The Netanyahu Syndrome
Middle Eastern diplomacy has been plagued by what I call the Netanyahu Syndrome. That’s the phenomenon of declaring your desire for peace while creating barriers to peace that you know won’t, or can’t, be met in the first place. For instance, Netanyahu wants peace with Palestine but will only negotiate if the Palestinians first do a) ___, b) ___, and c) ___. The Palestinians supposedly want peace and they will meet with the Israelis, but only if their a, b and c conditions are met first—conditions they know in advance will be rejected by the Israelis.
And it’s not only an Israeli/Palestinian pattern. Every other conflict, personal as well as political, follows the same plot line. I want to achieve the same goals you want to achieve, but only on my terms. It could just as easily be called the Abbas Syndrome or the al Assad Syndrome. You can even toss in the new military mogul in Egypt, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. It’s hard to put a name like el-Sisi into a catch phrase other than the Sisi Syndrome. But I like that. There’s a certain cachet for a gay man to be writing about the Sisi Syndrome.
What became clear to me recently is how the Netanyahu Syndrome plagues not only the State Department, but how it operates in my personal life as well. I want peace, but I want it on my terms.
When the IRS recently announced they will accept filing of joint tax returns by married same sex couples, even if the state in which the couple resides doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage—and the state of Florida where I reside does not recognize same-sex marriage—it rekindled an old subject of discussion between my partner, Howard, and myself. Howard expressed an interest in getting married as soon as friends started traveling to Canada in 2005 when same-sex marriage became legal there. I was never really sure, however, whether he wanted marriage or simply the elegant parties and receptions featured in the New York Times when they reported on prominent same-sex couples who had jumped the border in order to get hitched in Canada.
My position consistently has been that we should wait until same-sex marriage is legal in Florida before we marry, realizing that it may well be 2060 or 2070 before that happens. Whatever you say, pro or con, about Florida, it’s never been accused of being a state known for social progress. I saw no value in an out-of-state marriage that would not be valid in my home state.
Now, the IRS says there is a value in getting married—even in Florida, and even if the marriage isn’t recognized in Florida. The value could be several thousand dollars annually if the two of us file our tax returns jointly. When I realized this, I began the mental review process of, well, if that’s the case, maybe…. Maybe, I should rethink my position on same-sex marriage. Maybe we should get married and take advantage of this gift from the IRS that previously had been denied same-sex couples.
When I thought of getting married simply for the tax break I thought, Siegfried how blatantly materialistic, how crass can you be? Marriages, of course, have been blatantly materialistic for ages. Men and women have been joined in matrimony as a means of gaining money, diamonds, property, and, more recently, publicity has seemed to be an adequate reason for marriage. Suddenly, with the nudging of the IRS, marriage sounded like a good idea. I would get married, but only if Howard first agreed to a), b), and c).
Fortunately, before I had a chance to discuss a), b), and c) with Howard, I realized I was a victim of the Netanyahu Syndrome. I was creating a non-negotiable red line in the sand—barriers, which, when they weren’t met would make me right and him wrong. I was interested in getting married, but on my terms. If the IRS hadn’t made their recent ruling, would I still be interested in marriage?
What about getting married because we’ve been together twenty-two years, caring for each other, and enhancing each other’s lives? What about getting married because after all that time we still love each other? What about getting married simply because it would give me immense pleasure on our next Celebrity Cruise, when other passengers join us at the dinner table, to introduce Howard as my husband—not my significant other, my domestic partner, my long-term whatever.
My husband, Howard. That sounds good to me.