In the last several years senior Obama administration officials, disagreeing with Israel on many issues, have repeatedly personally lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. In background conversations, these officials have called him everything from "chickenshit" and cowardly to "Aspergery," obtuse, recalcitrant, reactionary and even anti-American.
These accusations are far from the mark. Maybe Bibi is blustering and pompous, even myopic, overly attached to all the settlements and not responding quickly enough to opportunities in the Middle East. But the other issues under dispute -- Jerusalem, the Iranian nuclear program, Islamic fundamentalist groups on Israel's periphery (Hamas in Gaza, jihadists in Sinai, Hizbollah in Lebanon, ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Al Nusra in the Golan Heights) -- worry nearly all Israeli politicians. After all, they are responsible for a tiny state (8,000 square miles) with a small population (6 million Jews) in the midst of the dark hole of the New World Order.
But, "chickenshit" and cowardly? How many Americans have fought as much and as successfully in wartime? Bibi fought in the front lines in the 1969 War of Attrition and 1973 Yom Kippur War where he became a captain in the elite Syeret Matkal special forces. He led his men on dangerous missions often deep in enemy territory in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Bibi even stormed a Sabena airplane seized by terrorists at Lod Airport. There he was shot in the shoulder by the terrorists before they were subdued.
But, obtuse, stupid, slow to understand? Yet, Bibi graduated near the top of his class at MIT while carrying a double load of courses. His MIT advisor remembered, "He did superbly. He was very bright. Organized. Strong. Powerful." And after MIT he was admitted to the Ph.D program in political science at Harvard!
But, recalcitrant? If anything he has been remarkably versatile. He has been a business consultant (Boston Consulting Group), businessman, diplomat (Israeli Ambassador to the United States), cabinet minister (Israeli Foreign Minister and Israeli Finance Minister), military officer (team leader of special forces) and national political leader (twice Prime Minister, leader of Likud Party).
His versatility comes naturally. His father was a highly published (six books) academic who taught at Cornell, Dropsie and Denver. His brother Yoni, a national hero in Israel, was a poet who in July 1976 was killed commanding the Syeret Matkal special forces in the successful operation at Entebbe to free over 100 Israeli captives 2,400 miles from home. His other brother Iddo graduated from Cornell University and is a physician, playwright and author.
But, reactionary? Bibi is many things but also one of two Likud leaders to have uttered those fateful words: a two state solution. Bibi, like Menachem Begin who gave up the Sinai for peace with Egypt in 1979 at Camp David and Arik Sharon who vacated the Gaza Strip and closed four settlements in the West Bank in 2005, is willing to consider trading land for peace.
But, anti-American? Bibi is that rare foreigner who has spent almost 13 years in the United States and speaks English with an American accent. He not only went to college and graduate school in the United States but worked in business here for several years. He is a man who loves America and has spent much time here.
Bibi is many things, not all positive by any means. But, to demonize so accomplished a man leading a democratic state in a region teeming with radical terrorist and fundamentalist groups is much worse than merely attempting to discredit him by making all these ad hominem attacks.
It sends a dangerous message that the United States does not value the only state in the region to stand for American values: democracy, free market, globalized economy, hi tech, independent judiciary and rule of law, an Israel that is often called "America's Fifty-First State."