Netanyahu and Obama Seek “The Truth”

by James M. WallJeru pm residence March 13 Pete Souza:Official White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the United States this week, vowing to expose “the truth” about Iran.

The exposure vow from Netanyahu was just the opening barrage in what is expected to be a four-day visit with ample diplomatic fisticuffs.

Obama spoke last week to the United Nations General Assembly and pledged to turn his attention to a pursuit for peace in the Middle East. Specifically, he said he would focus on resolving the issue of Iran’s nuclear development and finding a path to peace between Israel and Palestine.

In Obama’s UN speech he forcefully pointed to the two issues which will consume his diplomatic energies “in the near term”:

America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab-Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace.

The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic revolution of 1979. This mistrust has deep roots. Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs and of America’s role in overthrowing the Iranian government during the Cold War.

On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy and directly or through proxies taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.

I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight. The suspicions run too deep. But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road toward a different relationship, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

Say this for Obama, he knows how to slip AIPAC’s talking points into the middle of a peace speech. He did so when he said that Americans see an Iranian government that “has declared the United States an enemy and directly or through proxies taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.”

To put the best spin on this statement, we might conclude that Obama is referring to what Americans think about Iran (thanks to Israel’s propaganda that Iran’s primary interest is not its economy but its desire “to wipe Israel off the map”, a false statement.)

Whatever he had in mind by including the misleading, inflammatory bromide that Iran threatens “our ally Israel with destruction”, it was not an appropriate statement for a world leader seeking to bridge a gap that has extended over 34 years.

Look at the facts, Mr. Obama. Iran wants what every other nation wants, a nuclear power system.  Does it want a nuclear arms system? Most likely it does, with one good regional reason.

Israel probably has as many as 200 nuclear war heads.  It has long been understood that nations have no intention of ever using a nuclear bomb. Nukes are deterrents. A nation foolish enough to use one against a nuclear-enemy can expect equal or more response, hence, what kept the peace in the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was MAD, mutually assured destruction.

The irrationality of a small country like Iran building a single bomb and using it to “destroy Israel”,  thereby evoking enough nuclear bombs into Iran to eradicate forever a country that until 1924 was the Persian Empire, staggers the imagination. When Netanyahu spoke Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly. he made  assertions like this sentence from the transcript reported by MJ Rosenberg:

“Today our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction.”

In this one sentence, Netanyahu lays out his full-fledged paranoia, a belief that Iran would commit national suicide because it hates Jews.   He also fails to support his allegation that Iran is “nuclear-armed”. It is not.  Pray for the Israeli people who have reelected a man with these views.

The fact that Netanyahu continues as prime minister of a major industrial power is frightening. Paranoia on a scale this large, with at least 80 nuclear bombs awaiting use, is a major, major argument for eradicating all nuclear arms worldwide.

The New York Times asked veteran diplomat Gary Sick for a comment on Netanyahu’s speech.  Sick was polite but obviously surprised:

Gary G. Sick, a former National Security Council staff member who specializes in Iran and who is now a research scholar at Columbia University, said he saw in Mr. Netanyahu’s speech a somewhat ineffective attempt to abort the momentum that Mr. Rouhani had sought to build.

“He was so anxious to make everything look as negative as possible he actually pushed the limits of credibility,” he said, noting that it seemed incongruous after Mr. Rouhani’s diplomatic overtures and President Obama’s cautious responses. “It really is jarring to see that, the extreme element, and how far he was willing to push it. He did himself harm by his exaggerations.”

The nuclear arms race is the most destructive, immoral, impractical, suicidal components of the world’s military obsessions.  All nuclear arms should all be banned. Unfortunately, in the realpolitik of the 21st century, the chances of a nuclear arm ban are slim to none.

Barack Obama has to be aware of the irrational views of Netanyahu.  So it is that when Obama enters the world political boxing ring, he enters with an 800-pound gorilla on his back, a potent political force that keeps whispering in his ear, “is this good for Israel”?

A gorilla? Yes, a gorilla, which is one way to describe a particular reality whose name must not be spoken, even though it influences whatever is going on in the room of world politics, corporate strategy meetings or a marriage counseling session. The gorilla is always there, but as in the Harry Potter books, his name “must not be spoken”.

