Marwan Bishara: Why Netanyahu thinks America is stupid

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Palestians celebrate the Gaza truce. 200521
Palestinians celebrate the truce after 11 days of conflict. Israel had been making an example of Gaza, sadistically destroying its administrative, municipal and economic infrastructure, including electricity, water and sewerage systems, setting it back years if not decades. Image: Al Jazeera

COMMENT: By Marwan Bishara in Doha

The United States has provided Israel with the military means and diplomatic cover it needs to defeat Hamas in Gaza, while devastating the livelihood of more than two million Palestinians, in what qualify as war crimes.

The Biden administration has covered for Israel at the United Nations and lied about it. Its denial of having obstructed a mere statement by the UN Security Council (UNSC) calling for a ceasefire, makes it look foolish, disingenuous and weak.

Washington has stood alone among the members of the council in its opposition to consensus on a ceasefire, not once, not twice, but three times in the past few days.

The White House spokesperson insisted that the US is pursuing an “effective” approach of “quiet, intensive, diplomacy”, but as it turns out, President Joe Biden has been merely buying Israel time to get on with “finishing the job”.

According to a New York Times report, the US president told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he might not be able to deter growing international and domestic pressure for much longer, with the mounting death and destruction caused by days of pounding Gaza.

When Biden finally asked Netanyahu to start winding down the war, the arrogant Israeli premier rebuffed him, insisting instead on taking his time to realise his objectives in the war, come what may.

Israel has concluded from the previous three Gaza offensives that it could no longer accept a “strategic tie” with Hamas; that its military victory must be quick, real and resounding; that Palestinians and other regional nemeses must learn that they cannot achieve by force what they failed to achieve through diplomacy; and that Israel will do what it must to win, regardless of how long or how much the world whines.

Sadistic destruction
On that basis, Israel has been making an example of Gaza, sadistically destroying its administrative, municipal and economic infrastructure, including electricity, water and sewerage systems, setting it back years if not decades.

The images from Gaza speak louder than words.

Netanyahu is making Gaza suffer in a cynical ploy to satisfy his vengeful ultra-nationalist base and continue to maintain his grip on power.

Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu 2016
US President Joe Biden (then Vice-President) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look at each other in 2016. Image: Al Jazeera

If he loses his premiership, he is likely to end up in jail, like his predecessor Ehud Olmert, on any one of the three serious charges he now faces in court – fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes.

Netanyahu was in dire straits only days before his fascist allies began to run amok in occupied East Jerusalem, terrorising its residents. He had failed yet again to form a coalition government and was finally forced to stand trial after repeated postponements.

But, lo and behold, as soon as the escalation got under way, his opponents failed to form a government, and as the escalation worsened, his chances to remain in office improved dramatically, with smaller right-wing parties like Yamina rallying behind him.

One has to wonder if any of this is in the US national interest.

The short answer is no, none of it. Nada. Zilch.

Grave humanitarian crisis
Indeed, the ensuing grave humanitarian crisis and the deepening hatred for Israel and its enablers in the region and beyond is damaging to US credibility and national interest.

This is especially true when the Biden administration claims to put human rights at the centre of its foreign policy, while its spoiled brat of a client takes advantage of its sympathy and support to commit war crimes.

Even the much-touted war on the Islamist movement, Hamas, is not in the US best interest, not when it destabilises the region, and not when the alternative is a negotiated settlement that could achieve peace and security – peace for Israel and security for the Palestinians – based on freedom and justice.

Unlike other pan-Islamic groups that threatened the US and Western security, Hamas is a national liberation movement with religious undertones, and like countless liberation movements, it uses force to achieve its objectives.

Like it or hate it, Hamas has consistently limited the scope of its activities and objectives to freeing Palestine from Israeli colonialism, and it has long entrusted the negotiations to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

For its part, Washington has negotiated an agreement with the Islamist Taliban, which it has also long accused of terrorism and which proved far more radical and less compromising than Hamas, in order to bring peace to Afghanistan.

