as President, we ask you to reiterate your readiness to take military action against Iran if it continues its efforts to acquire a nuclear weapon. In addition, we urge you to work with our European and Middle Eastern allies to demonstrate to the Iranians that a credible and capable multilateral coalition exists that would support a military strike if, in the end, this is unfortunately necessary.''; and Whereas the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-150) stated that it is United States policy to support Israel's inherent right to self-defense: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, SECTION 1. SENSE OF CONGRESS. Congress-- (1) reaffirms the special bonds of friendship and cooperation that have existed between the United States and the State of Israel for more than sixty years and that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and among the people of the United States; (2) strongly supports the close military, intelligence, and security cooperation that President Obama has pursued with Israel and urges this cooperation to continue and deepen; (3) deplores and condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the reprehensible statements and policies of the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran threatening the security and existence of Israel; (4) recognizes the tremendous threat posed to the United States, the West, and Israel by the Government of Iran's continuing pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability; (5) reiterates that the policy of the United States is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability and to take such action as may be necessary to implement this policy; (6) reaffirms its strong support for the full implementation of United States and international sanctions on Iran and urges the President to continue and strengthen enforcement of sanctions legislation; (7) declares that the United States has a vital national interest in, and unbreakable commitment to, ensuring the existence, survival, and security of the State of Israel, and reaffirms United States support for Israel's right to self- defense; and (8) urges that, if the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran's nuclear weapons program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with United States law and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence. SEC. 2. RULES OF CONSTRUCTION. Nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization for the use of force or a declaration of war. <all>

    That last line deserves a smiley face too, IMO. Here is what Harretz said about the Senate resolution.



    Sorry, I meant to ask above, if anyone else is having the same problem with disappearing comments would you please say so here. Thanks.

    YES! That's you, Resistance and me. Anybody else??

    Sorry I haven't gotten back to you lulu.  I'm not sure what happened with your prior comment.  I think that it's fair to say that there are many people in Congress who would be willing to defend Israel militarily if for some reason it were necessary to do so.  And the Senate resolution reflects that.

    But I'm just not sure that President Obama would defer to that sentiment under current circumstance (with respect to US/Israel relations)-- and nobody knows if current circumstances are the new status quo and/or if or when circumstances will change.

    Edited to add that I'm not staking everything on this speculation of mine.  It's all speculation so fwiw!

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