When Chutzpah Becomes Arrogance

A few weeks ago, Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, at the invitation of John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House, addressed the Congress of the United States and delivered a resounding insult to the president and people of this country. The insult to President Obama was exactly what Speaker Boehner intended. The insult to the American public was yet another example of Netanyahu’s boundless arrogance which has helped turn decades of international admiration and good will toward Israel into near global condemnation and contempt.

It is hardly a diplomatic secret that the president and the prime minister dislike each other personally and have no respect for each other’s leadership. Netanyahu has made no effort to hide his disdain, impudently hectoring the president in public on previous occasions, and in effect calling him a fool in this speech. The president clearly considers the prime minister a militarist, an opportunist, and a demagogue, all of which Netanyahu has made amply evident in his duplicitous approach to negotiating with the PLO, in his latest lecture on American foreign policy, aimed at the president and delivered to the joy and applause of Boehner’s fellow Republicans (and some equally mindless Democrats as well), and in his eleventh-hour pre-election fear mongering in Israel .

The speech was nothing less than the act of a disloyal dog biting the hand that has fed him some $20 billion of American aid over the past six and a half years — the hand of a president, who despite his justifiable distrust of Netanyahu’s motivations and no doubt his disgust with Netanyahu’s dismissive attitude, has fully supported America’s commitments to Israel and thus to Netanyahu himself.

The speech reeked of arrogance, demagoguery, war mongering and political cynicism. It was arrogant because he once again lectured us as though we know nothing of history and are oblivious to the obvious, while offering absolutely nothing new as an alternative to negotiations with Iran.  It was demagogic because he appealed to the worst and most simple-minded instincts of Congress with half-truths and meaningless sound bites only designed to generate standing ovations and fodder for Fox news.  It was war mongering because his only approach is to apply more economic pressure which he well knows will never lead to Iran capitulating, thus resulting in what he really wants, which is a war with Iran — a war which will require American weapons and perhaps American troops to win. (No matter how much Netanyahu blusters about Israel being able to defend itself, Israel alone cannot prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons short of using their own nuclear weapons against them, the result of which I would hope not even Netanyahu wants to contemplate.)  It was politically cynical because the primary audience for the speech was the Israeli electorate.  It was a campaign speech aimed at the Israeli voter to show that he has not damaged Israel’s relationship with the U.S. by demonstrating his support in the U.S. Congress, and above and beyond that, to evoke the historical specter among the Jewish electorate that Iran is Nazi Germany, Obama is Neville Chamberlain, and he is Winston Churchill.

His message was that Obama is abandoning Israel by negotiating with Iran, that the only way to deal with them is economic (and eventually military) force, and that he is the only one on whom the Israeli people can rely.  Well, maybe the negotiations will in fact ultimately fail, but Netanyahu’s objective is to insure that they do, just as his objective by building settlements in the West Bank is to insure that there will be no Palestinian state.

At the end of the day, the speech was nothing short of insolent.  As an American, I am outraged.  As a Jew, I am embarrassed. As a supporter of Israel, I am appalled that Netanyahu has won re-election.