On the other hand, the Israelis have a far different vision, exemplified by Netanyahu's recent speech to the United Nations in which he held up Israel as the great defender of "modernity" against the savage hordes. It's the new public face of Israel: subway posters that urge us to "support the civilized man" against the "savage." Aside from being laughably untrue -- Israel is no less threatened by a rising religious fundamentalism than its neighbors, with fanatic "settlers" running wild and even challenging the IDF -- this line of argument underscores Israel's growing isolation on the world stage, and its slide into a frightening extremism. Netanyahu's Manichean view of Israel fighting virtually alone against an array of enemies -- and the broken promises of its less than reliable friends -- serves Netanyahu and his party well.
According to my theory of international relations, which I call "libertarian realism," this is the origin of all foreign policy decisions by the leaders of nations: these decisions, like all other political decisions, are made in order to preserve and extend the power, wealth, and prestige of these leaders and their supporters. Therefore such questions as whether or not Iran really is intent on building nuclear weapons and deploying them against Israel are irrelevant. Objective facts don't enter into the equation: it's all about creating a narrative suitable for domestic consumption.
The problem for Netanyahu is that his narrative necessarily collides with Washington's current view of US interests in the region. The resulting din can be heard in the raised voices of both US and Israeli leaders as the debate goes public during a presidential election year. Netanyahu's clear preference for Romney is a brazen intervention in US politics of the sort that no previous Israeli leader has ever dared attempt. The fuss about meeting Netanyahu at the UN, the demand for a "red line," and Netanyahu's pre-existing personal relationship with Romney aren't the only evidences of Netanyahu's sympathies.
Both the Israeli leader and the Republican nominee share a major donor in common: Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who had pledged to spend $100 million to defeat President Obama, and has spent more than that to subsidize a free Israeli newspaper that is a veritable Netanyahu campaign organ. As David Andrew Weinberg pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor, Netanyahu has taken to the US airwaves to chastise the White House for its lack of support:
"Netanyahu's recent sound bites on Iran are already being featured in a million-dollar ad buy attacking Obama in Florida. The group distributing this ad, Secure America Now, is founded by a Republican strategist notorious for having a direct line to the prime minister, so Netanyahu was probably aware of how such remarks would be utilized by American conservatives."
Such interference in American elections by a foreign power is intolerable. Too bad the Obama administration doesn't have the courage to name what is happening and call out Netanyahu. The American people would welcome it. However, I'm afraid the Israel lobby is just as powerful in the Democratic party as it is among the Republicans, and so we'll see none of that.
This is why Iran has been chosen as the latest target: because the powerful lobby of a foreign government is pulling out all the stops in a bid to drag us into a ruinous war. That such a conflict would benefit Israel in the long run, or even in the short term, is a highly dubious proposition. While the largely mythical threat of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel might dissipate, for a while at least, the benefits of dispelling a potential danger are far outweighed by the near certain danger of worldwide economic collapse.
With the price of oil skyrocketing to unprecedented heights, world markets already reeling from the global recession would be knocked for a loop by the oil shock. The effects would be felt not only here in the US but also in Israel, where protests over rising prices and austerity budgets are already erupting. If you thought the crash of '08 was a big deal, just wait until the prospect of war triggers an economic meltdown that makes '08 look like a blip on the screen.
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