Bibi Gives Bill the Finger

It’s taken some time, but I believe I have identified the problem with the Israeli government. It’s being run by the poet laureate of Israel who is making policy by poem.

How can I anger the United States? Let me count the ways.

I can do it by opening a tunnel in Jerusalem at a sensitive point in peace negotiations.

I can do it by building new neighborhoods in areas the U.S. considers disputed territory.

I can do it by announcing plans for expanding settlements right after the Secretary of State calls for a timeout.

I can do it by sending agents carrying passports from a friendly government to assassinate an enemy in the capital of one of America’s closest Arab allies.

I can do it by exporting Uzis to the United States at a time when efforts are being made to limit the availability of automatic weapons.

I can do it by refusing to immediately extradite a Maryland teenager who fled to Israel to avoid prosecution for a grisly murder.

I can anger thee to the depth and breadth and height

My policies can descend.

You may believe that some of these actions were good ones or justified, but they were all unpopular with Israel’s closest ally. People in Washington are truly amazed at how a man generally considered the most pro-Israel President in history could so quickly be alienated by an Israeli government. Perhaps the best evidence of Bill Clinton’s sympathy is that he has restrained himself from taking punitive measures.

The Netanyahu government has counted on pro-Israel members of Congress to stave off any Presidential sanctions, but it has now succeeded in angering even its best friends like Sen. Dianne Feinstein who is furious over Israeli plans to export Uzis to the United States. Israel has also upset members of the House Appropriations Committee who control the foreign aid spigot and have intimated they will cut aid if Samuel Sheinbein is not sent back to the U.S. to face the murder allegations in Maryland.

The news is no better within the Jewish community. A new poll commissioned by Middle East Quarterly, a relatively conservative, pro-Israel think tank shows that Netanyahu has become incredibly unpopular among American Jews. For example, when asked who is better described as “someone I admire,” Netanyahu or Arafat, the highest percentage responded “neither.” The dovish Israel Policy Forum published a poll that suggests American Jews would like the Clinton Administration to be tougher with Israel.

The poet clearly needs to have a more sensitive editor in Israel. It would also help to employ someone to champion Israel’s cause in the United States. Throughout the months of disastrous public relations, no one has come forward to effectively make the Israeli case. Consequently, the negative spin by the Administration and press has gone unchallenged. Israel needs a person who can go on American television and speak to reporters, members of Congress and the Jewish community and explain Israel’s commitment to peace and its security dilemma, someone who can highlight our shared values and areas of cooperation and out debate any critic. What Israel needs is Bibi Netanyahu. No, not the Hyde-like Benjamin who inhabits the Prime Minister’s office, the real Bibi who lived here, skillfully advocated Israeli positions and won the hearts of Jews of the right and left.

Maybe it’s not too late for the Prime Minister to have a talk with Dr. Jekyll and see if he can get the old Bibi back.