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March 21, 2015

Hypocrisy of Bibi Netanyahu

By Arthur Kane Scott

Native culture is filled with stories about the Trickster, a deceptive con artist, often presented as a coyote. This certainly was the role played by Bibi Netanyahu, when he gave his March3, 2015,speech to the US House of Representatives, about the nuclear deal being negotiated between Washington and Teheran. His major point was that it was a “bad deal” for the West and Israel. He came as a “sheep in wolves clothing” to sow doubt about its value, and along with 47 Republican Senators, to cast aspersions at President Obama’s leadership. Key exaggerations were:

Israel would no longer be a dominant power in the Middle East. Laughable as Israel has at least 100 nuclear bombs in its arsenal. Ironically no one calls Israel out about its nuclear war chest. Neither the United Nations, its Security Council, the UN committee on nuclear disarmament, or Paris, London, and especiallyWashington. The belief being that somehow Israelis are saner than other peoples except when it comes, of course, to the Palestinians who find themselves living in apartheid conditions or those who live in Gaza.

In realityIsrael has the largest military presence in the Middle East:a$15 billion defense budget, 176,500 active frontline personnel,3,870 tanks,680 aircraft. Followed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Egypt. Iran’s defense budgetpales by comparison to Israel at 6.3 billion dollars.(Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/most-powerful-militaries-in-the-middle-east-2014-8?op=1#ixzz3UDCYSDUI). In addition, Israel has received from US since 1992, $2 billion dollars annually for a whopping total of $46 billion dollars much of which is forgiven.(Cf,.http://www.wrmea.org/congress-u.s.-aid-to-israel/u.s.-financial-aid-to-israel-figures-facts-and-impact.html).

Bibi also saw the address as an opportunity to strengthen his lagging political fortunes where he and the Likud party trailed in the polls.  SomeIsraelis have become tired of Bibi’s disastrous economic policies and war mongering and resistance to finding a solution to the Palestinian issueother than war, fear and paranoia. Tens of thousands of Israelis rallied against Bibi’s American antics atTel Aviv square insisting that“Israel wants change.” Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, led the rally describing Netanyahu's as "the person who has caused the greatest strategic damage to Israel."Unfortunately, fear over security once again captured the Israeli collective unconsciousness. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/07/anti-netanyahu-rally_n_6823346.html).

Bibi’s speech reflects little understanding of Iran today. Though controlled by the Mullahs and The Revolutionary Guard, Iran is going through a profound sociological changes. It has one of the best educated populations in the Middle East with women leading the way with one-third doctors, 60 percent civil servants, and 80 percent teachers according to the British historian Michael Axworthy (Cf., http://thediplomat.com/2013/09/the-slow-rise-of-irans-women/); it has a strong vocal middle class insisting on getting out from under the western economic sanctions, and more important, it’s on the brink of experiencing a generation shift pointing to a freer and more secular society which has little remembrance of 1978 or Iraqi/Iranian War and is more open to American cultural impulses. This is not to say that Iran is benign, but a nuclear treaty certainly would lower the saber rattling rhetoric of the conservatives, and open up multiple socio-economic pathways to normalcy similar to what is going on in Cuba.

What is really going on is a shift in the balance of power in the Middle East with Iran emerging as the dominant state because of the civil war in Syria and the rise of the ISIS.  Ironically, ISIS, is Sunna in origin and not Shia. Its vision calls for the recreation of a Caliphate Islamist state going back to World War 1.  Bibi ignores the ISIS threat, perhaps even nuclear, and instead focuses on Iran as the major regional destabilizer. He sees in Iran, as does King Abdullah of Jordan, as a metaphor for a rising “Shia Crescent.”  (Cf., http://www.theguardian.com/world/
2007/jan/26/worlddispatch.ianblack
)
. This concern is shared by other Sunna giants: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. It is compounded, too, by the growing political tensions and gains made by Shias in Yemen, Bahrain and Kuwait. Yet it is Iran today and not Turkey, not Egypt, and not Saudi who assists the Iraqi forces to recapture Tikrit. Rather, the other regional powers opt to stand by hoping for a military stalemate, as a way to curtail an emerging Iran.

Finally, there is the trickster behavior of the Republican Senate led by the junior Senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, who insists that any agreement made with Teheran was hardly binding in the future. Apparently Cotton received $1 million in campaign funds, from the Emergency Committee of Israel, ran by neo-conservative Bill Kristol. (CF., http://www.lobelog.com/omg-cotton-is-kristols-protege/).  Even Dick Cheney has condemned this Republican action as undermining the office of the Presidency to conduct foreign policy. In point of fact, the Senate has no constitutional right to modify any executive agreement entered into by the President.It simply represents another salacious attempt to compromise Obama in part for being black, for passage of Obamacare, for attempting to find a solution to immigration, and for his desire to wind down American involvement in the Middle East which has cost the country somewhere in the region of$7.3 trillion dollars. (Cf., http://content.usatoday.com/communities/
sciencefair/post/2010/04/study-middle-east-oil-scecurity-cost-us-78-trillion-over-last-three-decades/1#.VQiaNjHF-n8
)
. Even some papers have called the Republican ploy treasonable!

Hopefully the Republican action will not undermine the discussions in Switzerland between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Thesedifficult talks are slated to conclude by the end of the month. If cooler heads can prevail, a frame work for lifting the economic sanctions and turning Teheran’s nuclear program in a peaceful direction will have been accomplished. Détente will open Iran to the rest of the world.Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the Republican letter as “propaganda.” However,if talks fail because of it,Irancould militarize itsnuclear programwhich then might trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. That directionwould have dire global consequences doubtless leading to a Biblical Armageddon.

In a world beset by grinding poverty, youth hopelessness, terrorism, catastrophic climate change and other horrendous problems that face the world at large, the last thing we need to hear are politicians posturing against each other.  Is this really the world that we propose to leave our children?  Is it too hard to choose peace and compromise?  Like it or not, we all live in one planet and in the case of Israel and Palestine, in each other’s backyards.  Peace is the only sure path to happiness and prosperity and it’s about time our politicians re-examine their conscience and practice the single hardest commandment in the Christian lexicon – love thy neighbor as you love yourself.

Arthur Kane Scott is Professor of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the Dominican University of California and Fellow of American Institute of International Studies.