The top headline of Haaretz in Hebrew on Tuesday should have reverberated in Washington and shocked America. It also should have worried many Israelis. One day it might even be taught in history class in our schools, marking the time that Israel crossed all of the red lines. A headline is only a headline, but in this instance nothing could better reflect the level of distortion that has been reached in relations between the two world powers: the one that has been revealed as being genuine, Israel, and the one that seems to be increasingly bogus and ridiculous, the United States.
If America’s elected representatives had any self-respect and sensitivity to their country’s democracy, they should have taken immediate action to put an end to this farce. It’s bad for America and its democracy and it’s bad for Israel. The farce has reached its nadir. It will end in an explosive break in relations between the countries, and Israel will pay the price for its arrogance.
“Israel to pressure Congress to thwart Iranian nuclear deal” ran the headline in the English-language print edition. Haaretz correspondent Barak Ravid quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official as saying that Israel “will lobby the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would make it difficult, or even impossible, to approve a comprehensive deal with Iran.”
The brain refuses to believe what the eyes read: Israel will push Congress to pass a bill, Israel will lobby the Congress. It’s enough to imagine the reverse headline — America will push the Knesset to pass a bill — and the scandal it would ignite. But gods may do what cattle may not, and Israel may certainly do what America may not.
The most astonishing thing about the whole story is that the headline passed as if it never were: The distortion has become an accepted norm, the chutzpah correctness, the megalomania proportionality. Even wealthy Jews, first among them Sheldon Adelson, of course, pitched in: They are greasing the palms of congressional representatives with hundreds of millions of dollars, as revealed by The New York Times, so that they will vote against the agreement — and that too slides by in America, to hell with democracy or national interests.
The foreign ministers of all the world powers reached understandings with Iran, in advance of a final agreement. No country objected, save for Israel. Of course it has the right to disagree, to oppose, to fight, to try to persuade or change. But it has no right to undermine sovereign decisions. The United States, which knows a thing or two about undermining governments, should have been the first to recognize that a foreign state was trying to subvert its elected institutions.
Israeli interference in Washington is not new, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has brought it to unimaginable dimensions. Netanyahu? No. Sole responsibility lies with the enablers, U.S. elected officials. President Barack Obama, ostensibly the most powerful and influential man in the world, now looks like someone whose world has crashed around him: Israel opposes the agreement. In embarrassing interviews, he gives groveling a bad name. He promises Israel the sky, if only it will be satisfied. He is somber-faced, insulted by the insinuation that he would dare to criticize Israel. In a press conference after the agreement was reached, Obama breezily named the partner states — China, Russia, Germany, Britain and France — before moving on and then moved on to what was really important, Netanyahu’s position. Obama hasn’t learned a thing: After six years of carrots and sucking up that achieved nothing except for Israel’s persistent, blatant contempt for all his positions and requests, Obama steers the same course, while the only tack to take toward Israel is the opposite tack.
Israel hath roared, who will not fear? To Israeli ears, it might sound like proof of its might. But these fake or power-drunk thugs always come to a bad end: One day someone is bound to rip off their masks — and take revenge.
Gideon Levy tweets at @levy_haaretz
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