Thursday, July 09, 2009

Bag Bibi

In Paul McGeough’s Kill Khalid, the author recounts frenetic behind-the-scenes jockeying for US favour, in the wake of the horribly botched and comprehensively bungled Israeli attempt to assassinate Hamas king-pin Khalid Mishal in 1997 in Amman, Jordan.

The only concrete, and not inconsiderable, outcome of the attempted assassination was that Mishal lay in a Jordanian hospital on life support, having been administered a lethal chemical concoction during a farcical street fracas outside his office by Mossad agents, posing as Canadian tourists. But Jordan’s King Hussein, one of Israel’s only two allies in the Arab world, was furious at Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s perfidy, and demanded the formula and antidote for the mysterious chemical agent.

Both the King and ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu “were racing to get the ear” of then-US president Bill Clinton.

After more than a year of Netanyahu’s treachery and deceit and after decades of condescension by some in the Israeli establishment toward his desperate but dignified little kingdom, [Hussein] was going to settle for nothing less than the complete humiliation of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Treachery and deceit? Bibi???

I’m sure Bibi even now is completely unaware of ramped-up settlement construction on the West Bank. As Ant Loewenstein notes, the Israelis presently are building settlements as fast as they can, apparently right under Bibi’s unsuspecting nose. But I digress from McGeough’s pot-boiler account of the hitherto untold dramatic events of 1997...

Like a child who’d over-reached his abilities, Bibi called the White House in Daddy-Come-Fix-It mode. The Clintons, however, were off gadding about the Union, as the First Family is wont to do, so the job of fielding the call from Bibi fell to Clinton’s special envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross.

A breathless and, at times, seemingly incoherent Netanyahu was patched through for what would be a very difficult exchange... Dispensing with any greeting, Netanyahu blurted out his key point: “The king — he’s threatening to cut relations.”

After skilfully divining what was troubling poor Bibi...

Ross was direct — there were no options. “You don’t have a choice, do you? Give him what he wants.” But Netanyahu pushed back. He wanted another solution...

Still in his bed, Ross nearly fell out of it when Netanyahu countered by suggesting that, if King Hussein wanted to save Mishal, he should send him over the river for treatment in a good Israeli hospital. Having dispatched the would-be killers, Netanyahu seemed to believe he might now be trusted to save the victim’s life.

Then the prime minister swung wildly, helplessly in the opposite direction: “But... if we were ready to cooperate, I’m not sure that he would accept our help...”

After some minutes of this pathetic performance, Ross finally asked:

“Did it occur to you that it [the covert assassination] might go wrong?”

After a long silence, Netanyahu replied: “No...”

“How could you be so irresponsible? Don’t you understand how essential the Jordan relationship is for you?” Ross demanded...

At this stage, Netanyahu simply stopped talking.

Dennis Ross prodded further, but...

There was no response from the Jerusalem end. Just silence... Ross was attempting to get Netanyahu to explain why the Israelis believed they had to go after Mishal in Amman. But all that was coming back to him was Netanyahu’s slightly unhinged plea for Washington to extricate him from a mess of his own making.

Seemingly unaware that he was repeating himself, the prime minister resorted to mantra-like repetitions: “Break in relations... Clinton must call the king... Break in relations... Clinton must call the king.”

Astonishingly, that gibbering mass of incompetence remained in office for a further almost two years; and even more astonishingly became prime minister again in February this year.


“Netanyahu appears to be suffering from confusion and paranoia. He is convinced that the media are after him, that his aides are leaking information against him and that the American administration wants him out of office. Two months after his visit to Washington, he is still finding it difficult to communication [sic] normally with the White House.”

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