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Oct-05-2009 01:09printcomments

Bibi Netanyahu: a Knave of Ghosts and Shadows

Netanyahu was perfectly correct when he opined recently that “Israel is not like other countries.” It is not, and other countries need to recognize that geopolitical fact for their own survival.

 Netanyahu, Obama and Abbas
Netanyahu, Obama and Abbas

(JACKSON, Miss.) - I have been misreading Israeli prime minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. I had considered him to be just another thug with an overlay of arrogance and fanaticism, an Avigdor Lieberman with a bit more polish (not hard to do) on a larger stage, both of them cruder than their predecessors Olmert and Livni, but not dramatically different in substance and policy.

He is certainly all of those things, but such a reading of him is really incomplete. This became glaringly obvious once I took the time to review and reflect upon his meeting with Obama and Abbas, as well as his speech to the UN, reading the text of his remarks, listening to the tone of his voice, watching his expressions – all the things that service in the US Marines, training as a tactical interrogator, and two decades experience as a professor taught me to use when evaluating a person.

The upshot is my recognition that Netanyahu and his country are far more dangerous, not just to the Palestinians and their immediate neighbors, but to all of us than I had previously thought possible.

The photograph of him with Obama and Abbas after their meeting, while Obama was talking, spoke volumes. Obama reminded me of the proverbial snake-oil salesman pitching his wares to a crowded tent, all sincerity and no substance, knowing his magical elixir was utterly worthless but determined to sell some of it to the gullible rubes anyway. Abbas slouched there like a little boy forced to be somewhere he didn’t want to be, and where he knew he was utterly powerless to get anything worthwhile or evade any punishment. Netanyahu sat watching his puppets do their thing, with a small smile on his face that must have taken great effort or long practice (or both) to keep from sliding into a smirk.

But it was Netanyahu’s speech to the UN that riveted my attention. Ahmedinejad is not Hitler, no matter what the assorted Israeli propagandists would have us believe, and Iran is not Nazi Germany with a Persian twist – if there is any historical analogue, he is more like Mussolini with more bombast than independent capability for harm. Besides, anyone who reads translations of his speeches, and not the interpretations put on them by Israeli and American journalists and diplomats, realizes that he has been grossly misrepresented to the American public, and to a lesser degree others elsewhere.

Netanyahu is not Hitler either, but his mindset is much closer to Hitler’s than anyone should find comfortable. Had Hitler not taken Germany out of the League of Nations, I could well imagine him giving a speech to the League much like Netanyahu’s to the UN. He would speak of the great injustice done to the German people and their suffering during and after the First World War. He would speak of Germans being unfairly maligned with the guilt for that war’s origins, and I could see him waving a copy of the Treaty of Versailles as Netanyahu waved the plans of Auschwitz, describing the suffering and death and ruin of a country and a people that ensued from its provisions. He would assert that “Never Again” would Germany fall prey to such great wrongs, and he would have asked the assembled delegates if they were so lacking in a sense of decency and a concept of shame that they could not see the justice of his position.

To a degree, he would have been correct, and so is Netanyahu. Both would not merely have been explaining why they were what they were, why they led their countries as they did, but making it abundantly clear that – the purposes of rhetoric and propaganda notwithstanding – they actually believed what they were saying, not just the words but the far more significant sentiments and emotions underlying them.

Yet the inferences he and Netanyahu alike would have drawn from their view would have been so horribly, criminally wrong. One is the belief that genuine past injustice to their people legitimized whatever they did to others today and in the future. Another is that there is no such thing as honest criticism of them as leaders and of their countries for their actions; one either backs them unreservedly, or one is an enemy. A third is that no one else can, should or will judge them.

Like Hitler, Netanyahu’s ghosts are real, but the shadows they cast distort reality beyond all rational recognition. Like Hitler, he stands not as a knight protecting his people and the peace, but as a knave who will be their doom, and cause the death of many other innocent people besides.

This is the great danger Israel generally, and fanatics like Netanyahu and Lieberman in particular, pose to themselves and to others. Netanyahu was perfectly correct when he opined recently that “Israel is not like other countries.” It is not, and other countries need to recognize that geopolitical fact for their own survival.

Seymour Hersh knew what he was doing when he labeled Israel’s nuclear capability its “Samson Option,” (see The Samson Option (book) a means of pulling down the world over its own head. Faced with an end of its dream like the Soviet Union in 1991 and apartheid-era South Africa in 1994, I have no doubt whatsoever that Israel under any government likely to be in power will launch nuclear strikes against every Muslim population center it can reach, and with its submarines, other places as well – Berlin will be at the head of that list (are you paying attention, Chancellor Merkel?), with Moscow and Washington immediately behind, for different reasons. Of course, it would also target the US 5th and 6th Fleets and nearby US bases, simply to forestall early retaliation.

If the armed forces of the US and other key powers do not yet have active contingency plans to pull Israel’s nuclear fangs at need and without warning, with or without the prior approval of their political leadership, they need to have them in place yesterday. Because if Israel truly does start to fall, as the CIA and many analysts anticipate, they will need them. SOURCE: =================================================

Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D., University of Michigan) is a writer and consultant specializing in national and international security affairs. In December 1988, he received the Superior Civilian Service Award after more than five years of service at the U.S. Army War College as Director of Studies, Strategic Studies Institute, and holder of the General of the Army Douglas MacArthur Chair of Research. He is listed in WHO'S WHO IN THE EAST (23rd ed.). A Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and a 1986 graduate of the U.S. Army War College, Dr. Sabrosky's teaching and research appointments have included the United States Military Academy, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Middlebury College and Catholic University; while in government service, he held concurrent adjunct professorships at Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Dr. Sabrosky has lectured widely on defense and foreign affairs in the United States and abroad. You can email Dr. Alan Sabrosky at:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied. October 16, 2009 1:23 pm (Pacific time)

I think it's you Sir, who are dangerous.

stacie October 8, 2009 9:36 am (Pacific time)

dead-on accurate, I've been to Israel and seen the apartheid first-hand...

gp October 6, 2009 4:21 am (Pacific time)


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