Age of Hysteria: The Reel Story Behind Mr. Netanyahu Going to Washington
by GIDON BEN-ZVI
March 3, 2015
There is a deliciously cinematic quality to the entire speechgate drama. Prominent pro-Israeli lobby groups have attempted to frame the scene as something out of Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" movie: a noble, far sighted, embattled president vs. a rude, uncouth, divisive Israeli leader who is little more than a mouthpiece for a cabal of grim, narrow-minded, manipulative Republicans.
In fact, the lead-up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress on March 3 more closely resembles the plot to "The Karate Kid."
Much like Daniel LaRusso, the Israeli premier has drawn the ire of J Street, the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC and other members of the pro-Israel Iobby -- let's call them the Cobra Kai -- by cozying up with someone considered to be off-limits.
In "The Karate Kid," Daniel starts dating Ali Mills, an attractive high school cheerleader who happens to be the ex-girlfriend of the arrogant Johnny Lawrence. In real life, Netanyahu has seemingly abandoned Israel's traditional American allies by cultivating a growing list of conservative Democrats, American rabbis, and Christian pro-Israel groups.
Indeed, the shrill reaction of some self-proclaimed pro-Israel political lobby groups to an Israeli leader who has the temerity to not kowtow to its wishes brings to mind a line from Bob Dylan's "Tombstone Blues": "The hysterical bride in the penny arcade. Screaming she moans, 'I've just been made.'"
Back to the movie. Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang torment Daniel repeatedly, savagely beating him until the wise and wonderful Mr. Miyagi intervenes and single-handedly defeats the attackers with ease. Amazed, Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi to teach him to fight.
Over the last few days, a real-life hero and sage has stepped in to defend Netanyahu from the unremitting onslaught of supposed pro-Israel advocates in the United States who claim that the greatest national security issue of our time -- the inking of a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran -- should not be open to debate.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has taken out full-page ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post, warning President Barack Obama not to sign an agreement with Iran that would allow it to develop its nuclear program.
In addition, Wiesel has implored Obama to "put aside the politics that have obscured the critical decisions to be made. Surely it is within your power to find a solution that will permit Israel's prime minister to deliver his urgent message. Will you join me in hearing the case for keeping weapons from those who preach death to Israel and America?"
In "The Karate Kid," Miyagi proposes that Daniel enter the All-Valley Karate Tournament, where he can compete with Johnny and the other Cobra Kai students on equal terms.
On March 3, Netanyahu will enter another lion's den of sorts: a United States Congress where a growing list of Democrats are threatening to boycott the Israeli leader's speech.
This real-life drama will have one of two endings.
If successful, Obama, with the support of America's "pro-Israel" groups, will turn America's Israel policy into a partisan issue after nearly a century of bipartisan congressional consensus.
Or, the American public will protest, using a scissor leg technique to trip up an Obama administration Middle East policy that strayed far from the American consensus.
The secret to how this story will end lies in the hearts and minds of America's good and decent citizens, not in the hands of a few unaccountable pro-Israel lobbyists who are, despite loud protestations to the contrary, merely carrying water for the Obama administration.
Gidon Ben-Zvi is an accomplished writer who left behind Hollywood starlight for Jerusalem stone. As a 'returning resident,' Gidon has vivid memories of playing hooky from Rene Cassin High School while strolling through Ammunition Hill. After serving in an IDF infantry unit for two-and-a-half years, Gidon returned to the United States, where he embarked on a twelve-year run of half-baked careers and wholly misguided educational pursuits. Today, Gidon is happily entangled to the prettiest, sweetest girl in Israel. The mildly unhinged Ben-Zvis aspire to raise a brood of children who speak English fluently - with an Israeli accent."