Council for the National Interest

When you stand with Netanyahu, do you know what messages you are really sending?

Feb 23 2015 / 10:49 pm

By Gilbert Schramm.

An open letter to Senators and Congressional Representatives nationwide:

On March 3rd, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak before a joint session of Congress. I’m sure that, you, like every other responsible elected representative in the country, knows what a divisive issue this has become. I wonder if you really understand though, all the messages that your presence at that event will send.

By merely being present in that historic chamber, you will not be making a casual appearance at your workplace. You will be giving credence to, and lending support to, a man who has become a symbol of intransigence and intolerance. You will be taking sides on a long list of deeply significant issues:

1. Netanyahu has recently claimed that he speaks for ‘all the world’s Jews.’ This is an outrageous claim, and Jewish groups across the US and the world are extremely angry about it. Netanyahu does not have majority support even within Israel. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will be taking sides in a highly charged struggle within the Jewish Communities.

2. Netanyahu has made no secret of his reason for wanting to speak to Congress. His goal is to derail sensitive and vital US nuclear negotiations with Iran. He has said he is willing to do so at any price. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will be standing with a foreign leader against our own president. You will be standing for war, not peace.

3. In response to recent violence in Denmark and France, Netanyahu has urged European Jews to flee to Israel. By doing so he has insulted and undermined the credibility of European governments and he is also, in effect, promoting the position that European Jews should give in to terror. Finally, he is quite dishonestly asserting that Israel is safer than Europe. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will be taking a stand for surrender to the forces of terror and intolerance. You will be undermining our crucial European allies.

4. Reliable reports show that Netanyahu has been leaking sensitive secrets regarding the US negotiations with Iran in selective and highly misleading ways. As the current leader of Israel, a country that is supposed to be a US ally, Netanyahu has access to highly privileged intelligence information. He has proven his unreliability by leaking this to further his own personal position and ambitions. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will be standing with a person who is a serious security risk to the US.

5. In his attempt to derail the president’s policy, Netanyahu may well reveal more secret information… Since Obama has already ordered his access to sensitive information be curtailed, it is unlikely that Netanyahu knows more about the details of the current negotiations than the president. It is totally inappropriate for the house chamber be used to reveal classified information or to disseminate disinformation by a foreign government. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will be showing you trust a foreign leader more than our own president. You will be aiding and abetting possible crimes against the US. You will be failing to defend the honor of the house to which you have been elected.

6. President Rouhani of Iran is a moderate reformist who started his term by making several gestures of goodwill, both symbolic and substantive, towards the US. Of course he is closely watched by those in the Iranian political system who fear he will compromise Iran’s legitimate security concerns by making too many concessions in the face of US pressure. In 2002, after President Khatamei of Iran had made generous offers of sympathy and cooperation to the US in the wake of 9/11, George Bush included Iran in the famous “axis of evil.” The result was that the reformist president Khatamei was discredited and Ahmadinejad was elected. Today, under President Rouhani, Iran is again showing good faith by negotiating with the US. Iran is also deeply involved in defending Iraq’s American backed regime against our new nemesis ISIS. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will be sabotaging Iran’s vital cooperation in the fight against ISIS and the defense of Iraq.

7. Netanyahu’s key demand seems to be a total dismantling of the peaceful Iranian nuclear program. That would make the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which was created mainly to allow developing countries to use atomic energy in peaceful ways) totally irrelevant and meaningless. It would be a severe blow to the prestige and worth of such international treaties. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will be delivering a serious blow to the integrity of international law.

