Khashoggi, Netanyahu, and the Washington Post

Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post blasts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not taking a hard line on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Diehl’s op-ed comes as no surprise. The Post hates Netanyahu and Khashoggi wrote op-eds for for the paper.

Diehl is normally a pretty sensible guy. But in this instance his rage has steered him off course. Virtually every paragraph of Diehl’s op-ed is wrong or misguided.

Diehl describes Mohammed as “a latter day version of Saddam Hussein.” That’s ridiculous. Mohammad may have had Khashoggi killed (I assume he did), but he’s no mass murderer. It would be more accurate to describe Mohammad as a later day version of the oppressive Saudi leaders Khashoggi supported and, indeed, worked for. The biggest differences are that Mohammed is a reformer and has been friendlier towards Israel and the U.S.

In the next paragraph, Diehl rips Netanyahu for saying “what happened in the Istanbul consulate is horrendous, and should be duly dealt with [but] it’s very important for the stability of the world. . .that Saudi Arabia remain stable.” Both prongs of this statement are true. Or does Diehl think it’s not important that Saudi Arabia remain stable?

In the next paragraph, Diehl rips Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., for saying we should not “throw out the prince with the bathwater” (not a fortunate turn of phrase because in this affair, at least, the prince appears to be the bathwater). In response, Diehl admits that the Mohammed is at the core of a U.S. strategy for the Middle East that “was going smoothly” until Khashoggi’s murder.

The benefits of that strategy are substantial. Foremost among them, as Diehl acknowledges, is that the U.S. has been able to forge an alliance between Israel and the new generation of Saudi leaders — backed by American muscle — against Iran.

So why abandon this strategy over one killing? Diehl never quite answers this question.

If Mohammed were to lose power over the killing, it would make sense to abandon him. But Diehl admits this isn’t likely to happen. Instead, he says, Mohammed will likely be weakened and won’t be able to help Trump settle the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Considering the very long odds against such a settlement under the best of circumstances, I think we can live with that consequence.

The Israeli-Palestinian dispute will be resolved when these two parties are ready to resolve it. The Saudis have nothing to do with it, whatever Jared Kushner, boy diplomat, might think.

Diehl predicts that a weakened Mohammed will be able to contribute nothing to the anti-Iran coalition except “pumping gas.” Gas plus a stable Saudi Arabia is enough. However, there’s no reason why the Saudis can’t contribute more once the matter of Khashoggi’s murder blows over.

Diehl attacks Netanyahu not just for “throwing a lifeline” to Mohammed, but also for being too close to Trump. Netanyahu “even called out CNN for ‘fake news,'” Diehl complains.

Given CNN’s decades of biased anti-Israel coverage, Netanyahu’s use of that label is more than just an effort to cozy up to Trump. Not that there’s anything wrong with a conservative leader of Israel trying to have a strong relationship with a conservative American leader. Netanyahu wanted good relations with the previous American leader, a left-liberal, but Obama demanded too many concessions to the Palestinians and treated him with contempt.

Diehl attacks one of Netanyahu’s cabinet members for “defending Trump against charges that his support for white nationalism has encouraged U.S. anti-semites.” That’s because Trump does not support “white nationalism,” he supports American nationalism. The charges against Trump are rubbish. Why shouldn’t Israel’s leaders dispute them?

Diehl concludes by warning Israel that aligning itself with Trump will destroy bipartisan support for Israel in America. He notes that, although the older generation of Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, are staunchly pro-Israel, “many of their new rank and file will not be.”

In his last paragraph, Diehl has finally hit upon a truth. Not only are the “new rank and file” Democrats not staunchly pro-Israel, they are not pro-Israel at all.

The American left, which will likely dominate the Democratic party going forward, is pro-Palestinian. Israelis are the oppressor; Palestinians are oppressed “other.”

This thinking has little to do with Netanyahu; it stems from leftist ideology. Obama shared it to a fair degree. That was an important source of the tension between Netanyahu and the former president.

In any event, none of this has anything to do with Khashoggi or the crown prince who had him murdered. Netanyahu could call for Mohammed’s head. Doing so might earn him one positive op-ed piece in the Post before normal Netanyahu-bashing service resumed.

It would count for nothing with the “new rank and file” of anti-Israel Democrats.