Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Netanyahu and Obama

by Barry Chamish

Here is a short overview of the Netanyahu-Obama press conference from someone who has attended other such rigged Presidential events in Israel.

We begin in 1978 at the press conference of Prime Minister Begin and Vice President Walter Mondale outside Begin's office in Jerusalem. Back then, the "sophisticated" rigging hadn't begun in earnest and I got to ask Mondale a question. Anwar Sadat had visited Jerusalem the year before and I had followed his tour as a press aide for John Keesler of the Miami Sun. Since then, President Carter made sure that Sadat got everything he demanded and Israel got nothing physical in return.

Now back then I didn't know the game was fixed or that Carter was a member of the Council On Foreign Relations (CFR) or that Mondale was not only a CFR member but also a founding partner of the new sister organization The Tri-Lateral Commission.

If I had only known I would have framed my question differently. What I saw was an ever-smiling dope who clearly despised Begin, but portrayed himself as the friendly uncle here for a visit with his good pal, the leader of Israel. That, I saw through and asked him, "Are you more sympathetic to the Israeli or Egyptian negotiating position?" or words to that exact effect.

Wally dropped his smile, and answered the inexperienced reporter, as if dismissing him outright, "We don't take sides. We are objective."

Yeah, sure you were. Within a year Israel had signed away every inch of the Sinai and received a "peace" treaty abrogated by Egypt in half a generation. Today, Egypt doesn't have to risk its soldiers fighting Israel; it just supplies Hamas with Sinai-smuggled weapons and lets them do the dirty work.

But to understand what Netanyahu had to endure in his conference with Obama, we must go to Yitzhak Rabin's joint press conference in Jerusalem with Pres. Bill Clinton of the CFR. As fate would playfully have it, I made friends at the event with a Canadian Christian journalist, who lived in Samaria, recently departed, Grant Livingstone. After the horrific conference was over, he drove me home and thereafter became a close confident and supporter of my work.

Grant overcame the odds and triumphed before Clinton and the world.

The Oslo "peace" Accord was signed the year before and Rabin, without exaggeration, was thoroughly hated by a majority of his people. And that would have to be hidden at all costs. This press conference was staged to remove all signs of Israeli opposition to Rabin, Clinton and Oslo. I sat in the second row, one row back and two away from Secretary of State Warren Christopher (CFR). I looked at his otherworldly face, noticed his ghastly wingtip shoes, and determined he was an alien from a far off galaxy. Of course, that was my imagination. Only much later did we determine that it was true.

As Rabin and Clinton entered the room, not one Israeli got off his chair, but the entire White House press corps rose to their feet and gave them both an extended and phoney standing ovation, as they must have been instructed to do. These clowns were pre-chosen to be the "reporters" for Clinton's trip.

There were two mikes set up for reporters and I saw two Israel tv hacks stand behind each one. I got the message and stood behind one, second in line behind TV "reporter" Emmanuel Halperin. Grant saw what I did and got up to be third in line. My question would be about the Syrian diplomatic process, and Grant wouldn't tell me what he was planning to ask. So while Clinton and Rabin read their prepared statements, I edited my question to the basics on, as I recall, a found napkin.
Then the press questions began and not one was aimed at the open mikes. Instead, Clinton would point at a reporter, name him, and take the "unexpected" questions. "Yes Mary, do you have a question?" he asked. And the tiny old hag asked, "Yes, Mr. President. How would you characterize your trip so far?" And that was the toughest question he fielded all night. I drifted off as the endless session continued. "Helen Thomas here. Mr. President, how did you sleep last night," I imagined in the blur of trivia.

Rabin was asked one, maybe two questions but I caught what I thought was obvious to everyone. He was drunk. His feet swaggered, he slurred his words, and he held onto the podium for balance. It was a highly disturbing sight. And though it WAS noticed after, no one wrote a word of upsetting journalism about Rabin's drunken performance.
Clinton's arm must have been worn out from fielding marshmallows because finally, he agreed to accept questions from the mike. At the opposite mike, an Israeli reporter threw Rabin a softball. After his longwinded inebriated reply, the conference host announced that the next question would be the last. I turned to Grant and said, "We've been set up."

He pushed Halperin away and asked Clinton, "As a Christian, aren't you afraid of the final price you'll pay for forcing Israel to cede land to murderers?"
Silence, followed by a shocked murmur that spread through the White House "reporters!" Clinton's face turned crimson. Hesitating, he started to answer just as the host announced that the press conference was over. Grant unrigged the show.

The whole nation was watching the conference and as we walked to his car people recognized him, congratulated him and actually applauded him. And not a word was written about the man nor the question that blew apart the choreographed press fiasco of Oslo, Rabin and Clinton.

The Obama-Netanyahu conference was even more staged than this. The room was small, the reporters handpicked and left standing for the cameras, for whatever psychological advantage there is in that. Netanyahu and Obama sat in a one on one "friendly" discussion. Netanyahu was clearly previously threatened and his face was ashen, but Obama was not in a nice mood either.

He wanted to start on giving away the ship to the Palestinians, while Netanyahu desired an Iran first diplomacy. But, he reiterated, Israel will not surprise America with an attack. Like it could. To get to Iran, Israeli planes would have to overfly American-held Iraq, or America's ally Saudi Arabia, at which point it would find itself in a dogfight with the American Air Force. Big concession.

They both stared each other down as each spoke and they found excuses to be in agreement on anything available. But they fooled no one. It's endgame for Israel time and Netanyahu tried to delay Obama's final diplomacy. But so did Begin, and Carter forced him to betray his ideals. But so did Rabin, and Clinton got him to betray Israel's basic security.

Now it's Netanyahu's turn and give it time, Obama will make him betray his country or Israel is doomed to be friendless in this world.

That was the not so rigged message of the Obama-Netanyahu choreographed press conference.


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