By now, most news-conscious Americans know that the prime
minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu (also known popularly
as “Bibi”), is scheduled to speak soon to a joint session
of the U.S. Congress, having been invited to do so by Speaker of
the House John Boehner. They also know that this visit by the
Israeli prime minister is controversial because U.S. President
Barack Obama does not like “Bibi” (and vice versa) and holds
an unprecedented different view of the historical U.S.-Israeli
alliance, and because Mr. Boehner only informed the White
House of the invitation, and did not ask for permission.
Mr. Obama and his colleagues have also now made the looming
speech a domestic political issue in the U.S., with a few Democratic
congresspersons (about 20-plus) and U.S. senators (2) saying they
will boycott the speech. The White House has also leaked some
not-so-subtle threats that Mr. Netanyahu’s appearance will result
in retribution with U.S. policy in the Middle East.
This upcoming occasion has also become a domestic political
issue in Israel where Mr. Netanyahu’s party (and thus Mr.
Netanyahu himself) are running in a national election to retain
power of the Jewish state’s government.
It was the Israeli general election which the Obama White House
has been using as a public rationale for opposing the visit, saying
it should not happen during the election campaign. This would
seem reasonable except that Mr. Obama, as have so many
candidates of both U.S. major parties, went to Israel during his
Those few Democrats who have threatened to boycott “Bibi’s”
speech all come from “safe” districts and states, and have
no concern about political consequences. Most Democrats
apparently will attend, not because they fear a backlash from
Jewish voters (a majority of which are liberal Democrats), but
because they fear a backlash from the very large and growing
pro-Israel Christian community.
Why is it that “Bibi” Netanyahu is so controversial among
liberal Democrats? Ostensibly it is because he does not support
the Obama administration and other liberal Democrats on their
solution to the Palestinian problem in the Middle East. But this
is in substance not valid because the Israeli prime minister does
support a two-state (Jewish and Palestinian) solution, as do most
Israelis. The key difference is that most Israelis, including Mr.
Netanyahu, want as a precondition the end of terror and attacks
on Israeli citizens, something the Palestinian Authority has so
far refused to do. Mr. Netanyahu also opposes the apparent
direction of Mr Obama’s negotiations with Iran over the latter’s
intention to build a nuclear bomb arsenal with which it could
threaten Israel’s existence (and even could threaten Europe).
So then, what is the real reason Mr. Obama and so many
Democrats, including Jewish Democrats, don’t like and oppose
“Bibi” Netanyau? The answer is simple and it is political,
Mr. Netanyahu is a genuine conservative, not only in foreign
policy, but very importantly, in domestic policy. Israel was
founded as a quasi-socialist state in 1948, and its earliest leaders,
such as David Ben Gurion, were lifelong socialists. More recently,
more and more free enterprise and democratic capitalism has
emerged in this Jewish state. Menachem Begin was a conservative
prime minister (and also was the first Israeli leader to sign a peace
treaty with the Arabs), as were the Yitzhak Shamir and Ariel
Sharon. Mr. Netanyahu himself has been a conservative prime
minister for ten years.
“Bibi” Netanyahu is the Israeli equivalent of U.S. President
Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
(and earlier British Prime Minister Winston Churchill) --- all
figures who were once unpopular with the American left.
“Bibi” is generally regarded as a popular figure to most U.S.
conservatives who not only overwhelmingly support the
U.S.-Israeli alliance, applaud most of Netanyahu's policies, but
also applaud the emergence of Israel as a major source of global
high tech research, new medical technology entrpreneurs and
medical technologies that have arisen during his tenure. He is
the true heir of early Zionist leaders Theodor Herzl and Vladimir
Jabotinsky who imagined a prosperous and free Jewish state
before and during the Holocaust (an event apparently forgotten
in Europe today).
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.