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Netanyahu’s political fumble empowers Obama
PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s sweeping victory in the election this week over Mitt Romney had to be a rude awakening for the hardline extremist government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu had been riding high as high profile Romney allies hammered Obama on being “weak” on Israel. Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who owns the fundamentalist Hebrew-language newspaper Israel Hayom, pumped millions into Romney’s campaign. Romney was given “presidential” treatment during his tour of Israel meeting with Netanyahu and other rightwing Israeli politicians and government leaders.
There is no doubt that Netanyahu’s government put all of its money on Romney, believing that Obama would be defeated this past week. Well, the election didn’t work out so well for Netanyahu. His self-created rift with Obama might serve as the foundation for a substantive change in America’s subservience to Israel, the ungrateful foreign nation that thrives off of a very generous subsidy from American taxpayers.
Netanyahu’s irritation began when Obama displayed an uncharacteristic understanding of the Arab and Muslim worlds. That made him look overly “sympathetic” to the Palestinians, something Israel cannot tolerate.
When Obama insisted on describing Netanyahu’s expansion of illegal settlements as being “unhelpful” to the peace process in 2009, Netanyahu became angry. The following year, Netanyahu approved a massive expansion of the illegal settlements that embarrassed a visiting Vice President Joe Biden and caused the peace process to collapse. Netanyahu did everything he could to undermine Obama’s efforts to kick-start the peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
When Netanyahu demanded that America commit troops to assault Iran, Obama balked and Netanyahu questioned his “commitment to Israel,” giving Romney and his minions an opportunity to question Obama’s loyalty to Israel. Like most Israeli officials who have enjoyed carte blanche from American politicians and taxpayers for most of Israel’s 65 years of existence as an nation built on occupied land, Netanyahu reflected an arrogance fueled by Israel’s growing conservatism.
Somehow over the years, American foreign policy and its commitment to be fair in the Middle East has been corrupted by selfish Israeli arrogance.
Israeli policies have put American presidents under Israel’s political thumb, especially during presidential elections. Obama was forced to downplay his support for a Palestinian state and his debates with Romney became boisterous battles over who loves Israel more.
Netanyahu and many Israelis take America’s money and support for granted.
And they do so with no real loyalty to the US. Israel expects America to support it, not based on earned privilege but rather as an entitlement.
When American generosity is met by Israeli ungratefulness, Americans should wonder. And no one has been more ungrateful than Netanyahu who immediately thrust himself into the presidential battle supporting Romney.
Netanyahu insists he never endorsed anyone, but the claim is ridiculous. He did everything he could to undermine Obama, including sabotaging the peace process with the Palestinians in order to impact the election.
The Netanyahu scheme almost worked; except that Romney lost. In fact, Obama’s defeat of Romney in the face of such a hard press by Israel to make itself the election issue is an embarrassment for Netanyahu. Although Netanyahu tried, Israel never became the decisive campaign issue in the Obama-Romney battle.
Netanyahu’s conduct was inappropriate. But it gives Obama an opportunity to escape from Israel’s political influence and put America’s best interests first. Those interests are best served by pushing Israel to make a genuine and fair peace with the Palestinians and to review the massive financial support the US provides to Israel at a time when America is experiencing a devastating economic crisis.
Obama will begin his second and final term without having to worry about whether Netanyahu or the pro-Israeli movement supports him or not. Their support becomes far less important. What matters is whether the Arab world can recognize this opportunity to help Obama escape from Israel’s domination.
Saudi Arabia has done all it can to help ease the burden of skyrocketing oil prices, thus reducing the cost of gasoline to the economically burdened American people. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas might reconsider his own part in helping Obama, possibly reversing his plans to seek an upgrade in Palestine at the United Nations to “Observer Status.”
The Arab world can give Obama exactly what Israel refuses to give Americans, some respect. The Arab world can act in strategic alliance with America rather than shooting down opportunities on an emotional whim.
Obama’s second term gives him the opportunity to stop pandering to Israel’s powerful pro-Israel lobby. Obama can stand firm on the promise to bring fairness to the Middle East, which means forcing Israel’s arrogant government to compromise.
Obama can build a new coalition by focusing on more reasoned American Jews who put American interests above blind allegiance to Israel’s extremist policies by voting for Obama.
Coupled with patience from the Arabs and a new cooperation with more moderate American Jews, Obama can nudge Israel back to the peace table by ending its policy of expanding illegal settlements. Israel might finally recognize Palestine’s right to exist, finally embrace the exchange of occupied lands for peace, and recognize the historic injustice committed against the Palestinian people.
This is an opportunity for the Arab world, and for moderate American Jews to do the right thing. Peace can happen if both Arabs and Jews can contain their extremist elements and set aside their selfish pride.
— Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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