Here’s the deal I hope will emerge from the meeting today between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Barack Obama. Netanyahu will undertake to fire his new director of public diplomacy, Ran Baratz, who, as it was put in a headline in Haaretz, “accused Obama of anti-Semitism.” In return, Obama will fire whoever likened Netanyahu to poultry excrement. This treaty would be known by the acronym SCRAP, for the Sarcasm Curtailment, Reduction, and Abatement Pact.
No doubt this idea will be met with protests. On the one hand, Baratz did not actually accuse Obama of being an anti-Semite per se. What he said, in his now-notorious Facebook post, was that Obama’s reference to Netanyahu’s latest speech to Congress “is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in Western and liberal countries.” But it’s no small thing either. It’s beyond me why Mark Zuckerberg insists on permitting this kind of stuff to go up in his publication to start with.
On the other hand, no one seems to be entirely sure to whom Jeffrey Goldberg was referring to when he reported that “a senior Obama administration official” said, “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit.” We know someone said it, because Goldberg is not a Fleet Street type. Ordinarily, the logical culprits would be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, both of whom are given over to coarse language in private and loathe Netanyahu.
The problem with that theory, though, is that Goldberg is not given to misdirection. He said the jibe was uttered the “other day,” and his piece was issued by the Atlantic in 2014, by which time Clinton was long out of Foggy Bottom and Emanuel was well into his first term as Mayor of Chicago. The next logical culprit would be Vice President Biden, who really loses his temper at Israel when he loses it and is also inclined to coarse language. It’s just unclear how close the vice president is to Goldberg.
Given all this ambiguity on both sides, my own view is that there ought to be a truce. Hence the SCRAP. My own recommendation would be to put the Sarcasm Curtailment, Reduction and Abatement Pact to the Senate for ratification as a proper Treaty, which, under the Constitution, would make the pact the Supreme Law of the Land. This would bind not only both sides but future administrations. It would also restore the relative Israel-America love-fest that obtained before the Obama administration.
Take, after all, your George W. Bush years. There were plenty of causes for tension between Israel and America in the first eight years of the current century. There was the moment, say, when Ariel Sharon warned that Israel would not play the part that Czechoslovakia played in 1938. Ooomph. President Bush was madder than a wet hen, as they say in Texas. But he muttered some annoyance and the two parties returned to trying to win the war that erupted on September 11, 2001.
President Bill Clinton also had his frustrations with Israel — and vice versa. But when push came to shove, as it did at Camp David II, Clinton made it clear that the blame lay with the party that neither Obama nor Secretary of State Kerry seems able to blame for the latest Palestinian Arab terror tactics. By the end of Clinton’s term, things between Washington and Jerusalem were relatively copacetic. President George H.W. Bush also had his dust-ups with Israel’s Yitzhak Shamir. But he got over them.
SCRAP would reduce the chances of Obama’s presidency ending on a down note, particularly if there were a side agreement on sanctions for violations. If, say, one of Netanyahu’s advisers were to call the American president a shegetz, then Israel would have to, say, hold off building a new settlement or allow more terrorists to enter the country through one of its checkpoints. If an adviser to Obama were to call Netanyahu, say, a freier, America would have to supply the IDF with a bunker-buster.
Just what the details of such an agreement might entail is not the important issue. The key thing is to find some sort of modus vivendi. It’s no small thing that this has eluded the Obama administration and Netanyahu’s government. Let us also admit that negotiating the SCRAP will make the Iran agreement look like a game of Tiddlywinks. Then again, Ran Baratz needs a major undertaking to reclaim his good name. And Secretary of State Kerry still hankers for his Nobel Prize.
Seth Lipsky is editor of The New York Sun. He was foreign editor and a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal, founding editor of the Forward and editor from 1990 to 2000.
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