Goldberg: Bibi's Congress Speech was Israel's Idea

Pundit slams Netanyahu, says 'desperate-seeming end-run around the president' was 'concocted by Amb. Ron Dermer.'

Gil Ronen,

Binyamin Netanyahu at Likud meeting
Binyamin Netanyahu at Likud meeting
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg has penned an article that tears into Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for his upcoming speech before Congress, which he says is a “desperate-seeming end-run around" US President Barack Obama.

The idea for delivering the speech without consulting the White House was “concocted” by Israel's US Ambassador Ron Dermer, he claims, despite the speech invitation coming from House Speaker John Boehner.

Goldberg explains that Netanyahu's options vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear program are limited, and that as the “junior partner” in the relationship with the United States, Israel needs to create a “respectful dialogue” with the US and to “work with Obama on issues that interest the United States" like advancing the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process," in order to "make the American side understand that his government is interested in giving, not merely in taking.”

Netanyahu and Obama have, for several years, succeeded in working “more or less in tandem” on the Iranian issue, despite their "mutual loathing,” argues Goldberg, and have even played good cop/bad cop to some effect.

However, the pundit opines, Netanyahu sees no hope that Obama will strike a good deal with Iran, and has therefore “decided to ruin his relations with Obama.”

The term “end-run” is repeated four times in the column.

“Obama administration officials have already felt disrespected by Netanyahu (recall his condescending, and public, Oval Office lecture to the president), and so this latest violation of protocol set their teeth on edge,” claimed Goldberg. “Barack Obama will be president for two more years, and it makes absolutely no sense for an Israeli leader to side so ostentatiously with a sitting American president’s domestic political opposition.”

Netanyahu’s behavior “threatens the bipartisan nature of Israel’s American support,” he continues. “His Dermer-inspired, Boehner-enabled end-run” has alienated the administration: “Netanyahu's estrangement from the Obama White House now appears to be permanent. It will be very difficult for Netanyahu to make the White House hear his criticisms of whatever deal may one day be reached with Iran.”

Goldberg also cites a Jewish member of Congress who told him that he felt “humiliated and angered” by Netanyahu’s intention to address Congress “behind the president’s back,” and a non-Jewish Democratic elected official who said that the damage Netanyahu is doing to Israel’s relationship with the U.S. may be “irreparable.”

In addition, “Netanyahu’s decision to pit U.S. political party against U.S. political party - because that is what his end-run does - puts American Jewish supporters of Israel in a messy, uncomfortable spot, and it is not in Israel's interest to place American Jews in a position in which they have to choose between their president and the leader of a Jewish state whose behavior is making them queasy.”

Goldberg's column has received much attention in Israeli media and is being seized upon by Netanyahu's opponents as proof that Netanyahu is behaving irresponsibly vis-a-vis Washington.

Goldberg's feelings appear to be shared by other journalists – notably Fox's Chris Wallace, who was so shocked by Netanyahu's audacity that he seemed to have confused Iran with Israel and invented a new nation – “the Isranians,” who he said were threatening to wipe Iran off the map (at 3:36 in the embedded video).




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