Mondoweiss / September 1, 2023
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is promoting the claim that Joe Biden invited him to the White House when he comes to the United States for the UN General Assembly later this month. Even as Biden has sought to downplay the claim.
And now there’s pressure from the Israeli protest movement on Biden not to meet Netanyahu, echoed by Israeli security officials “begging” Biden not to give Netanyahu the audience until the Prime Minister stops the judicial overhaul and annexation of the West Bank.
“Netanyahu is staring Biden down,” writes Noga Tarnopolsky, “to say ‘Let’s see you not invite me when I’m in the USA.’ Biden doesn’t want to humiliate an ally on US soil & Israel’s defense establishment, knowing Netanyahu will use the photo-op to advance his putsch, are begging Biden to back off.”
Liberal Zionists in the U.S. have also been calling on Biden to end “business as usual” with Netanyahu so long as his government openly adopts extremist policies (that previous governments were politer about).
Biden will disappoint you, former Israeli PM Ehud Barak told a liberal Zionist audience on August 23. He will not “lie down on the barbed wire” for the protest movement.
Don’t expect Biden to lie on the barbed wire for us. He is an extremely good friend of Israel, I know him for many years … He is very good friend of Israel.
Barak is reflecting the political reality here: Biden has given all indications that he wants business as usual with Israel for the sake of the 2024 presidential race. That’s why Hakeem Jeffries went on an AIPAC trip to Israel in August with two dozen other Democratic members of the House, met with Netanyahu, and offered gushing testimonials to Israel and AIPAC.
It’s why even progressives such as Becca Balint of Vermont went along on that disgraceful trip — and why Biden’s criticism of Netanyahu’s judicial reforms has been muted.
Barak said that only American Jewish groups have the power to criticize Netanyahu, and that the American Jewish community must “stand behind the protesters” and save Israel from a “dictatorship”:
I think it’s not something that you can say, Oh that’s not our case. You know, we are partners in a way. Israel pretends to be the government for the people of Israel, and of the whole Jewish people. So the Jewish people has a voice. I think you have contributed so much and over so many years for the strength of Israel, supporting us in any crucial turn …. You have a right to raise your own voice.
In a discussion with protest sympathizers, “USA for Israeli Democracy,” on August 23, Barak said that he expected “every American Jew, and every Jew in the world,” to stand behind Israel in an external “turning point” for the state.
But not when there’s an internal dispute, in which a fascistic party is in the government:
I would expect American Jewry to basically represent the same spectrum of voices [as in Israel]. It’s more mature. We are partners. We should not be immune against hearing criticism. There is no reason why the reflection of different views, which is the essence of political and public life in Israel, would not be reflected in America. I think it would be much more healthy if you raise your voice with self-confidence. Don’t be apologetic. I always tell the Reform leadership, you’ve contributed to Israel in so many ways. Your voice should be heard much louder and much more self-confident. And never apologize in the demand to be a legitimate party on equal terms with any other stream of Judaism … Judaism is about pluralism.
American Zionists have already had an impact, Barak said. Demonstrations by “pro-democracy” Jewish groups convinced billionaire Arthur Dantchik to stop funding “extremist hate groups,” Barak said. (Dantchik has given money to a right-wing think tank that pushed the judicial reform.)
More statements by American Jewish groups and financial contributions to the protest movement — “It’s quite expensive to run this operation” — will foster political cracks in Netanyahu’s coalition that will ultimately force him to “capitulate,” Barak said.
Your voice is well-heard and you should make it more massive and more widespread … We are on the right side of history, on the right side of the truth, on the right side of what is good for Israel…And I don’t know how it will end…
If some development in the relation with the United States will keep Netanyahu from giving the messianic racists all that they want then they might crash. We will see in the demonstrations, more and more young people, right-wingers, religious Zionists, who are pro-democracy …. A major constitutional crisis will start to emerge.
Barak said that for years, he has pushed the rightwing Israel lobby group AIPAC to criticize the Netanyahu government.
I am a critic of AIPAC in a way. AIPAC made it a rule to always broadcast a unison of support for the government…with some emphasis of rightwing government. The last five years I’m telling them, I’m yearning to hear mature voices from American leadership of the Jewish people in America. I would love to hear them.
He called on American Jews to talk over the heads of AIPAC to the 535 members of Congress, so as to stop Israel’s progress toward “de facto dictatorship.”
Some of what Barak is calling for is happening. Liberal Zionists and hard-line Zionists are at one another’s’ throats, reports The Guardian, with AIPAC and J Street accusing one another of undermining Israel’s future.
But J Street still has only limited footing in the Democratic Party, and it is leery of criticizing Israel very much. And in any case Biden has not thrown in with J Street. Those cracks in the wall are a long ways off.
So, I’m predicting that Biden meets Netanyahu this month.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006