Sunday, January 1, 2017

Netanyahu: America's Favorite Thug

There’s been so much written about any potential influence Vladimir Putin could exert over Donald Trump that the influence Benjamin Netanyahu already has over him was largely ignored. The United Nations Security Council’s decision to call the Israeli settlements illegal, coupled with the incoming Trump administration's reaction to it, has pushed those of us still engaged in the political process back to our partisan cubbyholes on all things Israel. On Fox news, this story is being sold as President Obama’s final act of hostility against Israel: there might be some screw you aimed at Israel on the president’s part, but that doesn’t negate the principles that undergird the U.S. decision to abstain from vetoing Resolution 2334. The 4th Geneva Convention is the basis for the settlements being illegal. Our past UN vetoes have only emboldened Israel to keep building on contested lands. At the end of 2014 Israel begrudgingly slowed down the construction of settlements, but overall Israel has built more settlements during the Obama administration than during the Bush years. I’ve read articles and tweets from some very smart people who saw the UN’s decision as something to celebrate, but the reality is: the daily life of the average Palestinian and Jewish person affected by this decision is likely to get worse. 

Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction to this resolution confirms what I’ve always thought about him: he’s a thug. I respect his gangster mentality even though I don’t respect his governance. I know thuggish behavior when I see it; Just like Kevin Hart’s "Uncle Richard Junior", Netanyahu is a thug. He could survive in any hood or prison on the planet. This is why he and Vladimir Putin have had a distinct advantage over President Obama, and why they will likely have more influence over President-Elect Trump. Real recognizes real. Violence, and even a propensity to engage in violence isn’t enough to make someone a thug. There are men who engage in domestic violence as a way of experiencing power over another person; that is faux strength. Bibi isn’t boxing the Palestinian people in because they are weak and he has more military might: he’s doing it because they are in his way. His real fight is with the international community. He sees the UN and any state actor who doesn’t acquiesce to his geopolitical plans for Israel as the real enemy. Netanyahu used President Obama’s diplomatic sensitivities and desire to be respected against him. President Obama would beat around the bush to criticize Israeli policies while Bibi would deflect the criticism and get in front of a microphone and clearly issue disrespectful statements against him. Netanyahu will be able to push Donald Trump in any direction he needs him to go. Most Americans, have an uncritical support of Israel. We will blindly support them no matter the circumstances and a Trump administration will only embolden him. Donald needs to be seen as strong and supporting Israel is one way to accomplish this.

Trump looks up to strong leaders because of the respect they command; he goes around bragging about himself while guys like Benjamin Netanyahu  and Vladimir Putin just exude the strength and confidence he wishes he had. I don’t believe Trump could’ve handled some of the potential conflicts of interests the way his two favorite state actors did. The Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict should’ve been an area where Netanyahu and Putin butted heads, but they didn’t. They were able to sit down and talk about their intentions inside of Syria. President Obama was hammered by conservatives for not supporting Israel, but when the United States and NATO were condemning Russia’s support of the Assad regime Netanyahu was as quiet as a church mouse. Think about it, Assad is down with Iran and Hezbollah, but Bibi wasn’t concerned with Putin propping up a regime that supports state actors who openly oppose the Jewish state? That’s O.G. behavior. When Bloods are making money with Gangster Disciples they don’t let the relationship between the (G.D.’s) and Crips get in the way of that. Americans are so reluctant to call out power brokers when they engage in thug behavior. I don’t believe Trump could’ve navigated that situation as calmly as either leader. He needs to be validated at every turn, and I don’t think his ego could handle someone willfully engaging with a known enemy.

Since Resolution 2334 was passed, critiques of the Jewish state and a possible two-state solution have ranged from technocratic policy papers worthy of a PhD to Twitter garbage worth less than 140 characters. Both approaches will yield the same outcome: nothing! There’s no such thing as a two-state solution if the land you’re trying to divide looks like it was carved up by gerrymandering Republicans from the south. The settlements must stop! The starting point for most discussions over who has the right to this land usually devolves into a game of Trivia Pursuit covering the last five thousand years and prophecies stretched across three religious books. Too many people are trapped in the Sisyphean game of determining the chicken or egg of middle-east aggressions. I understand the need to historicize, but there are too many people who (in my opinion) place more importance on events of the 13th and 14th century than decisions made in 1947 and 1967. The dispute over access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque typifies this: my big brother was alive when Israel occupied it.

Israel can’t bear the full responsibility for trying usher in peace, but they have to be willing to extend an olive branch instead of burning them down. I won’t deny the existence of bad actors in the region. There are religious zealots who want to spread a global caliphate; likewise, there are those in the Israeli government and the west who would gladly reduce parts of the middle-east to ruble. Both groups are foolish. Every security gate leads to a pat down; which creates tension; which leads to knife and brick attacks; which leads to mortar fire. This cycle works in any order. War is sometimes necessary, but Israel and the west can't kill their way out of this problem. As Americans, we have to accept the reality that our governments financial support of the Israeli military comes with a price greater than the cost of bombs and rockets. America has to be open to the idea that everything Israel does isn't right.

America will always love Benjamin Netanyahu; he is the ultimate law and order politician. In his zeal to maintain what he understands as peace he ignores any role his government plays in adding to the hostilities. If he had his way no one would question him about the settlements or any of the daily indignities visited on Palestinian people by settlers. Bibi, like any gangster, wasn’t upset that the settlements were deemed illegal, he’s always known they were; he was upset that Obama and Kerry allowed him to be snitched on. His comments are very telling, “Friends Don't Take Friends to UN Security Council.” He doesn’t even consider the legitimacy of the Resolution. Peace for most reactionaries is at odds with justice. Most often peace is equated to people suffering in silence. In 1967 Dr. King used the term No Justice No Peace as a unifying cry between protests for Civil rights and against the Vietnam war. 49 years after the Israeli invasion that led to the capture of the Al-Aqsa Mosque it looks like it could be another 49 years before Justice has a chance to usher in peace. Again, chicken or egg logic won't solve this problem. I wouldn’t tell anyone in that region they shouldn't be afraid, but I would hope they cope with their fear better than the individuals who allow it to dominate their decision making. Benjamin Netanyahu is thug, but at least he’s not a coward. A coward might have taken the nuclear option by now.

“the Zionist argument to justify Israel’s present occupation of Arab Palestine has no intelligent or legal basis in history.”           Malcolm X

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