Politicians lie. It is in their DNA. And when political opponents lie about each other, you can rest assured that it might be the only time they can be believed. Or maybe not. When caught lying, they lie again to extricate themselves from the embarrassment. Or, to further perpetuate their hoax.
Too often, they get away with it because they command a gullible constituency which wants to be lied to. Which needs to be lied to. Particularly in the Western world. Tyrannies, we have been trained to accept, always lie, because they are not accountable. Democracies, we are also told, do not.
Did we mention it? Politicians lie.
It happens every day, and you can find evidence of it when you take pause to listen to the evening news.
Here’s the truth.
Both President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett– for as long as each is still in a position of power – will fail to agree on substantive ground rules intended to broker peace between the Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, two adversaries with mutually exclusive ideologies and claims. Not a big deal.
But, as certain as the sunrise, they will also fail to come to acceptable conditions that will define the terms addressing the matter of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its pursuit of a nuclear military capability. That is a big deal.
In the case of American-Israeli relations, particularly in the aftermath of the recent Afghanistan debacle and the ever-present fragility of Israel’s coalition government, both political leaders need to deliver a positive message. Both camps seem to believe that there is extant a sensible or justifiable reason to pretend that they have succeeded in discussions, if nothing else than by kicking the can down the road.
That inevitable claim will be credible only to those who allow themselves to believe the lies. You see, it comes down to understanding that saying the right thing is more politically expedient than telling the truth.
Let’s look at both actors.
Joe Biden, already recognized as the most incompetent US president in memory – a title he is sure to hold on to until he is succeeded by Kamala Harris – has changed his political opinion as often as he opines. Usually from bad to worse. Or worse to worst. Recall that former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote of the then former-Vice President: “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
Does that mean that Naftali Bennett will stand as the only adult in the room? Hardly.
Several years ago, when visiting the United States, in an interview with a major television news network, Naftali Bennett gave us a hint of who he really was.
With a reputation as a right-wing politician unabashed in blaming the Palestinian Arabs for the atmosphere that is designed to foment terror against the Jewish State, Bennett instead sounded very much like an Obama State Department apologist who frequently posited that terror can be ameliorated with better job opportunities. It was not the argument one expected to hear. After all, Bennett was consistent in his disdain of a prescriptive formula that was seen to be as asinine as it was ignorant.
It was during that same visit to the United States that Bennett seemed to parrot the Arabists – who found a home and a lucrative career in the State Department, or with academia – in expressing a belief that economic prosperity was the key to establishing a new route that will lead to the secession of hostilities by the Arab antagonists.
It was the same Bennett who routinely schooled us about the deep-rooted foundation of Arab hostility, profoundly entrenched in an anti-Semitic ideology that pronounced quite conspicuously that a newly established state of Palestine would be Judenrein.
And then, on March 5, 2018, while visiting the United States during AIPAC’s annual conference, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s then-Minister of Education and head of the Jewish Home party (HaBayit HaYehudi), appeared on Fox News. The main purpose of Bennett’s appearance was twofold: to explain Israel’s support for the Taylor Force Act, and to warn of the dangers of an Iranian escalation of nuclear ambitions.
Quite telling, and not to be forgotten, Bennett said: “I’ve known Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu for twelve years and I can tell you this: ‘Prime Minister Netanyahu would not sell Israel’s security or Israel’s national interests for personal gain’.” Was Bennett the politician lying then, or lying now, in search of personal gain? But that is less telling than his response to the question posed by the interviewer who reminded the audience that Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority had just reaffirmed their determination never to deny the Arab terrorists (“the martyrs”) funding by the PA. “What would you tell Abbas and the PA?” Bennett’s response: “What I would tell them is: ‘Shame on you’!”
Shame on you!? That's all?
Here’s the issue. When politicians lie – speaking out of both sides of their mouths, often at the same time – when are we to believe them, if at all?
In fact, one need not reach too far back in memory, as recently as March 2021, to remember candidate Bennett promising to represent a right-wing agenda – well, at least 10% further right than Netanyahu himself. No government with the “Leftist” Yair Lapid, the anti-Zionist left and no anti-Zionist Arab party included as part of any coalition. Bennett took to television to demand that Netanyahu sign the same pledge.
He wouldn’t lie.
That was before Bennett suddenly thought those same terrorists of Ra’am – or their supporters – were equally suited to sit as part of the Israeli government, dominant in the Knesset.
So, it begs to be asked: Which Naftali Bennett will Joe Biden – or his handlers – now encounter in the coming months? The ideological Bennett who spoke of the murderous Islamic ideology, or the Bennett who promises “no surprises” when dealing with an American foreign policy team that is decidedly pro-2-State illusion and pro-Iranian nuke deal.
In the aftermath of a United States foreign policy disaster in Kabul – replete with the myriad of rationalizations and alibis (read: lies) now exposed as underscoring American incompetence, Team Biden is desperate for a foreign policy achievement. The Palestinians remain – outwardly – intransigent. So, perhaps a more conciliatory offer to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Perhaps Israel served on a silver platter.
And yet, and this is the biggest deal of all…
With the notable exception of the Trump years, the United States has for years pressed Israel to accept the fact that the Americans would never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear military capability. They guaranteed that because the United States, Israel was constantly reassured, was monitoring the situation with the best intelligence possible. The same intelligence that had assured us that Kabul would not fall, certainly not for a long time.
The obvious question is: Were they abysmally incompetent or were they simply lying to us? You know, politicians, and intelligence agencies are known to do that...
Maybe, just maybe, we are being led by incompetent fools. Who lie.
To punctuate our point, we reached back to nineteenth century American history. Two quotes, both attributed to General George Armstrong Custer, famous for “Custer’s last stand.”
Graduated last in his class at West Point in 1861, we know him because he fought, and died, in the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. We remember him, as well, because he was depicted, quite heroically, by Errol Flynn in the 1941 movie, “They Died with Their Boots On”.
The first quote, attributed to Custer was this: “There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry.” That was a lie. But it was the second, more humorous quote, that made the rounds. When surrounded completely by the Indians, Custer barked out: “Good news men. Whatever direction we shoot, we are bound to hit someone.” And he died.
The moral of the story? Quite often, too often, we are being led by incompetent fools. And they sometimes lie.
Meir Jolovitz is a past national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America, and formerly associated with the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.