Magazine article The American Conservative

A Match Made in Tel Aviv

Magazine article The American Conservative

A Match Made in Tel Aviv

Article excerpt

Will Netanyahu and the neocons live happily ever after?

IMAGINE THAT AFTER Boris Yeltsin was elected president of a free postCommunist Russia in 1991, the Poles, residents of a former province of the Soviet empire, elected former Communist boss Edward Gierek as their new head of state. Then suppose that, upon entering office, he caUed on Moscow to forget about rapprochement with the West and prepare for military confrontation.

Improbable as it seems, some version of this scenario is playing out here. After their humliiating defeat in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, the vanquished neoconservative legions won a major poUtical victory in one of the provinces of the American empire when the parliamentary election in Israel brought to power a veteran neocon activist. He is calling on Washington to forget about changing U.S. policy im the Middle East and prepare for a military confrontation with Iran.

Initially, the neoconservatives envisioned a grander strategy. In November 2008, Americans would elect Norman Podhoretz's favorite American politician, Rudy Giuliani, as their new president, foUowed by a vote in Israel in which Norman Podhoretz's favorite Israeli politician, Benjamin Netanyahu, would be chosen as the Jewish state's new prime minister.

It would have been like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire teaming in "Flying Down to Tehran" and dancing cheek to cheek in "Neocon Tune." Not unlike FDR and Churchill uniting theu nations in the struggle against Fascism during World War ?, Rudy and Bibi would bring their countries together to fight Islamofascism. How about a special commemorative issue of Commentary to celebrate the day the two tied the knot at the White House?

Rudy didn't make it. But a stand-in was ready to play the part of neocon dummy, repeating the lines ("Bomb, bomb Iran") provided by the usual suspects. They were confident that mating the American Empile with a Greater Israel remained a viable option under President McCain and - God willing! Prime Minster Netanyahu. But then McCain lost to a man of Muslim ancestry whose middle name was "Hussein." Worse, as Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg fretted, he didn't seem to have it in his "kishke'' or "gut" when it came to Israel. Obama was willing to withdraw from Iraq, engage Iran, and work hard to achieve an Israel-Palestine peace accord - in short, to challenge the neoconservatives' first principles.

With Mac not back and Obama in the White House - after winning the majority of American-Jewish votes - it became clear that the American groom would not be showing up for the anticipated wedding. Yet the Bush administration's last foreign-policy decision - giving Israel a green light to launch a devastating assault on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip - helped ignite ultra-nationalist and anti-Arab sentiments among the majority of Israelis. This produced a mini earthquake in IsraeU poUtics, changing the balance of power in the Israeli Knesset from 70-50 in favor of the center-left bloc to 65-55 for the Right, ultra-Right, and religious Right parties. Although Netanyahu's nationalist Likud Party took only second place in the election, behind the more centrist Kadima Party led by Tapi livni, which finished first by a miniscule margin, he was able to win the backing of aU the 65 members of the right-wing bloc, including the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party and extreme Yisrael Beitenu Party of Avigdor Lieberman, ensuring that he will become the next Israeli PM.

The political and ideological love affair between Netanyahu and the neocons goes back to the Reagan presidency and the last years of the Cold War, when Bibi was serving first as Israel's representative to the United Nations and later as his country's ambassador to Washington. The first generation of neoconservative intellectuals - Richard Perle, Jeane Kikkpatrick, EUiott Abrams, Kenneth Adelman, and Max Kampleman - were occupying top foreignpolicy positions in the Reagan administration. …

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