Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Opponents of

Benjamin Netanyahu,

Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, have worked for more than a quarter-century to tarnish his image in the U.S. and around the world.

In 1996, when Israelis first elected him to put a brake on a dangerous Oslo process, Mr. Netanyahu was depicted as an enemy of peace. For three years, his opponents insisted that if only Israel were rid of Mr. Netanyahu, it could make peace with

Yasser Arafat.

They were wrong.

Ehud Barak

defeated Mr. Netanyahu in 1999 and offered Arafat sweeping concessions at Camp David a year later. Instead of peace, Israel got scores of suicide bombings and the worst wave of Palestinian terrorism in its history—the so-called second intifada in which more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered.

That was followed by Prime Minister

Ariel Sharon’s

2005 decision to withdraw from Gaza. Just as Mr. Netanyahu predicted, Israel’s unilateral concession led only to further aggression. Hamas, a genocidal terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction, took over Gaza and turned it into a base from which thousands of missiles have been fired at Israeli cities.

Mr. Netanyahu returned to the premiership in 2009. The preceding bloody decade should have made it obvious to all that Palestinian leaders didn’t want peace. But Mr. Netanyahu was scapegoated again. Now

Mahmoud Abbas

was cast as a peacemaker instead of Arafat, who died in 2004. While few Israelis believed such nonsense any longer, many foreign policy makers did, including key officials in the Obama White House.

This time, another element was added to the demonization of Mr. Netanyahu: American partisan politics. Not only was he cast as an enemy of peace; he was accused of being a Republican. His critics portrayed his legitimate opposition to a Democratic president’s dangerous Middle East policies as an illegitimate effort to intervene in American politics.

They cast every disagreement with President Obama as evidence. When Republican presidential nominee

Mitt Romney

visited Israel in 2012, the prime minister hosted him exactly as his predecessor,

Ehud Olmert,

hosted Candidate Obama in 2008. Nevertheless, Israel’s leader was accused of taking sides in the U.S. election. I was subjected to the same libel and falsely labeled a “former Republican operative.”

In 2015, Mr. Netanyahu spoke to Congress against Mr. Obama’s proposed deal with Iran. The man responsible for the security of the world’s only Jewish state spoke against a disastrous deal that paved a path to nuclear weapons for a regime that vows and works to destroy Israel. His petty defamers shamefully cast it as a partisan attack on Mr. Obama.

It didn’t matter to them that Mr. Netanyahu had taken on Republican presidents when he believed their policies endangered Israel. That was true in 1990, when Mr. Netanyahu was deputy foreign minister and Secretary of State

James Baker

banned him from the State Department for his fierce criticism of

George H.W. Bush’s

Middle East policy. It was true in 2002, when Mr. Netanyahu forcefully opposed

George W. Bush’s

demand that Israel immediately withdraw its military forces from Palestinian areas in the West Bank days after it had launched an operation to dismantle the Palestinians’ terror infrastructure.

During the Trump administration, as America became even more polarized, the demonization of Mr. Netanyahu intensified. When he commended President Trump for withdrawing from the Iran deal, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the critics asserted that he was helping a fellow Republican. Never mind that Mr. Trump’s decisions were popular across Israel’s political spectrum.

Most recently, Mr. Netanyahu’s defamers have claimed that his criticism of a small right-wing Israeli party that broke an election-eve promise by uniting with the left-wing bloc to form a new government is tantamount to what Mr. Trump did in the runup to the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Yet Mr. Netanyahu never said that the Israeli election in March was conducted fraudulently. He said that certain Israeli politicians made fraudulent promises to voters. More important, he made it clear that “there is no question about the peaceful transfer of power.”

The demonization of Mr. Netanyahu says more about his critics than about him. He was never an enemy of peace; he understood that his critics were dangerously naive. By rejecting their ideas and following a path of peace through strength, his policies not only brought Israel the safest decade in its history; they also brought peace agreements and normalization with four Arab states.

Mr. Netanyahu is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. He is an Israeli patriot who has opposed the policies of even our greatest friends when he thought those policies endangered Israel.

I have no doubt that in the years ahead, Benjamin Netanyahu will continue to be demonized. But I am equally certain, and immensely grateful, that he will continue to defend Israel and use his prodigious talents, as he always has, to enable our remarkable country to achieve security, prosperity and peace.

Mr. Dermer served as Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., 2013-21.

Main Street: The long-expected migration of Latino voters to the GOP may finally be starting and it’s in part thanks to the Democrats’ leftward lurch. Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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By rahul