Thursday, March 25, 2010

why israel always prevails

CounterPunch | The gravity of the situation was not lost upon Israel’s new ambassador, American-born historian, Michael Oren, who, in a conference call with Israel’s US consulates, reportedly expressed the opinion (which he now denies) that this was the worst crisis in US-Israel relations since 1975 when Pres. Gerald Ford and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger publicly blamed Israel for the breakdown of negotiations with Egypt over withdrawing from the Sinai. As a consequence, Ford announced that he was going to make a major speech calling for a reassessment of Israel-US relations. Although hardly the powerhouse that it has become today, AIPAC, the only officially registered pro-Israel lobby, responded to the threat by getting 76 senators to sign a harsh letter to Ford, warning him not to tamper with Israel-US relations. Ford never made the speech and it would not be the last time that AIPAC got three quarters of the US Senate to sign a letter designed to keep an American president in check.

Others point to the nationally televised speech on September 12, 1991 of the first President Bush, who, upon realizing that AIPAC had secured enough votes in both houses of Congress to override his veto of Israel’s request for $10 billion in loan guarantees, went before the American public depicting himself as “one lonely little guy” battling a thousand lobbyists on Capitol Hill. A national poll taken immediately afterward gave the president an 85 per cent approval rating which sent the lobby and its Congressional flunkies scuttling into the corner but not before AIPAC director, Tom Dine, exclaimed at that date, Sept. 12, 1991, “would live in infamy.” Following the election of Yitzhak Rabin the following year and up for re-election himself, Bush relented and approved the loan guarantee request.

There are those who, while aware of what happened to Ford and of the subsequent humiliations visited by Israel upon American presidents and secretaries of state, view the Biden affair as a charade designed to placate the heads of Arab governments as well as their respective peoples and give the impression that there is a space between Israel and the US when it comes to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict when, they assert, none exists.

Viewing the unrelenting expansion of Jewish settlements and settlers in the West Bank through one US administration after another for the past four decades they would appear to have a solid argument. It is undermined, however, by one obvious fact: while the rest of the world considers the Israel-Palestine conflict to be a foreign policy concern, for Washington and both Democrats and Republicans it has been and remains primarily a domestic issue. In that arena there is only one player, the pro-Israel “lobby” which is represented by a multitude of organizations, the most prominent of which is AIPAC.

As if it needed more help, flocking to Israel’s side in increasing numbers over the past several decades have come the majority of America’s Christian evangelicals whose doomsday theology fits in nicely with that of Israel’s ultra right wing settler movement. The result is that in each election cycle anyone with any hope of being elected to a national political office, be it in the White House or Congress, whether incumbent or challenger, feels obligated to express his or her unconditional loyalty to Israel by shamelessly groveling for handouts from Jewish donors and the nod from Jewish voters who make up critical voting blocs in at least six states.

This being the case, it is not so strange that a string of leading elected American officials would willingly submit to public humiliation by a country so politically and militarily dependent on the U.S. and whose population is less than that of New York City or Los Angeles County, even when doing so has made the U.S. seem weak in the eyes of a world in which Washington has other, more pressing interests, than pleasing Israel. There is no better example of this phenomenon than Barack Obama whose stature as leader of “the world’s only superpower” has been severely undercut by repeated verbal face-slappings at the hands of Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers.

It clearly has been in the US interest that the Israel-Palestine conflict be peacefully resolved. There is nothing in the proposed “two-state solution” that would interfere with Washington’s regional objectives. On the contrary, the creation of a truncated Palestinian statelet, allied and dependent, politically and financially on the US, as it most certainly would be, would be a boon to US regional interests and ultimately viewed as a setback for anti-imperialist struggles worldwide. It was not just to expend some US taxpayers’ money that the GW Bush administration built a four story security building for the PA in Ramallah (that Sharon later destroyed), brought PA security personnel to Langley, VA for training with the CIA, and had Gen. Dayton build a colonial army to maintain order.

Israeli officials view all of this from a very different perspective, as should be obvious, and will do everything they can to prevent any kind of a Palestinian entity from coming into existence since this would interfere not only with its expansion plans but would also create a junior competitor for US favors in the region. This was why Sharon targeted the US built institutions on the West Bank and the CIA trained personnel during the Al-Aksa Intifada despite the fact that they were non-participants, which raised the hackles at CIA headquarters, as reported at the time in the Washington Post.

What the insult to Biden was clearly designed to do, as were the previous humiliations, was to remind the current and future occupants of the White House that when it comes to making decisions concerning the Middle East, it is Israel that calls the tune. As Stephen Green spelled it out in "Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations with Militant Israel" (Morrow, 1984) a quarter century ago, "Since 1953, Israel, and friends of Israel in America, have determined the broad outlines of US policy in the region. It has been left to American presidents to implement that policy, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and to deal with tactical issues."