The leader of the world’s sole remaining super power functions in politics, domestic and foreign, with no reference to Israel’s political prisoners, its checkpoints, its home demolitions, or its repressive occupation. Because President Obama does not speak “the name” except in the lofty phrase, “our ally”, Obama focuses on Iran’s nuclear program as something that concerns him.

Of course, the nation it really concerns is Obama’s 800-pound gorilla which succeeded in getting Iraq neutered as a troublesome neighbor and is eager to do the same now with Iran and Syria.

Sykes-Picot agreementrIsrael seems to be redrafting the Sykes-Picot agreement originally written at the close of World War I.  It was a plan (shown at left) which two Western diplomats, Sir Mark Sykes, of Great Britain, and Georges Picot, of France, designed to create new Middle East national borders for the benefit of victorious Western colonial powers.

Israel, one of the world’s leading nuclear powers, wants to make the Middle East nuclear-free, with the exception of Israel, of course.

The best way to accomplish this, from Israel’s perspective, is to break up many states into smaller, weaker “tribal states” which would pose no military threat to the reigning Middle East power, Israel.

Obama’s speech did not deal with new borders. Rather he revealed a distressing willingness to provide preferential treatment to Israel in the region:

Since I took office, I’ve made it clear in letters to the supreme leader in Iran and more recently to President Rouhani that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully — although we are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  .  . So these statements made by our respective governments should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement. We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful.

But to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.  After all, it’s the Iranian government’s choices that have led to the comprehensive sanctions that are currently in place. .  .  .

Obama does not call for the abolishment of all nuclear weapons in the Middle East or the world, for that matter, though he has spoken of the need for just such an ideal development.

He only wants to keep Iran from having its own private stash. And to pressure Iran into voluntarily giving up its nuclear ambitions the U.S. government has implemented, along with other world powers, increasingly stringent economic sanctions against Iran.

As a result, Iran’s economy is feeling the pressure. In his speech, which had many positive elements, Obama adopted a parental or empirical tone, telling Iran it had brought those ugly “comprehensive sanctions” on itself.

But I want to be clear. We are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course, and given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government in close cooperation with the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested.

MJ Rosenberg knows that the U.S. and Iran leaders are on the “same page” at this moment in history. He is also a realist who understands Israel’s political ambitions.

Both leaders would like to see the nuclear issue resolved and the crushing sanctions removed. Rosenberg, a former AIPAC staffer who long ago departed from AIPAC’s clutches, writes about the thawed U.S.–Iranian relationship:

This is a major breakthrough – as anyone who has paid even a little attention over the past 34 years knows.

However, I do not see this process leading anywhere because the Netanyahu government and its lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are determined to end the process and they have the ability to do it.

They intend to use the United States Congress to cause Rouhani to abandon negotiations by making clear that Congress will accept nothing short of an Iranian surrender on nuclear issues. Unlike President Obama who wants to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is not used to produce weapons, the lobby, which writes the laws imposing sanctions on Iran, insists that Iran give up its nuclear program entirely.

AIPAC listed its demands in a statement last week. Its bottom line is this:

Congress must not consider lifting economic sanctions until the Iranians stop uranium enrichment, stop work on installing new centrifuges, allow international inspection of nuclear sites, and move out of the country its stockpile of highly enriched uranium. In contrast to the administration which, recognizing that Iran (like every other country) has the right to nuclear power for peaceful purposes, AIPAC says that Iran has no such right. (Israel, of course, has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons but, hey, that’s different.)

Not only that, if Iran does not agree to total nuclear surrender, “The United States must support Israel’s right to act against Iran if it feels compelled—in its own legitimate self-defense—to act.”

In his essay for Foreign Policy, “Maximum Bibi”, Daniel Levy writes about the new Iranian leader who gives strong signals that he is ready to negotiate the nuclear issue:

This debate has taken on a new urgency given the diplomatic opening seemingly created by the election of Rouhani. It is no secret that Netanyahu has been dragged out of his comfort zone by the possibility of a U.S.–Iran rapprochement. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s aggressive and insulting behavior made him a convenient adversary for Israel; Rouhani and his diplomatic team, notably polished Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, present a challenge of a very different order of magnitude. 

Levy clarifies the obvious: Ahmadinejad, who has a Tea Party “shoot from the mouth” political style, enjoys the limelight as a troublemaker. Israel’s talented propagandists took advantage of Ahmadinejad’s barnyard strutting, and gleefully made him the face of all things Iranian.

