On May 19, 2011, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to the United States with a short published agenda: meet with US President Obama ; speak to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); and speak before a joint session of Congress.
On that same day, President Obama gave an unscheduled speech. He announced that the United States endorses a peace plan based on Israel retreating to 1949 borders, ignored the question of Jerusalem—although 1949 borders means a divided Jerusalem—and ignored the question of the Palestinian demand that all Palestinian refugees return to Israel.
If, before arriving in the US, Israelis had questions about the Prime Minister’s courage, his comments after the President’s speech revealed that he (the PM) still had some ‘fight’ in him: during the PM’s Friday meeting with Obama, the day after the President’s speech, Mr Netanyahu flatly rejected going back to 1949 borders and, so far as allowing Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, the PM declared, “it’s not going to happen.”
It was a strong showing for a beleaguered PM. But he is not out of the woods yet. He has several more days to get through before he leaves the US.
Curiously, with everything else he needs to think about, he now has an additional problem: Glenn Beck.
Glenn Beck is an American radio-TV personality who has come out strongly in favor of Israel. This past week, he increased his support: he began talking, not just about assisting one of the US’s last, strongest allies (his words), he began to talk about Jews.
In broadcasts on May 17 and 18, Beck spoke about how the world treated Jews in the years running up to the Holocaust. While discussing how all countries (except for Uruguay)barred Jews from finding safe haven, he quoted one national Western leader as summarizing everyone’s attitude: allowing one Jew into his country was one Jew too many. Beck’s point: that’s why six million Jews were murdered. No one cared. He described how the New York Times, in a 1933 article, treated Hitler with the same care it had just treated the Egyptian crowds in Tahrir Square in February 2011: look how wonderful things are. Okay, there is that ‘Jew-thing’. But other than that, isn’t this wonderful?
Two weeks ago, Beck told a rare studio audience that he spends over a million dollars a year of his own money for personal protection. By defending Jews so aggressively, he may need to increase that budget.
Why is Beck a problem for Netanyahu?
Because Beck is saying what many already see: the US is throwing Israel under the bus. By turning against Israel, Obama endorses the people who stand in crowds all over the Arab world shouting, “Kill the Jew. Kill the Jew”. Finally, as everyone understands, you never have peace when populations and their leaders scream, “Kill the Jew.”
Appeasing people who want to kill does not lead to peace. Forcing Israel into a corner, to negotiate with those killers, does not lead to peace. As Beck said, that only makes the killers more frenzied.
Beck is interesting because he is not Jewish. He does not appear to have any explicitly religious agenda. He is genuinely outraged because he sees Israel as the keystone to the West; bring down Israel, and the West will fall.
And right now, no one cares about Israel.
He uses quotes and film clips of speeches to buttress his case for this connection, and he can be convincing.
The problem for Netanyahu is this: as Israel’s leader, he is supposed to be our biggest booster, the one most articulate defender of who we are, what we stand for, and why our safety would be compromised by any talks with the current Fatah-Hamas leadership. Until his reaction to Obama’s speech on Friday, May 20, he was not doing a very good job. In fact, at one point, in late February, 2011, after the US had to veto a Palestinian attempt at the UN to get Israeli West Bank settlements termed, ‘illegal’, Netanyahu looked positively cowed and intimidated by an angry Obama.
Glenn Beck, a non-Jew, today upstages our own Prime Minister as the most public man willing to defend Israel.
He also has a large following.
He also has a large following.
If Netanyahu does not continue the stance he has presented so far on this US trip, he risks looking absolutely a coward compared to Beck’s outrage.
To the Middle East, being upstaged like this by a non-Jew could be proof-positive that Netanyahu does not have the cojones to lead; Israelis will see it; his Likud voters will see it; and most important, the Arab will see it.
Absolutely nothing good can result from showing himself looking like a coward compared to Beck.
Mr Netanyahu, don’t let Glenn Beck upstage you.