Bibi, the Hard-bargaining Merchant of Jerusalem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Congress to teach the Americans about the spirit of the Persian bazaar, as only he knows how.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the U.S. Congress, March 3, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the U.S. Congress, March 3, 2015.Credit: Reuters

The thunderous applause that greeted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the U.S. Congress on Tuesday tells us more about the Americans who cheered than it does about him. Netanyahu showcased the Republican potential of American Jewry for them, and they loved it. Finally, Jewish rhetoric, as well as lofty words such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, have been harnessed to the struggle to prevent world peace.

Netanyahu regretted that some people viewed his Congress speech as political, when that was certainly not his intention. But what does that even mean? Does Netanyahu believe the threat to Israel is metapolitical, affecting the universal core of Western culture more than the dangers that threaten other people and countries around the world?

And, even more, is Israel still credited with the standing to try and prevent the United States from signing an agreement with Iran in the name of the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – when, for almost 50 years, it has been undermining those values in territories under its moral sovereignty?

Deep in his heart, Netanyahu knows the answer is no. Therefore, even though his rhetoric makes use of these materials – including by reiterating the distinction between technological progress and moral progress (you think the Internet in Iran is free? Think again) – ultimately he wasn’t aiming at Americans’ minds, but at their guts. If you sign this agreement, he warned them, Iran will have the ability to launch its nuclear arsenal at the United States.

He didn’t appear in Congress solely as prime minister of Israel, or even as king of the Jews; no, he was there to save the world. As a goodwill gesture, Netanyahu even gave away his most precious ideological asset, the singularity of the Holocaust, and reminded America – as if it didn’t know – that the six million Jews murdered by Hitler were just a fraction of the more than 60 million people killed during World War II. He thereby qualified himself as an independent external consultant on the negotiations with Iran.

Why him, of all people? Because who knows the spirit of the Persian bazaar as well as the Jewish merchant? Who if not the prime minister of Israel, the gold ring in the nose of the Middle Eastern swine, a man well-versed in the secrets of “the most dangerous part of the planet”?

Only Netanyahu can teach his Uncle Sammy from America how to bargain with these primitive peddlers. It’s possible to bring the Iranians down far below their asking price for the current deal, Netanyahu explained. All you need to do is insist on a lower price. Their regime is weak and their economic situation is poor (due to plunging oil prices).

The speech gives those negotiating with Netanyahu’s Israel a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the “natural” Jewish art of negotiating for negotiation’s sake. Geopolitics, economics and psychology – entire disciplines are like clay in the hands of the sharp-witted Jewish merchant. The Iranians are threatening to blow up the deal and abandon the negotiations? Don’t worry, that’s just the way the Persians operate. Between you and me, there’s no way they would withdraw from the deal. On the contrary, we need to pressure them even more, so as to cause them to need the deal even more.

And don’t think that if you pressure the Persians, the result will be war. On the contrary, it will be a better deal. The whole point is to improve our positions, to read the map correctly, to harness the power of the market to our benefit and to buy at low cost. Buying low – this is the name of the game.

As for the Palestinians, they don’t exist on the world map that Netanyahu drew. So the best advice one can give them is to expand their future negotiating team – if there is ever such a thing again – to include two or three Jewish lawyers, preferably not of Persian origin.

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