When Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the White House this week, he may wish he was meeting with President Lou Dobbs instead of Barack Obama. The dire warning Netanyahu issued to Americans in his 1993 book, “A Durable Peace,” would have resonated much more strongly with the nativist Dobbs than Obama.
According to Netanyahu, the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would have grave repercussions in the United States, provoking the Latino minority to demand a state of its own in the Southwest — a hostile “second Mexico” that will make Anglos fear for their lives. To avoid this “potential nightmare,” America has only one choice: join Israel in stifling the Palestinians’ national ambitions.
How did Netanyahu justify his seemingly paranoid logic? At the time he published his book (with considerable help from neocon former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, as he notes in his acknowledgments), the Palestinians comprised a bare minority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. For this reason, Netanyahu characterized them as “a minority” no different than the Mexican-American citizens of the US.
In Netanyahu’s view, the Palestinians had stubbornly refused to give up their national ambitions and take up citizenship in Jordan, a move that he claimed would allow them to become resident foreign nationals under Israeli law. He claimed this proved “they were not interested in civil rights…the Palestinians demand unlimited self-determination, with no limitation of potentially destructive sovereign powers.” He called this, “the Palestinian Principle.”
Netanyahu resented international acceptance of the Palestinian demand for statehood, lamenting that “Israel is now being told by virtually the entire world that it must accept a confined and stifling existence on the narrow shoreline dominated by a hostile, Judenrein Palestinian state on these same mountains, the very heart of the Jewish home.” So much for the “two-state solution;” in Netanyahu’s Holocaust-obsessed worldview, Palestinian statehood was a recipe for wide-scale pogroms.
To convince his American counterparts that crushing Palestinian national ambitions was in their best interest, Netanyahu linked Palestinian statehood to American anti-immigrant fears.
On pages 164-165, Netanyahu wrote:
“The United States is not exempt from this potential nightmare. In a decade or two the southwestern region of America is likely to be predominately Hispanic, mainly as a result of continuous emigration from Mexico. It is not inconceivable that in this community champions of the Palestinian Principle could emerge. These would demand not merely equality before the law, or naturalization, or even Spanish as a first language. Instead they would say that since they form a local majority in the territory (which was forcibly taken from Mexico in the war of 1848), they deserve a state of their own. ‘But you already have a state — it’s called Mexico,’ would come the response. ‘You have every right to demand civil rights in the United States, but you have no right to demand a second Mexico.’ This hypothetical exchange may sound far-fetched today. But it will not necessarily appear that way tomorrow, especially if the Palestinian Principle is allowed to continue to spread, which it surely will if a new Palestinian state comes into being.”
Was Netanyahu sincere in arguing that US interests dovetailed with those of Israel? Not really. Later on in his book, in a chapter entitled “Jewish Power,” Netanyahu assailed Israeli policy makers who had attempted to meet American land-for-peace demands, describing them as weaklings bent over in a “submissive posture.”
“It does not cross the minds of these advocates of capitulation,” Netanyahu wrote, “that the task of Israel’s leaders is to try to convince the American government that it is in the interest of the United States to follow policies that cohere with Israeli interests, not vice versa.”
For the Israeli prime minister, his meeting with Obama represents a test of wills, not a negotiation between allies. As Netanyahu wrote, “In international politics, in fact in domestic politics too, strength attracts and weakness ultimately repels.” In his mind, to “convince” Obama is to defeat him. Considering his ravings about the danger of a Palestinian state, his mind may not be functioning on the most rational level.