In the sixth of his reality-based fictive dialogue series, Al Jazeera’s Senior Political Analyst Marwan Bishara details a phone call between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US House Speaker John Boehner – 10 days before the Israeli leader’s controversial speech.
JB: Shalom Bibi, nice to hear from you.
BN: Hello John.
JB: Did you get permission from the president to call me?
BN: That’s funny, if only it weren’t so tragic. He probably expects me to. What chutzpah!
JB: You seem to be under much pressure, elections and all.
BN: Between Obama’s attacks, and attacks on my wife, my patience is running out.
JB: I heard that the Israeli media is after Sara for overspending. Not even the liberal media here goes after a politician’s takeout and make-up bills!
BN: Tell me about it; there’s nothing I can do to change her or the liberal media.
JB: I read in Vanity Fair that Sara is “running the show” in Israel, and that “she can make or break anyone”. Oh, man! Is that true?
BN: Yeah right, like you read that fashionable pop culture mag.
BN: Look, your wife Debbie says: ‘I’m just going to do whatever I can to stay OUT of the way.’ But my Sara says: I’m just going to do whatever I can to stay IN the way.
JB: Oh, so you read my profile too.
BN: Yes, of course. I am impressed by how someone like you can be a janitor and years later become the Speaker of the United States’ House of Representatives. Amazing. Only in America. And Israel.
JB: And you know, I am the third ranking man in Washington, but Debbie still works as a cashier at a flower shop.
BN: Oh, not my wife, she’s high maintenance. Sara is like your tan; I need her; she completes me, even if she brings me ridicule.
JB: I hear you.
BN: Our liberal media is mean and has been after me and Sara since we married almost 25 years ago. Come to think of it, I was deputy foreign minister then, when Obama was a troublesome student. But now he’s the darling of the liberal media. Obama is a media invention. And they say I’m a media creation!
JB: But at least you’ve got American billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Ronald Lauder on your side, buying into Israel’s popular media outlets, Israel Hayom and Channel 10.
BN: They’re more right-wing than Likud and more anti-Palestinian than yours truly.
JB: So cheer up, you’re coming to speak to both houses of Congress for the third time. You’re making history.
BN: Yeah, but as you can see the plot thickens against me; even Joe Biden, the self-declared Zionist, says he has a previous engagement and can’t make it. Kerry is also leaving town all of a sudden and won’t even attend the AIPAC meeting!
JB: As if the vice president does anything meaningful. He’s as hilarious as what’s her name in the TV comedy, the Veep.
BN: But the White House is putting so much pressure that Israel’s friends and even neo-cons like Robert Kagan and others are saying we made a mistake and are asking me to back out or cancel. Sometimes I feel all my friends have either betrayed me or will betray me.
JB: Now that sounds like paranoia…
BN: Even the friendly US media is calling our deal, “less like a masterstroke than a singularly destructive unforced error”.
JB: Hey, if you have second thoughts we’ll cancel. But that won’t be wise. Stop reading the press.
BN: Of course not, offence is the best defence in these times. I just told the media that I knew all about the terrible nuclear deal they’re reaching. Obama is furious.
JB: Once you get here and make the speech, the noise will subside. If all goes well, Republicans and Likud will govern for a long while. Did you know that 87 out of the 96 new members of Congress are Republicans?
BN: Speaking of Congress, what about the petition to postpone or boycott the speech?
JB: Don’t worry. Twenty-three have sent me a letter of objection. It doesn’t change anything. With Muslim Congressman Keith Allison championing it, it won’t have much credibility or popularity.
BN: I don’t know any more; it sounds to me like the commander-in-chief is actually the ‘Muslim-in-chief’ nowadays.
JB: Yeah, well, we suspected Barack Hussein was really a closet Muslim from the start.
BN: Seriously, he’s defending Muslims and Islam as if the terror and terrorists haunting us everywhere are a figment of our imagination; as if there’s nothing Islamic about them.
JB: Yeah, as if they’ve come from Mars. Look, he’s just covering his tracks, trying to be original and above the fray.
BN: Original? Oh, no. More like delusional or opportunistic. He’s trying to be politically correct and please all these Arabs and Muslim partners of his.
JB: It won’t get him anywhere, he’ll be back in the same corner come summer time; he’s marching in place.
BN: I hope you are right. Because referring to Islamic terrorism as ‘violent extremism’ is a total distortion of reality – an insult to our intelligence.
JB: Pretty soon he’s going to be a lame duck president that no one takes seriously as we the Republicans control both Houses of Congress, with only 20 months to new elections.
BN: But Obama has been making new policies like on Cuba, and issuing new executive orders like on immigration.
JB: These are details and they could be rolled back or bypassed once we get another Republican into the White House. My question: Are you going to be in office come end of March?
BN: They don’t refer to me as ‘Putinyahu’ for nothing; like the Russian president, I am not going anywhere any time soon. Haven’t you heard? I am the new King David, or so says the Evangelical head of ‘Christians for United Israel’, Pastor Hagee.
JB: As a Catholic, I tell you some of these Evangelicals are total nuts.
BN: But we need their support. They’ve been very helpful to us in Congress too.
JB: And that’s why I want you to come here and expose the naivete and recklessness of the president.
BN: He’s a hypocrite … and they call me hypocrite! You know, he’s probably calculating that sweet-talking Islam and Muslims, and coordinating with Tehran on Iraq and Syria, could appease the ayatollahs into making a deal.
JB: The Iranians are far savvier than to be manipulated by Islamic cheerleading. But coordination with them on ISIL and Assad is reckless.
BN: I am fine with Assad staying. It’s better for our security. He’s guarded the peace on the Golan for 40 years. What worries me is that Obama is ready to sign any deal, make any compromise.
JB: He’s searching for a legacy in foreign affairs when all else has failed.
BN: And the ayatollahs know that and will squeeze him to the end, in order to maintain the enrichment capacity to produce a bomb when that suits them.
JB: That would be catastrophic.
BN: I have an idea.
JB: You’re not going to spy on the White House are you?!
BN: What makes you think we don’t already?
JB: That’s not funny. Is that why you say you know the details of the nuclear negotiations? I don’t want to hear about it.
BN: Look, first we try to convince Congress and the American people of the danger of an Obama deal with Iran in order to put pressure on the administration to back off. But what if that doesn’t work?
JB: Go on.
BN: Do you remember how in 1980, the Reagan’s team reached a secret deal with the ayatollahs that delayed the release of the American hostages until after the elections to humiliate Carter into defeat?
JB: I remember hearing about it. But it didn’t actually happen, did it?
BN: Well let’s try to intimidate/convince the Iranians not to make a deal with Obama by threatening to annul it after the elections. We convince them to wait until the next Republican president takes office.
JB: But that means making promises about a deal over their nuclear programme.
BN: We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Like Reagan, we can make sure it eventually works to our advantage somehow.
JB: You mean like with the Iran Contra affair or something like it.
BN: We could find back channels to work with the Iranians mostly covertly – they prefer it blurry to maintain a radical posture domestically – but effective enough to pressures the Arabs into submission in Palestine and the Gulf.
JB: But that’s just an idea, right? We are still trying to convince Washington and Congress in particular to vote for more sanctions and overturn a presidential veto if need be.
BN: Yes, but we also have other interesting ideas if that doesn’t work.
JB: More radical! Are you kiddin’ me?
BN: We don’t kid about our survival. Obama better watch out.
JB: I don’t know and don’t want to know what that even means; see you next week.
BN: Ha ha.
Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.