Posted on March 04, 2015 in Countdown
Countdown Vol. 13, No. 5
We all knew that when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approached the podium at the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference, he was bound to deliver controversial comments with the typical helping of condescension and props. The Prime Minister deployed a truly staggering litany of outmoded orientalist language at Monday's Conference. Bibi stated that the region finds itself consumed by “medieval barbarism” and described a "dark and savage, and desperate Middle East" where women experience “repression, enslavement and rape." Singing to the choir of 15,000 AIPAC attendees, he claimed "Israel is a beacon of humanity, of light, and of hope." A veritable city upon a hill, that is also being called upon by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the over 1,500 Palestinian civilians killed during Israel's "Operation Protective Edge" last summer. If Netanyahu truly believes that his nation is the last bastion of humanity in the region, he must realize how destructive his patronizing rhetoric is. How does characterizing Arabs as savages make Israel any safer? It does not. The irony is that Netanyahu has defiantly suggested that his decision to speak before Congress this week was a product of his desire to safeguard Israeli security.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before Congress this week turned out to be what many had expected, pure political theatre. Netanyahu used the halls of Congress to publicly rebuke and undermine President Obama’s ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. It seemed to be the typical love fest between members of Congress and Israel’s Prime Minister. However, an estimated 56 Democratic members of Congress decided not to attend the speech marking a clear recognition among members of the American political establishment, including Vice President Joseph Biden, of the egregiousness of providing a foreign leader—no matter how close the relationship may be with his or her country—the highest American political platform to criticize American foreign policy. On the other hand, as if on cue, the remaining Congressional members gave PM Netanyahu a standing ovation over 20 times. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) went above and beyond commenting that Netanyahu’s foreign policy should be American foreign policy. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) reiterated the strong U.S. – Israel bond but brought attention to the fact that the speech was a grave insult to the U.S. saying she was "near tears" during the speech, and "saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States…and condescension to our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran." We agree.
As the deadline for negotiations with Iran creeps closer, Secretary of State John Kerry continues to jet across Europe and the Middle East in hopes of sealing the deal and assuaging the fears of world leaders. Sec. Kerry’s relentless pursuit of an agreement has left some experts speculating that it is he who wants to secure a resolution more than the Iranians. Nevertheless, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to make some time in his busy campaigning schedule to bring his pre-election tour extravaganza to the hallowed halls of Congress this past Tuesday. He took the opportunity to once again remind us just how imminent Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is. Reiterating his position that the negotiations were a “bad deal”—also a new GOP talking point—Bibi failed to provide any real alternatives that would have us move past the status quo. Netanayhu continues to unintentionally trump up the status of Iran's reach claiming, "Iran envelops the entire world with its tentacles of terror." The truth is, of course, stranger than fiction, Iran recently staged military exercises against a mock U.S aircraft carrier—a U.S. Naval Commander responded, "It seems they've attempted to destroy the equivalent of a Hollywood movie set." We're a bit disappointed that Bibi didn't work in Iran's war games into his prop comedy show at AIPAC.
This year’s CPAC seemed to be a game of 'who’s the most conservative' with each Republican hopeful flexing his and her conservative credentials. Former Governor Jeb Bush managed to successfully traverse the thin ice on which he found himself because of his moderate positions and status as an establishment favorite—with a little help from the supporters that were bussed in. Things faired less favorably for Governor Chris Christie, as he delivered his speech in front of a mostly empty room and found himself under fire for his direct jabs at Bush. But in keeping with tradition, CPAC’s attendees once again threw their weight behind Rand Paul, making him the straw poll winner for the third year in a row. Xenophobia, hyperbole, and contrarian rhetoric also thrived at CPAC, as several popular conservatives made comments that have had them struggling to backpedal. When asked how he would handle ISIS, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin stated that if he “could handle 100,000 protestors…[he] could handle the same across the world.” But if you were wondering whether he was comparing peaceful pro-union activists exercising their first amendment right to freedom of assembly to the so-called Islamic State, fear not. He was merely saying that he had the comparable leadership skills to take them on.
The struggle over funding the Department of Homeland Security ended Tuesday, and may foretell difficult months ahead for legislation moving through the Senate and House. The bill, which passed the House 257-167—with only 75 Republicans in support—authorized $39.7 billion in funding for DHS. The draft law went through without any of the Republican-led riders that would have stripped President Obama's legal protections for some 5 million undocumented immigrants. Criticisms came fast and furious from Democrats as well as Republicans. Two months into their majority in both houses, Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) fears Republicans have "hit a wall….We are already hung up in terms of not being able to govern."