Friday, January 16, 2009

Who’s in Charge—Obama, the Pentagon or Israel ?

TruthDig | When Pentagon officials met with Obama last month, there again were winks and nods to the press. Obama was a naive and inexperienced politician from Flyover Land . He could and would be “handled.”

Now Obama has handled them. He has said, no doubt very politely, that he is the president and the military services are constitutionally required to carry out his policy, not their own. This naturally has produced journalistic murmuring of “clashes” between Pentagon and White House. If there should be clashes, the Pentagon will lose. The military have become accustomed to getting whatever it wants from presidents and Congress. That must end, and it is essential that the new president and his military advisers make this clear, however politely.

I began with a comment on luck. That referred to the plunge into the political abyss by the Israeli rightist forces, which are accustomed to claiming that they “own” the U.S. Congress. Israel’s useless, senseless and self-destructive assault on the people of Gaza, and upon the U.N.‘s headquarters and warehouses of food and medicine, has proved globally devastating to the reputation and moral credit of Israel. Even in the United States , there has been a precipitous drop in support for what Israel has been doing, and for Israeli policy in general.

In international political circles, there is disbelief that Israel could imagine that this attack on Hamas, with its civilian casualties and physical destruction of Gaza, would “strengthen” the position of the Palestine Authority and of Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah Party. It is a death blow to them. Israel behaves as if it has completely lost touch with reality.

Thus Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s arrogant utterance that he personally caused the United States to reverse its position on the U.N. Security Council resolution last week demanding a Gaza cease-fire. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had helped organize support for that resolution and had committed the United States to vote in its favor.

Olmert told an Israeli audience that, last Friday, upon hearing of Rice’s position, he immediately telephoned George W. Bush. Told that Bush was delivering an address in Philadelphia , Olmert replied, “I’m not interested,” demanding to speak to Bush. Bush then left his Philadelphia podium and, according to Olmert, the Israeli prime minister instructed the American president that “the U.S. cannot possibly vote in favor of this resolution.” Bush then telephoned Rice and ordered her to abstain from the vote.

That’s Olmert’s story, or Israeli megalomania, presented to the Israelis with pride, but unlikely to be received by Americans with pleasure. William Pfaff