Bibi’s Ailment

In case you are wondering if Bibi Netanyahu’s fit-pitching over the Iran nuclear program agreement is a typical or even universal reaction based on Israel’s interests and perspectives, you should read today’s account at TAP by the outstanding Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg, who reminds us that Bibi first freaked at the sudden U.S. shift in September from planning an attack on Syria to conducting diplomacy through the U.N. The deal with Iran has aggravated a preexisting condition:

The link between Netanyahu’s reactions in September and now is what could be called Agreement Anxiety Disorder (AAD): a reflexive certainty that any time an antagonist is willing to make an agreement to end or manage a conflict, the deal is a deception. The only safe agreement would be one in which you make no compromises or concessions, so that you are ready to fight the inevitable next round. Since agreements sans compromises are rare, the very thought of making a deal ignites something between panic and fury, and any friend who advises you to accept the agreement is betraying you….

Israelis come by post-traumatic stress honestly. But not everyone is equally affected; far from it. Some people learn from war that you should make peace. For Netanyahu, the Munich Pact reveals where all peace agreements will lead, and the British shutting the doors of Palestine to Jews in 1939 shows great powers must never be trusted. His AAD is so intense it should disqualify him from public office, and at the same time resonates with a significant portion of voters….

With an effort at empathy, one can understand Netanyahu’s anxiety. But Agreement Anxiety Disorder does not lead to good analysis. It doesn’t produce advice that American senators or representatives should accept when choosing their own response to the Iran deal.

It doesn’t really matter what the U.S. does with respect to Israel’s enemies so long as Bibi is in charge: it won’t be the right thing, or enough of the right thing. Everybody just needs to accept that and move along.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.