Opinion |

Israel’s Citizens Will Pay the Price

Netanyahu, unlike Trump, may actually be capable of weighing substantive considerations, but he’s a prisoner of both religious and secular hawks and of his defense minister, who lacks any real judgment

Uzi Baram
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File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands at the Israel Museum in 2017.
File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands at the Israel Museum in 2017. Credit: \ RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Uzi Baram

Israel Harel’s opinion piece (“Loathing Trump, hating Netanyahu,” May 11), which raises questions also brought up by a quite a few other people, requires an answer that’s neither dogmatic nor automatic, but rather that meets the test of facts and reality.

Harel’s main claim is that even though Benjamin Netanyahu was right all along on the issue of Iran, his opponents aren’t willing to admit it, just as they aren’t willing to overcome their loathing for the U.S. president despite “the painful blow Donald Trump dealt Israel’s most dangerous enemy.”

Left-wing circles, according to Harel, react negatively to any American move in Israel’s favor – first and foremost, of course, Trump’s hard line on Iran and his transfer of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, but also his appointments of Israel-lovers like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo as, respectively, national security adviser and secretary of state.

We shouldn’t make light of these arguments by claiming they are ideological and therefore not worth considering. But as a man of the left, I can state my opinion of Trump: He’s a president afflicted by hyperactivity, one who behaves like an actor on stage and suffers from narcissism. Unlike Netanyahu, he has no real grasp of the material and the data.

From my standpoint, the Trump-Bolton world looks frightening and dangerous. Bolton – an “Israel-lover” who is at peace with the settlements, would look favorably on the annexation of the territories and has no interest in Palestinian rights – is not someone who supports Israel. But anyone who favors the nation-state bill, the Supreme Court override bill and creeping annexation can feel that Bolton and Trump support his policies. All of Trump’s moves on issues like the environment, health care, support for the lobby of murderers known as the National Rifle Association and more are anti-liberal and designed to undermine the American Constitution.

I’m not ignoring the possibility that some of his moves will be successful; perhaps he’ll even reach the hoped-for agreement with North Korea. But his abandonment of the Iranian nuclear deal was an emotional decision. It was born of no comprehensive worldview other than the desire to uproot Barack Obama’s legacy. The agreement had been the fruit of an outlook shared by leaders of the entire world, who wanted to prevent Iran’s nuclearization. Netanyahu is cheering, public opinion is celebrating, but nobody dares to ask himself whether Trump’s decision truly benefits Israel.

And here, Israel Harel, is where I see the great land mine that has been laid in our region. Trump and Netanyahu are disciples of the policy of forcing the other side to surrender. That’s the common denominator which links their approach with those that have always failed in the end. If Iran is pushed into a corner, the price will be paid by all Israelis, including those who are cheering the possibility of war.

Netanyahu, unlike Trump, may actually be capable of weighing substantive considerations, but he’s a prisoner of both religious and secular hawks and of his defense minister, who lacks any real judgment.

The euphoria that has afflicted us recently is reminiscent of the dangerous euphoria after the 1967 war. Contrary to what the right wing says, we’re no great power. We’re a small nation with a strong army and vulnerable territory. True, we must stop Iran’s aggression in Syria, but for that purpose, we need a broad international alliance that would also deal with solving the Palestinian problem. Any other path will be filled with obstacles and danger.

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