Ahmadinejad was easily Israel’s favorite leader.  He was tailor-made for generating the Israel-as-victim trope.

But today, Ahmadinejad is old news. Better that we focus this week on President Obama who wants to revolve conflict without war, facing off against Prime Minister Netanyahu, who wants to shove the U.S. into yet another Middle East war, for Israel’s benefit

Sykes-Picot was a colonial, exploitative agreement that guaranteed instability in the Middle East for generations to come. Reshaping the same region for Israel’s benefit would be nothing less than Sykes–Picot Redux.

The picture above of President Obama (right) and Prime Minister Netanyahu was taken at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 13, 2013. It is an official White House photo taken by Pete Souza.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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13 Responses to Netanyahu and Obama Seek “The Truth”

  1. Helen Marshall says:

    Just a simple straight-up lie…the entire US intelligence community plus many significant Israeli officials have said for YEARS that there is no evidence that Iran is “pursuing nuclear weapons.” Does this president not know this or simply ignore it to please the right-wing Israeli government?? And when will a US president call for Israel to adhere to the NPT? Now that he cannot run again, you might think that honor would triumph over AIPAC, but apparently not.

  2. Fred says:

    Let’s face it folks, the real leader of US mideast policy has been Netanyahu, through the voice of AIPAC. Our mainstream media is complicit because they give out Israeli talking points and they censure information. We never hear from them about Israel’s nuclear arsenal that can annihilate Iran, and that Israel refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and was the only country in the region to say No to a Mideast Nuclear Free Zone.

    Who is the nuclear threat in the region? The facts say it is Israel and not Iran, but who would ever know it in this country if they listened to our propaganda mainstream media and our government? And so it goes.

  3. John Kleinheksel (Rev) says:

    Again Jim, right on target with your insights. What the “international community” has to put up with at the UN and in the world! And the US goes out on the limb for “our ally”, more and more isolated all over the world.
    One of these days a little boy will announce to the crowd: “But the emperor has no clothes!” and there may be a huge tide sweeping the opposite way. And a Pharoah may come to power who “did not know about Joseph” (Ex 1:8). And the US backlash will leave “our ally” even more friendless. Our nakedness will also be exposed. And there will be no place to hide.
    Thanks for pointing out the rank hypocrisy and blatant exaggerations of Netanyahu and his syncophants in the US Congress egged on by AIPAC. To demand the Iranians give up ALL nuclear enrichment is preposterous.
    And Obama keeps mouthing the Israeli position while seeking to begin something with the new man in Teheran. Of course Rouhani is beholden to the Ayatollah, but let’s see where diplomacy leads. With Bibi sowing seeds of distrust, duplicity and disrespect, there may be no good harvest; for a long time.

  4. Samia Khoury says:

    An excellent article as usual James. And I fully agree with Rev. John Kleinheksel “right on target.” The tone of arrogance in which the Prime Minister of Israel addressed the UN regarding Iran, one would think that Israel is a nuclear free country when in reality it is the only nuclear country in the Middle East region.

  5. Jim, as always, you are unmatched in providing relevant historical context and up-to-the-minute news. I thank you.

    It is sad that Mr. Obama finds himself boxed in by the Zionist Lobby to the extent that he must prevaricate: e.g., “…Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons…”; “…and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.”

    As for Iran, Obama referred obliquely to the 1953 coup that set the stage for all the decades of turmoil and recriminations (not to mention, from my taxpayer seat, the enormous COSTS of those endless deployments of as many as three-at-one-time aircraft-carrier battle groups standing off the coasts of Iran). But I really could only figuratively throw my shoe at my monitor and scream “Hypocrite!” when I read “… an Iranian government that has …killed U.S. …civilians….” Can Obama possibly not recall the USS Vincennes’ destruction of an Irani CIVILIAN jetliner in 1988 that killed 290 CIVILIANS? What if Iran had shot down a US airliner from an Irani warship stationed off a U.S. coast?…one need not bother to wonder at the massive retaliation (war) that would have resulted. If I were an Irani patriot, or relative or friend of any one of those 290 CIVILIANS, I would never forgive and forget…and, as I recall, the captain of the Vincennes was awarded a medal for his valor.

