Is Israel’s Grip on America’s Middle East Policy Slipping Away?

Posted March 23, 2015 on 1:52 pm | In the category Iran, Israel, Middle East, U.S. Foreign Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

“Netanyahu’s shrill public statements during the last two or three days before the vote may account in part for Likud’s startling margin of victory. For the first time since his Bar Ilan speech in 2009, he explicitly renounced a two-state solution and swore that no Palestinian state would come into existence on his watch. He promised vast new building projects in the Palestinian territorial concessions, anywhere, since any land that would be relinquished would, in his view, immediately be taken over by Muslim terrorists.”   from,

“Israel The Stark Truth” by David Shulman, New York Review Blog, March 21, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s thinly veiled attacks on President Obama – and indeed on the office of the American Presidency – have opened the door to a long overdue reassessment of American policy in the Middle East, where we have invested a lot and gained little.

U.S. foreign policy is – or should be – based on analysis of what serves the strategic national interest of the United States. Most of the time that national interest is consistent with that of its allies — but not always. The United States has historically played a major role in the ongoing security of Israel and, in fact, Israel’s security has been a linchpin of American foreign policy since the post WWII years. It has included billions of dollars of military aid to Israel, and a Middle East foreign policy built on America’s commitment to Israel’s security. It has also been a forgiving policy. When Israel bombed the America ship U.S. Liberty in 1967, killing some 34 Americans, domestic politics led to the U.S. government joining in a pretension that it was simply a mistake by Israeli pilots, later proved to be false, and therefore arguably, a killing of Americans by Israeli pilots flying planes paid for by American taxpayers. Also, Israel’s nuclear force is at least partly a result of Israeli spies stealing secrets from the U.S. This is also largely winked at by the U.S. although one man remains in jail for that crime in spite of annual public relations efforts by the Israelis to get him released. While there have been other minor blips in the U.S.-Israel relationship over the years it has been largely collaborative until recently.

Domestic political pressure supporting Israeli interest in America is strong. Currently the U.S. provides annually ca. $3.1 Billion to Israel – a country of just over 8 million people. Israel supporters such as Sheldon Adelson have been willing to commit significant financial resources to politicians willing to support Israeli interests even when those interests are in conflict with U. S. interests. While America’s foreign policy has always been influenced by national or ethnic diaspora in the U.S., it is hard to imagine a more intrusive and negative influence on American foreign policy than what we have seen over the last several years with Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s Prime Minister. He joined forces with American extreme conservatives to help push American foreign policy towards the absurdly counter-productive 2003 invasion of Iraq and continues his attempt to destroy any hope of detente with Iran. And never mind peace with the Palestinians – both by 8 years of action and now open speech – Netanyahu has declared that a dead issue, while waffling slightly – and unbelievably – after he won reelection earlier last week. Netanyahu’s campaign was characterized by a not so subtle attack on Israeli Arabs and his spoken commitment to walk away from the possibility of a Palestinian state, the latter an open disagreement with long agreed Israeli-American Middle East policy.

Netanyahu meddled in American politics when he worked openly for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election – a foolish act mostly ignored by the American press some of whom now wonder why President Obama hasn’t been friendlier to Netanyahu. More recently Netanyahu worked with John Boehner in an attempt to join forces with the anti-Obama right wingers in the Congress to destroy a multinational negotiation with Iran. These negotiations involve France, Germany, the UK, U.S., Russia and China and represent the only realistic possibility to reduce the likelihood of an Iranian nuclear military capability. At this point Netanyahu’s arrogant bumbling has increased Israel’s isolation and raised the possibility of the U.S. – for the first time – supporting the concept of a Palestinian state in the UN. It puts at risk America’s historic relationship with Israel.

The U.S. has expended billions of dollars in the Middle East and has little to show for it other than a nuclear armed Israel that has managed to isolate itself from much of the Western world. The memory of the Holocaust and Israel’s strong democratic traditions have argued for almost unconditional love of Americans for Israelis but Netanyahu has managed to put that relationship at great risk to satisfy his narrow, personal political agenda. For many Americans this is now seen as an opportunity to loosen the ties that bind.

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The Slandering of Chuck Hagel

Posted February 17, 2013 on 11:33 pm | In the category Iran, Iraq, Israel, McCain, Politics, U.S. Domestic Policy, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

The United States Senate, once known as “the world’s greatest deliberative body”, has become a stage for narcissistic Republican poseurs and clowns. The Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on former Senator Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense has produced one of the most embarrassing episodes in the ongoing saga of the dumbing down of the Republican Party.

The rookie, Deb Fisher, a Sarah Palin pal from Nebraska who finds Hagel; “too extreme – far to the left of Obama” – whatever that means.. (Her refusal to refer to “President” Obama a pathetic reminder of her connections to the Nebraska Tea Party). That Hagel had the good sense to endorse her opponent, Bob Kerrey, in her election campaign apparently fueled her ire but so what? This is about the Secretary of Defense not about Fisher’s feelings.

