Lies, Spin, and Campaign Rhetoric

by Henry Precht

A headline in Monday’s New York Times tells us, “Netanyahu Aides Cite Iran as Source of U.S. Tensions.” Talk about the Great Satan! These coolly analytical aides understand that Tehran is responsible for all the evils that afflict the Middle East and give the US a giant headache. And if we concentrate on worrying about Iran, maybe we’ll forget about the Palestinians.

Former Israeli ambassador David Gold made it clear that the reason for the “cool winds blowing from Washington was Iran, not the Palestinian issue.” Ordinary readers may have thought that Netanyahu’s rejection of a two-state solution made Washington unhappy. How shallow! It was Iran that created turbulence in the region that made it impossible for Israel to accept the concept that lay at the heart of American policy all these many years. We thought Netanyahu bought the two-state formula. Well, he did … but only for Washington’s consumption.

Pity poor Secretary Kerry who spent those many months trying to bring Israel and Palestine to a common agreement on a peace settlement. If he had been smart enough to listen to Israel, he would instead have been laboring to bring regime change to Tehran.

That brings us to the core conundrum of these recent utterances from Jerusalem: Which of these official words are we to believe as accepted positions and which are we to understand as merely campaign rhetoric?

When Netanyahu deplores a high turnout of Arab voters, does he mean it in racist terms? Or are some of his best friends Arabs, and he only wants to assure Likud success in the election by discouraging their participation as voters? Whatever, he said he regretted his statement – about a week after the voting.

Is the prime minister in his heart of hearts truly keen on the creation of a Palestinian state within boundaries he establishes, though to be sure without all the attributes of sovereignty? Or is he playing a game with Washington that relies on an eternally running peace process? (Process without end, Amen.)

Once the prime minister came out of the closet to admit he wasn’t going to play that US-designed role any more, some sharp minds in Israel and the US confessed that they had suspected all along that he was insincere in his commitment to negotiations. He may have misled his public and ours, but the experts were too polite to say so.

Which leads to yet another question: which statements out of Tehran do Israelis and their chums in Washington believe and which do they reject? When Ayatollah Khamenei issues a Fatwa against nukes, why is he not believed? When he says Israel will fade away, why do these experts say he threatens to attack and destroy the Jewish state? When Iranians say they want a nuclear program only for peaceful purposes, why do American and Israeli journalists say that “the world” believes Iran seeks a weapon? These assertions are always made without evidence one way or another.

Why the selective use or rejection of Iranian rhetoric?  Why reverse the meaning of campaign arguments after votes have been cast?  Why reject Washington’s efforts to reach agreement with Tehran on a nuclear program that would best protect Israel from having to wage war? Why not publish openly the figures for campaign donations to American and Israeli politicians from persons and groups who are 100 percent supportive of Israel and thereby remind readers of the influence money buys in our democratic systems?

Now we learn that Israel spied on US-Iran negotiations and passed tidbits to Republicans in Congress to win support against Obama. Israel strongly denies the accusation. Are we to believe our “ally” or our own government?

In 1969, Elliot Richardson was the new deputy secretary of state in the Nixon administration. In a private briefing on the peace process, he asked, “What do you mean by peace? That would be fatal to Israel. The country exists because of the external pressure of an enemy. It’s like a rubber tire: Take away the enemy and the pressure and the country will collapse like a deflating tire.”

Picture: Caricature of Benjamin Netanyahu via flickr and DonkeyHotey 

Henry Precht

Henry Precht, a retired Foreign Service Officer, worked mainly in the Middle East. His assignments included the Arab-Israel Desk after the 1967 war, four years in Tehran as political-military officer, in charge of the State Department Iran Desk during the revolution and hostage crisis, and two tours in Egypt – Alexandria in the 1960s and deputy ambassador in Cairo 1981-85. Precht speaks and writes on the region, and has published a book of short stories, A Diplomat’s Progress.



  1. Well said, Mr Precht, well said. It’s time to cut Israel loose and see which way the tide takes it. It’s too bad that the Israeli citizens who don’t believe the way Netanyahoo & company believe, but then, they’re just collateral damage in the eyes of the hardliners, just as the Palestinians are. If they had the means to leave and could do so, how many would? Run your mouth, at least have the courage to stand behind it, not the morning after denial, that has been the hallmark of the Netanyahoo camp.

  2. Amen Mr. Henry Precht! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your excellent questions.
    I hope that Mr. Obama and John Kerry do take the agreement with Iran to its finality! For once may be we will see a punctured and deflated tire!

  3. Larry Kudlow–
    Don’t just rely on Benjamin Netanyahu’s passionate advice to Congress on his way to reelection that Iran is our archenemy. Now we have the counsel of retired general David Petraeus, who gave a remarkable interview this week to the Washington Post. Petraeus agrees with Netanhayhu: Iran, not ISIS, is the real enemy.//

    It’s all Iran’s fault, the Middle East, global warming, everything. The US policy toward the Middle East, the Carter Doctrine, the foreign military sales, the Fifth Fleet, the Gulf US military installations with their 50,000 troops, would be in a shambles without Iran as the real enemy. It could not be otherwise.

  4. Very true! Russia is no longer a big deal, China wouldn’t survive without us and they need us to buy their manufactured junk daily! So what are we going to do without an enemy? We may not survive without an enemy, let’s create one!!! Bomb… Bomb….bomb… Iran!!!

  5. I have been a life long supporter of Israel. I have been biased in faver of Israel ever since Arab friends at UF in the 60’s revealed Arab intentions to “kill them all” to me. I have always been for fairness and fair dealing for all people. Bibi has now driven me into the arms of the Palastinians and I am trying to get the US to stop blocking efforts ink the UN to deal with the problems there.

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