At the drop of a hat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to lash out at Palestinians and Arabs, Iranians and many westerners, particularly those negotiating with Iran over its nuclear arsenal, in the hope that he will remain prime minister of Israel for a regular fourth term. But, surprisingly, little does he know that his days as the extremist leader of Israel are reportedly numbered.
A surprise for many may be the recent findings of a prominent pollster that many Americans, particularly Democrats, have second thoughts about Israel. Right-wing pro-Israel pollster Frank Luntz, reports Philip Weiss, co-editor of Mondoweiss.net “sounds the alarm with a survey of elite US opinion saying that 3/4 of American Democratic elites regard Israel as having too much influence (in the US), and half of them say Israel is racist”.
Luntz found, as Weiss has been reporting on his website, that “criticism of Israel is gaining traction in the Democratic base and is sure to play a role in next year’s election campaigns. The numbers show what everyone in the [Israeli] lobby fears, that Israel is becoming a partisan issue. Republicans are standing by the Jewish state, and Luntz calls the poll a ‘disaster’”.
The poll reported that “an overwhelming 76 per cent of Democrats, as compared to 20 per cent of Republicans said Israel has ‘too much influence’” on US foreign policy. Asked whether Israel wants peace with its Palestinian neighbours, “an overwhelming 88 per cent of Republicans said it does, a far lower 48 per cent of Democrats agreed”.
Asked whether they (the 802 members of the so-called ‘opinion elite’) would be more likely to vote for a local politician who criticised Israeli occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians, “45 per cent of Democrats said ‘yes’, compared to just 6 per cent of Republicans”.
Although the United States was the only country to oppose the recent United Nations decision holding Israel accountable for war crimes in the Gaza conflict last year at the regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, 41 nations voted for the measure, including Germany, France, Japan, Brazil and China, the other side of the coin was slightly brighter. Yet, there was at the same time an official American public rebuke issued against Israel. It emerged when the State Department revealed it is reassessing the “special relationship” between the US and Israel, and that it did not oppose the Palestinian-initiated Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli actions in the Occupied Territories where Israeli colonies “make it harder to negotiate a sustainable and equitable peace deal in good faith”.
This American reprimand did not stop Netanyahu badgering the so-called P5+1 (US, Russia, Britain, France, China plus Germany) over the ongoing negotiations with Iran over its secretive nuclear programme. The talks have now been extended until today.
He audaciously accused the six world powers of dangerously caving in to the Islamic Republic’s every demand, for a long-sought final pact that would see the lifting of sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear programme.
The Times of Israel said Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting last Sunday declared that “it seems that the nuclear talks in Iran have yielded a collapse, not a breakthrough”, adding that the “major powers’ concessions are growing”.
Had Netanyahu been sincere in his outcry, he would have offered the Iranian government a deal whereby both countries would simultaneously eliminate their nuclear arsenal and declare the Middle East a nuclear-free zone, a step that would be welcome by all. This is a step that Netanyahu should take sooner rather than later.
Otherwise, his western supporters, especially the Obama administration, must feel obligated to pursue this course in the very near future, especially if an agreement with Tehran is reached.
Likewise, it is high time Netanyahu publicly airs his vision for a border between Israel and the state of Palestine, a point he never ever discussed publicly unlike the Palestinians, and all Arab governments, which have time and again said it should be along the 1967 armistice line. Obviously, there have to be land swaps to accommodate a few of the illegal Israeli colonies.
Time is running out for these two major Middle East problems.
George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org