Noted global warming denier and biblical scholar Senator James Inhofe (R from Oklahoma) found that Hagel was an “appeaser” without specifying why other than to refer to a statement by the Iranian Foreign Minister describing Hagel as someone with whom they might be able to talk.

Noted Chicken Hawk Saxby Chambliss, Republican Senator from Georgia and previously a slanderer of Senator Tammy Baldwin who had lost both legs piloting a Blackhawk helicopter in Iraq, found that Hagel’s commitment to the concept of international negotiation was really simply a commitment to “appeasement” – again, whatever that means.

Senate newcomer and Tea Party pet Ted Cruz of Texas decided to become the reincarnation of Joe McCarthy, raising the suspicion that Hagel has been paid by enemies of the United States for speeches, questioning the patriotism of a battlefield decorated marine with a mythical list hidden away in his pocket.

But the main attractions in the early hearings – before Inhofe and Cruz pushed the process over the Crazy Cliff – were Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Noted poor loserJohn McCain got all red-faced with anger when Hagel refused to concede that McCain had been right in his support of the Iraq War “surge”, the grand strategy that delayed the inevitable U.S. withdrawal from a war that almost no one ended up supporting. His emotional, post-adolescent demand that Hagel agree that McCain was right and Hagel wrong on the surge was a sad display by a once admired Senator known now chiefly for his unwillingness to accept that he lost an election.

As for Senator Graham, what can be said about his obsession that Hagel is soft on support for Israel, or that he once said “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here, I’m not an Israeli Senator I’m a US Senator, this pressure makes us do dumb things at times”? Or that he is somehow responsible for telling us what went wrong with Benghazi?

It is depressing enough to see a major political party sink into a cesspool of gratuitous innuendo verging on slander without watching the national press serve as a largely unquestioning conduit of cheap shots, distortions and outright lies. Where is Edward R. Murrow when we need him?

How long will we have to avoid the Sunday talk shows as they wheel in McCain so they can help him lick his wounds from a defeat that is now 5 years old? Or watch the likes of Dick Gregory sidle up to Lindsey Graham without calling him on what has become a bizarre personal vendetta against one of the few Republican Senators to have had the good sense and political courage to admit that President George W. Bush’s Iraq war turned out to be a bad idea, poorly implemented.

As for the soft on Israel charge? Do we elect Senators to act in the national interests of the United States or of Israel? When they come in conflict – which they occasionally do – can we have an adult conversation in the press – as they do in the Israeli press? Or do we continue to put up with a national press unable or unwilling to consider the real implications of blindly following the lead of a foreign leader like Benjamin Netanyahu?

As the Republican Party moves toward reconsidering their “message” after a serious defeat at the polls last November, will they finally – at long last – have the decency to accept that President Obama is indeed the President and that the American people expect them to behave with respect to the office and to the national interest?

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Romney: Outsourcing American Foreign Affairs?

Posted September 13, 2012 on 9:09 pm | In the category Iran, Israel, Obama, Romney, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

Candidate Romney has not exactly distinguished himself in foreign affairs of late, the one area in which U.S. presidents actually exercise power. His foray into foreign travel as a candidate was a disaster with insults to Great Britain and Poland and audacious ass kissing in Israel. His latest bumbling attempt to abuse the truth regarding the American government role in the tragedy in Libya and the disturbances in Egypt have offended even most Republicans. But perhaps overriding all of this is his dicey relationship with Israel.

Romney’s trip to Israel was highlighted by a fund raiser with wealthy Jews organized by Casino owner and former Newt Gingrich supporter Sheldon Adelson, who brings the wisdom of the craps table to addressing the Iran nuclear issue. During the same trip much was made of the 35 year friendship of Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu – a relationship that goes back to when they were both consultants for the Boston Group, but one that according to press reports is not as close as Romney likes to pretend. It was also during this trip that Romney managed to insult Palestinians while ginning up hints of military action against Iran.

So now this week we have Netanyahu making a public statement that not so obliquely attacks U. S. policy, and therefore President Obama.

” The world tells Israel: ‘Wait. There’s still time.’ And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem.”

Parsing this statement tells us that 1, Netanyahu apparently believes it is up to him to define American policy and 2, that while he meddles in our presidential campaign we are not to attempt to dissuade Israel from doing something likely to damage American AND Israeli interests. And since the U.S. does not have the power to put a red light before Israel if they want a war it is tempting to tell them to start it without us. But of course were they to do that we would inevitably be dragged into a war that even Israeli military leaders say makes no military or political sense.

David Frum, a former George Bush speechwriter and one-time (and sometimes still) neocon, writes that Netanyahu was really not aiming his comments at Obama but rather at Ehud Barak, his erstwhile Israeli political ally who has walked away from supporting the concept of an attack on Iran. But given Netanyahu’s sophistication it is hard to believe he did not know the potential impact on the American election and, in any case, Romney jumped to the bait, perhaps in desperation.

What we have now is a candidate for President of the United States ready – even eager – to turn over major parts of our foreign policy to a foreign Prime Minister, apparently including the decision to go to war. And for those who doubt the possibilities here, think about the last president who wanted to start a war of choice – and think about the costs and the results.

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