Netanyahu's 'savage' world view

Netanyahu's 'savage' world view
Comment: Netanyahu's speech at Aipac was revealing more for what it said about how the Israeli prime minister views the world.
4 min read
03 Mar, 2015
Netanyahu describes his neighbourhood as 'savage' at Aipac (AFP)

The clash between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may seem to be about Iran's nuclear programme. But the rift is much deeper and revolves around a fundamental difference in the two men's worldviews.


Obama belongs to a school of thought that believes world affairs are complicated, that for every issue there are shades of grey, and that sweeping generalizations only result in aggravating problems. To Netanyahu, however, things are simple. There are the good guys – us – and bad guys – them.


     It is hard to understand how anyone ... can collaborate with the Israeli prime minister

That is why when Obama strives to differentiate between terrorists from all backgrounds and Islam as a religion, and when Obama looks for friends anywhere he can find them, Netanyahu paints with a broad brush and seeks friends only among those who share his views. Instead of seeking friends, Netanyahu does not mind dumping them, even if those dumped include the president of the United States.


Netanyahu's simplistic view of good and evil is not new. Before him, former President George W Bush saw the world in similar light, uttering his famous statement "you are either with us, or against us." 


And long before Netanyahu told a crowd at the annual conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that in "a dark, savage, and desperate Middle East, Israel is a beacon of humanity, light, and hope," late President Ronald Reagan described America as the world’s "shining city on a hill."


This wholesale dumping of others into a single category of barbarism is a problem that Netanyahu shares with America's Right: both perceive themselves as virtuous people, who live in 'shining' nations, surrounded by darkness and savages.

Thankfully, not all Americans subscribe to such views. When Netanyahu, fortified with Aipac's muscles, tried to shove his opinion down American throats, snubbing the president in the process, a leftist uproar became inevitable and now threatens America’s longstanding bipartisan support of Israel.


Thus, no matter how influential the Israel lobby is, Netanyahu's assault on America's Left might have awakened a long sleeping beast.


Losing America's left for Netanyahu’s petty political gains might prove short-sighted. And by lumping all of the Middle East into one box labelled 'medieval barbarian savages', the Israeli leader assaulted many Arab governments that have either been Washington's strategic partners or have maintained peace treaties and security cooperation with Israel, or both.

And speaking of partners, it might be worth mentioning that for years now, Netanyahu has blamed Palestinians for not being good peace partners. Yet with Netanyahu’s views, it is hard to understand how anyone – other than America's right-wing – can collaborate with the Israeli prime minister.


In his speech at AIPAC, Netanyahu probably felt at home. He let down his guard and let go of diplomacy that might have forced him to say that Israel seeks partners amongst those whom he called barbarians in the Middle East. After all, the Israeli official spoke to a crowd that values vigilantism and violence and views them as the only possible means of interaction with "the other". 


Netanyahu's views at AIPAC were not new. In fact, it is inexplicable how his hate toward Obama and America’s liberals took this long to surface. Netanyahu professed such antagonism in the past when he endorsed Mitt Romney for president in 2012. That unusual step was the precursor of Netanyahu's unabashed intervention in US affairs and his open favouritism of the Right and scorn of the Left.


Perhaps to Netanyahu, it is not even Israel and America versus the world, but rather the right-wings in both countries against everybody else. If these are his lines of delineation, then Netanyahu’s list of friends is very short, and that of his enemies much longer. In such a case, he would need even more bullying and force against all the savages, in America and around the world. Perhaps that is how he thinks the world can become safer for his existence, and more enlightened and hopeful. 

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.