8. So far, the IAEA has found Iran guilty only of some relatively minor violations of reporting protocols. In many areas, those protocols are open to wide interpretation. The IAEA has never found concrete “smoking gun” evidence of an Iranian project to “weaponize” a so far peaceful nuclear energy program. In 2012, Netanyahu addressed the UN on the subject of an “Iranian bomb.” He claimed they were only a year, or even a few months from attaining a bomb. Just a few months earlier, a Reuters report said that, “The United States, European allies and even Israel generally agree on three things about Iran’s nuclear program: Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.” A few months later an Israeli intelligence official reported that the actual Israeli estimate was that Iran was at least 10 years away from a deliverable bomb—if it decided to try to get one, which it hadn’t. (In fact, Iran’s powerful and widely respected Supreme Leader, Ayatolla Khamenai, has issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons, making it extremely unlikely that the Iranian government would develop them.) When you stand with Netanyahu, you will be standing with an established liar—a liar who is intentionally using false fear to shape US policy.

9. Just a year or so ago, Syria destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles – a concrete example of how useful international treaties can be. At that time, Netanyahu claimed that we should start bombing Syria before negotiating this issue with them because (according to him) they would never comply with the treaty. Syria did sign and complied very promptly. Israel has never ratified the Chemical Weapons treaty. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will be standing with an established liar and a hypocrite.

10. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Netanyahu insists his take on Middle Eastern issues is better than the President’s. In 2002, Barack Obama said that a war with Iraq “will only fan the flames of the Middle East.” In the same year, Netanyahu claimed that, “I guarantee you that it (a US invasion of Iraq) will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.” One such supposedly positive “reverberation” has been the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will signal that you believe that Netanyahu is more credible on foreign policy than President Obama.

11. In 2014, Netanyahu unleashed the Israeli military in a no holds barred assault on Gaza. He claimed that he did so in order to stop Hamas rocket fire. Later he shifted his focus to destroying tunnels in Gaza. The fact is, prior to Israel’s breaking of the ceasefire with Hamas, not a single Israeli civilian had been killed by a Hamas rocket in 2013-2014. In the end one was killed by rocket fire and 4-5 others by mortar fire. In other words, the Israeli military, acting under Netanyahu’s orders, initiated military action against the Gaza strip and then killed roughly 2,200 Palestinian civilians and seriously wounded over 10,000 others for basically no rational reason at all. Between 75-80% of all Palestinian casualties were civilians. In international law, “disproportionate response” is a war crime. For those two words to have any meaning, they must apply to this situation. Of course the Israeli attacks on UN schools, hospitals and mosques etc., are also war crimes. Israel only avoids prosecution by refusing to sign on to the International Court—and because it has been shielded from prosecution by US vetoes in the UN. When you stand with Netanyahu, you will signal that you believe that Netanyahu is innocent of war crimes, or that you simply don’t care about these crimes and that you approve of his actions in Gaza.

12. Netanyahu’s Likud Party is bitterly opposed to a Palestinian state. It always has been, and Netanyahu lied to the President when he said he would work toward the creation of a Palestinian state. Netanyahu himself has since reneged on a two-state solution and just a few days ago his ally, rightwing Knesset member Naftali Bennett, stated that the Palestinians should forget about statehood… We are not going to give up more This approach has failed. The fact is, this unilaterally turns almost 67 years of official US policy completely upside down. It is also a bald- faced lie: Israel has NEVER given land to Palestinians— they have only taken it from them and then demanded more. That the US has gone along with this for so long is the true meaning of the word “appeasement” (so often cited in relationship to the Munich agreement when western powers acquiesced to Hitler’s lust for land, and so often misapplied to other situations by the American right). When you stand with Netanyahu, you will send the message that Netanyahu runs US foreign policy. When you do that you will be reinforcing an idea that has great traction in the Muslim world—namely, that the US is a Zionist pawn. This claim is probably the single most powerful recruiting tool that extremist anti-American groups have. Our enemies will lap it up like gravy.

13. Many Americans believe that the US should always stand with Israel, no matter what. In fact, when any decent country is threatened by forces of intolerance, the US should stand behind it. But standing behind Netanyahu is simply not the same thing as standing behind Israel. Netanyahu is a highly challenged politician in his own country. He lost his office once already because of corruption. He faces new corruption charges today as well. When you stand with Netanyahu, you won’t be standing with “Israel”—you will be taking sides in a domestic Israeli political equation that you will place you at odds with millions of Israelis who want peace.

