Political Culture: Netanyahu’s speech, Obamacare subsidy case, and Nemtsoy murder are fruits of bad culture
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to a joint session of Congress has sparked heated debates throughout the US, Israel, and around the world. Although politicians like to add an emotional spin to their policies and political planks in order to persuade people through emotion rather than substance, the reality is that politicians act based on what they calculate to be in their best interests. Where the “emotions” surrounding the GOP’s breach of diplomatic protocol is exaggerated by pundits and political leaders who believe they can gain something from exploiting the situation, the underlying issues in play tell far more about the follies of the political world than anything else.
In truth, Netanyahu is using the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans in order to pressure Democrats to increase their support for Israel, even if Israel needs criticism for its crushing mistreatment of the Palestinian People. The Israeli government has done this for decades. If they had not been so successful at it, the United States would have long ago scolded Israel for its hardliner policies toward the Palestinians. In turn, Republicans are using Netanyahu to discredit President Obama and members of his Party, because many Republicans continue to live in that would where criticism of Israel can cost people their jobs and lead to unrelenting political backlash.
That said, hurt feelings have nothing to do with the controversy surrounding Netanyahu’s speech. In fact, the speech has little to do with US foreign policy concerning Iran’s nuclear program. Should Israel manage to derail negotiations with Iran, Iran will move to aggressively pursue the development of nuclear weapons. Should Iran reach a nuclear deal with the United States and the rest of the West, which Israel feels is a bad deal, Israel has the choice to sabotage Iran’s efforts or launch a unilateral attack. While the latter scenario leaves Israel to act against the rest of the world with whatever backlash may follow, it does open the country of Iran up to increased Western intervention, i.e. increased scrutiny.
The most important issue in play for Israel is, however, diminishing US tolerance for Israel’s hardliner policies. Netanyahu is a politician, so it is safe to assume he is using his speech to garner support for upcoming elections in Israel. There is a growing political divide in Israel when it comes to what strategy will ensure US support. As someone on the Right, Netanyahu must convince voters that the only way to deal with outside threats is by crushing them and the US will support what it takes to ensure Israel’s safety. Given globalization and democratizing dynamics of the Middle East, those who believe otherwise are gaining credibility while shifting attitudes toward Israel in the US are adding to their argument.
What makes this entire situation truly problematic is that this political culture, which can be seen in all governments around the world, is built on serving the political agendas of the few instead of developing constructive policies for the benefit of the many. Looking at the King v. Burwell case before the Supreme Court, the ill-written language of the Affordable Care Act is being used by those who want to derail Obamacare to strip away tax credits that make the Law practical. When a phrase in a piece of legislation has multiple interpretations, it is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to determine what is the common understanding of the law and what was the intent of the lawmakers who passed it. Where members of Congress who actually voted for the bill can voice their views, the judicial system is being used to push the political agenda of a few in ways that will harm the many.
Considering the Ukraine Crisis and the increasingly oppressive situation in Russia, suspicion surrounding the murder of Putin-critic Boris Nemtsov may well turn the former political heavyweight into a martyr for the cause against Putin. If politically motivated, the murder of Boris Nemtsoy was a calculated move. With this example in mind, Russia is a place where the political agendas of the few have completely overridden the need for public policies that serve the People of Russia. Unfortunately, it is the same situation the United States and the rest of the world will soon face, if we do not correct our dysfunctional political culture. The notion of “policy solutions” has become so foreign in places like Russia that the words have no meaning, because serving the interests of the political leaders is the determining factor in all policy decisions.
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