    Another random thought as I read through Jim’s tour de force: Former Irani President Ahmadinejad has been thoroughly thrashed and demonized for years (we Americans seem to need at least one demon at any point in time to convince ourselves that we are “exceptional”). I’d not be surprised if this fact has “disappeared from the pages of (USrael) time,” but I specifically recall the existence of, and I actually read word for word, an 18-page letter from Ahmadinejad to GWBush (I’ll guess 2005). It was written in flowery, Muslim-culture style, but I agreed with many of its points and felt that it was rational and deserving of major, objective attention at the highest levels of the US government. Instead, I never again heard of the existence of that outreach from one president to another. What if there had been no Zionists, no neocons in the NSC or State Department; what if a cautious reachout-in-turn had been initiated? Might not today’s fraught global situation, when a U.S. president is forced to lie before the world, have been replaced by a sane and sustainable tangent toward peace and the deZionization of America?

    Meanwhile, the ever-brave Palestinians cling to their against-all-odds hope for justice and a measure of dignity despite the vilest efforts of Netanyahu, his thugs, and The Lobby to distract and divert the eyes of the world away from them….

  6. Urbane Peachey says:

    Here is what I sent to New York Times today in response to the NYT Board article on PM Netanyahu’s speach at the UN.

    Mr. Netanyahu, You do not make the policy of the United States.
    We do. The violent UN address by Mr. Netanyahu was inappropriate.

    Nixon went to China. Reagan went to Moscow. Surely there is a credible diplomatic path for President Obama, and he should be supported. The 30 plus years of hostility between the US and Iran is untenable. Iran’s past grievances against the
    U. S. need to be taken just as seriously as we expect Iran to consider U. S. grievances. Mr. Netanyahu’s tirades and the uninformed ideologues in the U. S. congress are the best guarantee that Iran will develop nuclear weapons.

    The U. S. and Iran have shared interests and that should be the focus going forward, not only Iran’s nuclear intentions. The language of threat needs to be taken off the table and replaced by pursuit of shared interests. Shared interests include stability in the Persian Gulf, security and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, dealing with threats from terrorist groups, open economic trade and educational exchange between countries in the wider Middle East and trade and educational exchange between Iran and the U. S.

    Finally, the resources of AIPAC should be tapped to explore a constructive path on all the above issues, instead of perpetuating uncomprehending threats. AIPAC
    should be asking U. S. congress for a constructive settlement of issues. It is time to end the hostilities between Iran and the U. S.

  7. Tom Cook, Jr. says:

    Jim, Again, Natanyahu has returned to mix up another batch of “Neo-kosher Cool Aid” for AIPAC’s dispensers. In terms of the Oklahoma City bombing, he, in effect would ban all use of nitrogen bearing fertilizers because they could be used to make bombs –never mind the primary agricultural use. And, is it too paranoid to see some sub-rosa activity in the government shutdown and error-ridden launch of Obamacare addressed in the Rose Garden? The not so subtle joke about Tel Aviv being the capital of the USA looms its grinning head!

  8. Chris Wheeler says:

    Let’s face it folks, the real leader of US mideast policy has been Netanyahu, through the voice of AIPAC.

    Right, the “all-pwerful” AIPAC. Sure. The fact of the matter is 8 UNSC resolutions have been passed since 2006. That means a few other important countries are concerned with Iran’s possible military use of the nuclear program and have concurred that Iran needs to produce answers.

    The countries include ALL 5 permanent members including Russia, and China.

  9. Chris Wheeler says:

    James M. Wall said:

    In this one sentence, Netanyahu lays out his full-fledged paranoia, a belief that Iran would commit national suicide because it hates Jews. He also fails to support his allegation that Iran is “nuclear-armed”.

    Mr. Wall,

    Make up your mind 😉 You and your Iranian friends spend all your days and nights praying for the end of Israel and you have the creepy audacity to call Netanyahu “paranoid”? I think your Israelophobia is the real paranoia here if you ask me.

    Netanyahu’s speech was write on and the applause from the assembly was proof of that.

    Let’s see if this post gets through the “censor”.

  10. Mr. Wheeler, you’re an embarrassment to humanity. But you do provide some comedic relief. “…creepy audacity…”? Give us a short break!

    Your post got through the “censor”! Congratulations!

    Please check me for proper English as I checked your next-above screed: “Netanyahu’s speech was write on…”?! Write on, sir, but you’re not right on or spot on by any grammatical or geopolitical or human means.