14. When he was first elected as Israeli PM in 1996, Netanyahu appointed Ariel Sharon as his defense minister. Sharon had already been found to be complicit in the horrific war crimes committed in the Palestinian refugee camps in Sabra and Shatila. When you stand with Netanyahu, you are standing with a man who rewards war crimes.

15. A number of credible sources have linked Netanyahu with the proliferation of nuclear weapons related materials. These sources should be further investigated, yet it seems clear that Netanyahu was mentioned in FBI investigations related to the sale of devices that could be used in nuclear triggers. It also seems that Netanyahu not only worked in the company involved, but was observed holding meetings with the person found to be guilty in such transactions. If true, that would mean that Netanyahu was himself directly involved in nuclear proliferation. This certainly bears further investigation. It is a matter of record that Netanyahu has constantly tried to get Jonathan Pollard, an Israeli spy convicted of one of the most serious security breaches in US intelligence history, released. Netanyahu is unapologetic about this. When you stand with Netanyahu, you may well be standing with a man implicated in violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty and also in aiding and abetting espionage against the US.

16. Netanyahu has repeatedly tried to conflate understandable anger at his Israeli government policies with real anti-Semitism. While this is politically expedient for him, that does not make Jews anywhere in the world any safer. When you stand with Netanyahu, you are standing with a man who directly helps create anger at the Jewish communities throughout the world.

17. As part of his narrow, misguided political program, Netanyahu actively promotes the idea that Netanyahu = Israel = the world Jewish community. Both parts of this equation are patently false. When you stand with Netanyahu you will be embracing this dangerous and offensive notion, a notion that is extremely offensive to many of your constituents, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

18. Finally we must consider what this uproar is really all about. Almost the very day he was inaugurated, President Obama called on his supposed ally, Israel, to freeze their settlement program. Netanyahu immediately began to lie, calling this request ‘new and unprecedented.’ In fact, almost every US president since 1967 has called on Israel to stop settlement activity in the occupied territories. In other words, Netanyahu has never tried to work in good faith with President Obama. When you stand with Netanyahu you will be embracing a man who has arguably done more harm to US/Israeli relations than any man in History.

So Senators and congressman throughout the land, remember, in a sense, you All represent All of the American people. The issues listed above are not quibbles; they are not nattering or nibbling about procedure; they are not partisan bean-counting. They are real issues that may well decide the future of the country. You may doubt some of my claims—I hope you do your due diligence and research them—but do so before you stand with Netanyahu. To my mind, even one of them is ample reason to refuse to attend Netanyahu’s speech. I fully expect you to all read the transcript. But you needn’t sully your reputation by being in the house chamber with him when he speaks.

The fact is, while Netanyahu desperately seeks to derail negotiations with Iran, he has outlined no plan as to how to proceed if he should succeed. He simply expects that the US will “deal with it.” As polls have shown, Americans are not in the mood for another catastrophic war in the Middle East. As countless experts have testified, an Israeli attack on Iran (or even an American led one) has little chance of stopping Iran from gaining nuclear capability if they should choose to do so. So far, they have chosen not to. Encouraging this kind of enlightened decision is a positive and attainable policy goal for the US.

US experts have also testified convincingly and repeatedly that an attack on Iran would probably force Iran to decide to create a nuclear weapons program, and further, that their eventual success would be almost impossible to prevent.

If you should choose to stand with Netanyahu, I hope you fully understand the messages you are sending and the risks that you are subjecting this country to.

Recent polls suggest that there is no downside for staying home. On the morning after, you’ll thank yourself.

Think about it.

Gilbert Schramm has lived and worked in the Middle East, and studied the region for over 30 years. He has degrees in History, Literature, Education and Linguistics, with a focus on Middle Eastern issues, US foreign policy and international and intercultural education. He is currently a peace activist in Newport, Oregon.

Posted by on Feb 23 2015 . Filed under Commentary & Analysis, Featured articles, Israel Lobby . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 . Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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