Benjamin Netanyahu's Warning on Iran Falls Flat

No Monica Lewinsky To Ease Pressure on Israeli Premier

Where’s Monica?: A headline-grabbing scandal once bailed an Israeli leader out of a tricky situation during a U.S. mission. Benjamin Netanyahu had no such luck this time.
getty images
Where’s Monica?: A headline-grabbing scandal once bailed an Israeli leader out of a tricky situation during a U.S. mission. Benjamin Netanyahu had no such luck this time.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published October 04, 2013, issue of October 11, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

One of the Marx Brothers — I think it was Karl — once wrote that history has a way of repeating itself, “first as tragedy, then as farce.” He forgot to mention how hard it is to tell which is which.

Case in point: Benjamin Netanyahu’s whirlwind, two-day United States visit at the end of September. The Israeli prime minister was on an urgent mission to halt the seduction of President Obama and other Western leaders by Iran’s silver-tongued new president, Hassan Rowhani. Netanyahu’s plan was to spend September 30 at the White House, convincing Obama and his top aides of Rowhani’s duplicity, and the next day, October 1, appealing to the conscience of the world from the rostrum of the United Nations.

The trouble was, his timing was off. Netanyahu arrived in Washington on the last day of the American fiscal year, at a moment when the eyes of the world were riveted by the Republican kneecapping of the U.S. government. His fulminations in the Oval Office scarcely registered on the Beltway Richter scale. His wakeup call to the world community barely managed to wake up the bored diplomats in the General Assembly hall.

Between the government shutdown and the launch of Obamacare, Bibi’s call to arms didn’t make the front pages.

In a weird way, it’s a repetition of an event in Netanyahu’s history, another mission to Washington that was overtaken by domestic U.S. politics. It was 15 years ago, in January 1998. The prime minister was at loggerheads with President Clinton over a much-delayed West Bank redeployment, or handover of land to the Palestinian Authority.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had signed onto the handover in September 1995, over the furious objections of then-opposition leader Netanyahu. A few weeks later Rabin was assassinated. Netanyahu became prime minister in 1996 and proceeded to stall, infuriating Clinton. Months of tension followed. In January 1998 Clinton finally called him on the carpet.

Netanyahu landed in Washington on January 20 and went directly to the Mayflower Hotel to address a conservative rally led by the Clinton-bashing Rev. Jerry Falwell. The White House was furious. Tensions were at a fever pitch when the president and prime minister met the next morning. Things were no better when they met again that evening.

But in the middle of that meeting Clinton was informed by an aide that the Washington Post was about to break the story of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. The tone of the conversation immediately changed. Pressure on Netanyahu abruptly vanished and he returned home a hero.


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!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • 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.