How Benjamin Netanyahu's Scowl Campaign Hurts Israel

Negativity Hands Iran a Victory — and Isolates Jewish State

Where’s Our Charm? Iranian President Hassan Rouhani continues to present a moderate face to the world. Why is Benjamin Netanyahu playing nasty?
getty images
Where’s Our Charm? Iranian President Hassan Rouhani continues to present a moderate face to the world. Why is Benjamin Netanyahu playing nasty?

By Yossi Alpher

Published September 25, 2013, issue of October 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Netanyahu, understandably, probably feels that he is almost alone on the international scene in warning of the need to be tough on Iran. And he feels that he’s fighting an uphill battle to hold President Obama to his commitments regarding the ultimate use of force against a nuclear Iran. When he meets Obama on his upcoming trip to the White House, he wants Congress and American public opinion behind his tough stance.

Last year, at the United Nations, Netanyahu drew a red line on a sketch of a bomb. It was a memorable gimmick, but one of doubtful validity: Iran has carefully avoided reaching Netanyahu’s red line of enrichment, yet the country has contrived to advance toward military nuclear capability by other means. Now Netanyahu is presenting a more complete list of demands: a halt to uranium enrichment, removal of enriched uranium from the country, dismantling of the secret Fordow nuclear plant and elimination of a new plutonium track that produces an alternative nuclear explosive to uranium.

Even the conservative IAEA essentially backs up the Israeli case. It accuses Iran of enriching uranium far in excess of its needs for a peaceful nuclear program; of achieving a “break out” ability of a few weeks to obtain weapons-grade uranium; of advancing toward obtaining plutonium, and of working on nuclear weapons designs. Few Israeli or American intelligence officials doubt where Iran is heading.

Netanyahu presumably knows that in a best-case scenario of successful negotiations between Iran and the United States, only a portion of the measures he proposes will be achieved. Another thing he presumably knows is that in return, crippling international sanctions against Iran will be relaxed — yet another reason, he apparently believes, to be tough and unyielding in his approach.

Tough and unyielding, yes. But why the scowl? Why shouldn’t Netanyahu offer, for example, to meet with Rowhani at the United Nations? “You seek a meeting with the Big Satan; how about the Little Satan?” (Rowhani will refuse, but he’ll be put on the defensive.) As the leader of the Jewish people, shouldn’t Netanyahu simply thank Rowhani for his Rosh Hashanah greetings?

Besides taking a “trust but verify” attitude toward Rowhani’s openness, Netanyahu could use the G.A. podium to reiterate Yitzhak Shamir’s very logical condition from 1991 regarding nuclear disarmament: When Israel has peace with all its neighbors, without exception and including Iran, we’ll discuss it seriously. And he could show some flexibility while in New York regarding the Palestinian issue, on which Israel has locked itself into ever-growing international isolation.

Otherwise, Netanyahu’s fears of yet more isolation as a consequence of events in Syria and of the Iranian “smile offensive” will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yossi Alpher is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.