Several years ago, two professors co-wrote a book, The Israel Lobby, that repackaged Zionist conspiracy theories in the respectable garb of academic prose. The authors, Stephen M. Walt of Harvard and John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, claimed that Israel, through its network of American supporters, pushed the U.S. to go to war with Iraq and were about to do the same with Iran. On Thursday, President Barack Obama gave his endorsement to that theory.
In his remarks on the “framework” that had been agreed with Iran in Switzerland, Obama struck a petulant tone, jabbing at his personal and political opponents, foreign and domestic. Earlier in the week, a former administration official described Obama’s mood: “There’s a determination to prove the Republicans wrong, and to prove the world wrong.” (There seemed rather less determination to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, judging from the lopsided terms of the deal.)
Obama singled out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name, and proceeded to lie, blatantly, about the Israeli leader’s position on Iran: “It’s no secret that the Israeli prime minister and I don’t agree about whether the United States should move forward with a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue,” Obama said.
In other words: Netanyahu not only rejects peace as an option for solving the crisis, but also wants the United States to go to war to stop Iran, on Israel’s behalf.
Obama continued: “If, in fact Prime Minister Netanyahu is looking for the most effective way to ensure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon, this is the best option,” he declared. If, in fact–as though Netanyahu were not actually trying to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power, but rather seeking conflict with Iran for some other reason.
That is straight Israel Lobby stuff. It is directly from the fever swamps of far-left and far-right Zionist conspiracy theory. It is a lie–and a nasty one.
Consider what Netanyahu told Congress when he addressed it last month. If Netanyahu had wanted America to go to war for Israel’s sake, that was the moment to ask. Instead, he urged peace:
Now we’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.
A better deal that doesn’t leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short break-out time. A better deal that keeps the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in place until Iran’s aggression ends.
A better deal that won’t give Iran an easy path to the bomb. A better deal that Israel and its neighbors may not like, but with which we could live, literally. And no country…
… no country has a greater stake — no country has a greater stake than Israel in a good deal that peacefully removes this threat.
And if war became necessary, Netanyahu said, Israel was prepared to “stand alone.”
Obama later said that he did not actually watch Netanyahu’s speech–but he did “have a chance to look at the transcript,” so he knows full well what the Israeli leader said.
Netanyahu did not say that the United States should not move forward with a peaceful resolution to the Iranian issue. On the contrary, he said that a tougher negotiating posture would lead to a better deal and a peaceful resolution, while warning that the current weak approach to Iran would make war in the region more likely.
The president is entitled to reject that argument. What he is not entitled to do is to lie about it–and, in doing so, to repeat the antisemitic libel at the heart of The Israel Lobby and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: that the Jews urge war for their selfish benefit.
Presidents generally should not apologize, but this is an exception. Obama owes an apology to Netanyahu, to Israel, and to Americans.
If he will not tell the truth about our allies, why should we trust what he says about our enemies?