All of which begs the question: Why is the Biden administration doing Netanyahu’s dirty bidding, instead of helping to reach a similar agreement in Palestine?

Simple answer
Netanyahu’s answer is simple: “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction.” This is what he said in 2001, while assuring Israeli settlers that Israel could destroy the Palestinian Authority and continue with illegal settlement building, regardless of the US position.

In his view, America is gullible, and in the rare case when its government plays hardball, Israel can deploy its influential lobby to whip it into submission.

With the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate, Biden cannot afford to alienate a single pro-Israel Democrat if he is to pass his ambitious legislative agenda, not when the Republicans are blindly following Netanyahu.

Israel could also count on the overwhelming backing it enjoys in Congress and in the US in general, which is so substantial that Netanyahu aptly called it, “absurd”. Paradoxically, the two senators leading the effort for an immediate ceasefire, Bernie Sanders and Jon Ossoff, are Jewish.

More disturbingly, Netanyahu’s views reflect a general “disdain” among Israelis for Americans, whom they reckon are “inherently dupable people”, according to a report in the Jewish American publication, The Forward.

Over the years, the US has provided Israel with close to $150bn in direct assistance only, and in return they are rewarded with insult, for Israelis basically think the Americans, who long showered them with money and weapons, are suckers.

But then, these are the same Israelis who willingly made an infamous, cheating, deceiving, liar their country’s longest serving prime minister, heading not one, not two, but five governments – and counting.

Gotten away with almost anything
It is no coincidence that, after engaging five US administrations over a quarter of a century, Netanyahu behaves so arrogantly towards US leaders. Not only has he gotten away with almost anything, even things contrary to US interests, he has also been rewarded for it.

Insane.

Netanyahu called US President Bill Clinton “radically pro Palestinian”, even though the US president helped improve Israel’s regional and international standing in the 1990s, when foreign investment skyrocketed, the economy prospered, and trade increased while illegal settlement expanded.

Netanyahu’s chutzpah is best illustrated by his humiliation of US President Barack Obama, lecturing him on the Middle East, denouncing him on the Iran deal and his opposition to settlements, and snubbing him in his talk directly to the Congress.

And Obama’s defeatism is best illustrated by his absurd rush in the last months of his presidency to reward Netanyahu with a $38bn military aid package.

Such military assistance may have been justifiable during the Cold War, but today rich Israel is no longer a strategic asset; it is a strategic liability for the US. Israel may have served US strategy in the past, but that strategy proved bad for the US and the Middle East.

At any rate, if that was not weird enough, Netanyahu stalled, insisting on $45bn, before finally signing on it. Bizarrely, other Israeli leaders also complained about this “single largest pledge of military assistance in US history”.

Wait, there is more.

Lashed out
Shortly after signing the deal, Netanyahu lashed out at the Obama-Biden administration for abstaining during a UNSC vote on Israel’s illegal settlements that Washington long opposed, calling it a “shameful anti-Israeli ploy”.

And then came Donald Trump, the gift that kept on giving concession after concession to Netanyahu. Among others, Trump recognised Israeli annexation of Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights, as well as hundreds of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It was no coincidence that Netanyahu made clear his support for Trump during the elections, but after becoming president, Biden resumed the relationship with the ungrateful premier, as if nothing had happened and even provided him with the diplomatic cover to fight his ugly war.

As Netanyahu plunged Palestine into another dark and tragic chapter of violence, and rejected Biden’s appeals to de-escalate the violence in order to reach a ceasefire, the Biden administration is rewarding him with a $735m arms sale that includes precision-guided weapons.

But it is never enough, alas.

Expect Netanyahu to ask for more in return for de-escalation, including more money and arms, and an invitation to Washington before Israel’s fifth elections in two years.

Insane!

And, well, insanely stupid.

Marwan Bishara is an author who writes extensively on global politics for Al Jazeera and is widely regarded as a leading authority on US foreign policy, the Middle East and international strategic affairs. He was previously a professor of international relations at the American University of Paris.

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