Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic has a reflex he just can’t control. Though a die-hard fan of President Barack Obama, he is capable of criticizing the president, as he did over Obama’s decision to skip the recent anti-terror demonstration in Paris. However, Goldberg’s critical faculties desert him whenever Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is mentioned. In Goldberg’s eyes, Netanyahu can do no right. Even when the White House calls Netanyahu”chickensh*t,” it is Bibi’s fault.
So it is no surprise that Goldberg is using the controversy over Netanyahu’s invitation to address Congress in March to bash the Israeli leader, and polish Obama’s disastrous Israel policy. Along the way, Goldberg resorts to several distortions.
In his most recent Atlantic column, he claims, for example, that Obama worked “in tandem” with Netanyahu to promote sanctions on Iran: “Netanyahu traveled the world arguing for stringent sanctions, and Obama did much the same.”
That is simply factually untrue. Obama resisted Iran sanctions for months, defying even a unanimous vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Not only was Israel frustrated, and Congress, but Europe as well, which accused Obama of re-inventing the wheel, resetting diplomacy that had started under (gasp) George W. Bush.
In fact, Obama pushed the world towards a more lenient position on Iran, allowing nuclear enrichment in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
Goldberg acknowledges Netanyahu’s concerns about the Iran deal that is likely to emerge from the ongoing talks, but then concludes: “…[T]here is good reason to sympathize with Obama and his negotiators as well. They believe that a negotiated settlement that promises to keep Iran perpetually a year or more from the nuclear threshold, and provides for intrusive inspections of Iranian facilities, is far from perfect, but better than the alternative, which is eventual confrontation.”
So Netanyahu, and the world, are meant to be satisfied with Iran one year away from nuclear “breakout,” and inspections that Iran is not allowing now and has no intention of honoring in the future?
The idea that such a deal would prevent “eventual confrontation” is absurd. It is nothing short of appeasement, and guarantees confrontation, as Iran would be emboldened to continue its progress toward a nuclear weapon. Meanwhile, Israel would have no choice but to fight alone.
Goldberg says that Netanyahu has made the “second-worst choice”–he has not attacked Iran, but “has decided to ruin his relations with Obama.” Goldberg admits “the Obama administration does not make it particularly easy on Netanyahu,” noting that “early in Obama’s first term, senior officials in his administration were quasi-openly rooting for Tzipi Livni to replace” Bibi–as if that is the most egregious example in six years of Obama’s deliberate efforts to undermine Bibi.
It is Netanyahu’s job, Goldberg says, as “the junior partner in the Israel-U.S. relationship,” to make concessions. He adds that Bibi could have tried “advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, for instance, by taking the initiative once in a blue moon”–as if Bibi’s explicit call for a Palestinian state, and his adoption of the settlement freeze suggested by Obama, and his controversial prisoner exchanges to entice Palestinians to the negotiating table had never actually happened.
Goldberg’s hatred of Bibi seems to have caused acute factual amnesia, leading to absurd arguments against new sanctions because “only the most obtuse Iranian leader would fail to realize that a failure in the negotiations process would lead to more sanctions.” Have the talks not been extended twice in defiance of Obama’s promises of new sanctions?
Goldberg also accuses Bibi of eroding Congress’s bipartisanship on Israel–as if Democrats’ shifting positions had nothing to do with that.
In arguing against Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, Goldberg quotes former ambassador Michael Oren, who advises the Prime Minister to cancel. What Goldberg fails to note is that Oren is now running for the Knesset from an opposing party, meaning that his criticism can no longer be treated as dispassionate analysis.
Goldberg also fails to consider what reversing the invitation would do to international perceptions of Israel’s resolve at a moment when Israeli intentions must be clear.
For Goldberg, Obama can do no wrong when it comes to Israel–and only Israel. In his efforts to cover for Obama, he has fumbled away much of his credibility on the issue.
There is not much for Netanyahu to fear from the habitual criticism of a pundit who has so clearly departed from reality. But as an example of how American Jewish liberals are tying themselves in knots trying to reconcile their partisan loyalties with the facts of Obama’s failures on Israel, there is no finer specimen.