Monday, October 1, 2012

Netanyahu’s Bomb Goes Awry

Someone needs to tell the Israeli Prime Minister that his old persuasive tactics are in dire need of updating. Between the gigantic political shifts due to the Arab Awakening and our world becoming more transparent and better connected thanks in part to social media turning privacy and secrecy into things of the past, debunking propaganda and its masters is becoming mainstream. Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be way behind on what works and what does not work when trying to scare the UN General Assembly and its member nations, most of whom unsympathetic due to Israel’s track record of ignoring all UN resolutions against it in its ongoing conflicts with Palestinians as well as its other neighbors.

The picture at the UN General Assembly last week was a stark reminder of the Collin Powell episode at the UN Security Council in 2003 when the Bush administration was selling the Iraq war, claiming Saddam Hussein had acquired stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. In some bizarre twist, the report linked the secular Iraqi dictator to the ultra Muslim fundamentalist terrorist group al Qaeda. Of course we all know how that turned out. There were no chemical weapons, underground factories or sophisticated trucks in Iraq as the Powell presentation warned. The Iraqi army was so bankrupt that no planes flew in defense of Baghdad. It simply fell to the Americans at the first shots and sent its leader hiding in a ditch. The Iraq intelligence at the time, provided mainly by Israel, was either fabricated to push for a US attack on Iraq or it was plain wrong. Either way, the memory of it is not a plus for Mr. Netanyahu.

Speaking of Intelligence failure, the war on Lebanon in 2006 as a result of Hezbollah kidnapping Israeli soldiers netted one of the biggest military and political defeats for Israel. Based on its intelligence, Israel had predicted a short but intense airstrike campaign will finish both Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nassrallah. Not only did the intense and “smart” airstrikes not deliver the results the IDF had hoped for, but the intelligence failure left Hezbollah unscathed and its leader alive and kicking. As a result, the world (even the U.S. under Barack Obama) is far from ready to listen to Israeli warnings about any country, nation or organization.

So this big man of Israel who seems to be shrinking in clout and power as the sand on a rocky beach, in a last attempt to show the world how serious he is on Iran and its nuclear ambitions, brought out a red marker and drew a line on a childish-looking bomb sending shockwaves of confusion and satire through the spine of those who cared, namely Israelis and Iranians in addition to a handful of close observers. Comedians had a feast with the cartoonish skit Netanyahu offered them on a silver platter. The Iranians poked fun of him. Judging by the lack of reaction, the rest of the world moved farther away from being interested in Israel’s fears and plans.

At the end of the day he was more a source of chuckles than accurate information or sober warning.

The truth is Israel is just like any other nation although it tries to portray itself as more powerful, more focused and more tenacious. It really is divided with the extreme right governing but not popular. Most Israelis don’t want war with anyone, not Iran, not Lebanon, not the Palestinians or anyone else. In Israel too, fundamentalists use extreme measures such as physical, verbal or character assassination to eliminate serious candidates from making it to office. But what Israel has that no one else has is a Prime Minister who says he doesn’t want to meddle in U.S. politics and yet runs ads in swing states to influence the still undecided Jewish voters to vote for his longtime friend of right wing candidate Mitt Romney against incumbent President Barack Obama.

Israel’s officials get a hero’s welcome at the U.S. Congress and they are given the podium to make the case of Israel whatever it may be. Years of such treatment have given an already arrogant Netanyahu a feeling of entitlement that was bent a little bit into shape under Barack Obama.

The latest episode at the General Assembly was supposed to be a decisive moment of truth about Iran’s enriched uranium process and how close it is to acquire The Bomb. It ended up being a not-so-funny blooper. It adds another blow to Netanyahu’s hawkish image and just might mark the beginning of the end of how Israel and its interests are perceived worldwide even within the U.S.


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