    (Oh — then there’s “all-pwerful” in your first post above, also not censored…. Yes, AIPAC is as close to “all powerful” as it gets in Israel-Occupied WashDC.)

    Viva Iran! Viva Palestine!

  11. David Timm says:

    We all (sort of) know of the satellite intel agency in the {Pentagon tht was run by Douglas Feith, Under Sec Def and labeled (1) by General Tommy Frank: “The dumbest M – F on Earth”; (2) by Colin Powell: “a Card Carrying member of Likud; and (3) by Powell’s COS, Col. Larry Wilkerson “Totally incompetent”. What is NOT common knowledge is that on weekends prior to our Shock & Awe, Feith hustled Israeli agents in and out of the Pentagon with no sign-ins and no accountability. (Pentagon? After 9/11? No security?) In that we had virtually NO human intelligence or other intel boots on the ground in Iraq, this is undoubtedly the source of our “slam dunk certainty” of Iraq’s having WMD’s and close ties with Al Qaida . . . And most probably this was the the needed verification of the absurd, bogus intel gleaned from “Curveball” which served as grounds for our outrageously brutal attack on the Iraqi People and our destruction of their culture and infrastructure.

    We are nothing more in the Middle East than Israel’s “hew-ers of wood and draw-ers of water.” First Iraq, next Syria, then Iraq and, finally Egypt! Where does it end?

  12. Chris Wheeler says:


    Thank you for checking my spelling. I should get in the habit of using a spell-check.

    But let me know if you want to discuss ideas, because your favorite Middle East regimes: Iran and Palestine have a long way to go in terms of promoting human rights. If the theocracies of Iran and Hamas spent their money on their own people instead of clamping-down on their basic human rights and the funding of international terrorism, you might have a point. And because Iran and their lackeys in Lebanon, Hezbollah are wasting their hard-earned cash propping up the Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad, now Israel doesn’t look as bad as most Syrians thought. Thanks to your your theocratic shia friends, Israel is forging closer in the larger arab community.

    “Embarrassment to humanity” LOL.

    “Where does it end?”

    David Timm,

    My guess is it ends when most Middle East governments become democratic and free. The myth of the Israeli-arab conflict has been exposed, as the arabs and muslims continue to kill themselves and not the Jooish bogeyman.

  13. Chris Wheeler, the best spell-checker on the planet won’t help you with “write” vs. “right.” You’ll simply have to be more careful of your English.

    You’re too far out in left field for me to attempt to address all of your rantings, but I’ll try with these items:

    –Iran’s theocracy is as it is because of American/British colonialist and economic-warfare meddling centered on 1953. Iran would be a vibrant democracy were it not for that inconvenient fact of history and its ensuing trauma (read Shah, for starters). But if this doesn’t “catch” you, I won’t belabor the issue; your obtuseness leaves you…out in left field. More recently, an ominously similar act of meddling afflicted Hamas and the general population of Palestine (then the illegally Occupied Palestinian Territories): it was democratically elected in 2006 to govern Palestine, but the joint USraeli machinations then and ever since have quite understandably driven it into a corner more commonly referred to as the world’s largest prison or, as it were, concentration camp.

    –You like to toss around Wiki, presumably as “authority” buttressing your biases. I offer only these two sites today for your earnest (or not) perusal: . This url contains the English version; you can find it in Hebrew or other languages as you wish. In any language, Kairos Palestine expresses, in the holy manner of “Jesus Christ” Christianity, the endless decades of torment suffered excruciatingly by the Christians and their brother Muslim patriots of Palestine. . This is an eight-page tour de force by Max Blumenthal. For your convenience, I’ve selected the single-page-consolidated display. At the conclusion of Mr. Blumenthal’s revelatory and disturbing report (and by linking together similar intelligent analyses), one can only reason that the Zionist state of Israel is an unholy mix of scary theocracy, ethnocracy and military oligarchy (am I missing other fitting descriptions?). The “only democracy in the Middle East” is merely in the minds of those fixated on the word “democracy” itself, repeated over and over, and a nominal, self-serving structure that doesn’t hold up to any serious scrutiny.

    Mr. Wheeler, if you had a dollop of humanity, you’d see, feel shame and embarrassment, and empathize with the unjustly treated, persecuted, oppressed, offered-no-dignity, and illegally occupied people of Palestine.

    Viva Palestine!

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