The Netanyahu-Obama Flap

Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the US, says that the US-Israel relationship is at its lowest ebb in 35 years. Well, maybe.  But the Israel Lobby is far from dead. Half of Congress turned out at the recent AIPAC convention in Washington, and there were  pledges of eternal support by Hilary Clinton, followed up by a host of politicians. In the conflict between the Obama administration and Netanyahu, the media was solidly lined up on the side of a foreign country.  Indeed, as Philip Giraldi notes, “The Washington Post led the charge, calling on ‘expert’ analysis of the situation from Elliot Abrams, Danielle Pletka, David Makovsky, Aaron David Miller, Daniel Curter, Martin Indyk, and Charles Krauthammer while excoriating the White House with its own lead editorials.”

Dominating the mainstream media definitely has its advantages.

Meanwhile, more than 3/4 of the House of Representatives signed on to a statement asserting “unbreakable bonds” between the US and Israel and ludicrously asserting that “A strong Israel is an asset to the national security of the United States and brings stability to the Middle East.”

We are reassured that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s commitment to put in place new procedures will ensure that such surprises [a municipal Jerusalem announcement on approval of another step towards the construction of 1,600 apartments in a post-1967 Jerusalem neighborhood during U.S. Vice President Biden’s recent visit to Israel], however unintended, will not recur.

In other words, the House is satisfied that Israel will not to make any surprise announcements that coincide with a visit of a US dignitary. But the House does not expect Israel to stop confiscating Palestinian land and building housing for Jews. Business as usual. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.

There is a long history in which Congress is far more susceptible to pressure from the Israel Lobby than the administration. Congress understands that opposition to the lobby means that their opponents will suddenly have a great deal of money donated by Jews who live outside their districts and they will have far less positive media coverage.

On the other hand, American presidents must at least make a show of promoting peace in the region, and that means putting up a credible facade to other countries. All American administrations since Carter have officially opposed the colonization of the West Bank, and this has at times led to well-publicized conflict. For example, in 1992 the first Bush administration attempted to withhold loan guarantees for Israeli housing. It backed down, with Bush famously saying “I’m one lonely little guy” up against “some powerful political forces” made up of “a thousand lobbyists on the Hill.” Bush seems to believe that his defeat in the 1992 election stemmed from this action, and I can vividly remember the sudden shift in media coverage of Bush at the time. George W. Bush’s awareness of the power of the Israel Lobby from conversations with his father may well have been a primary force in making him the most pliable president  in history to the pleadings of the Israel Lobby.

The clincher from the House statement is: “Above all, we must remain focused on the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear weapons program to Middle East peace and stability.” And therein lies the rub for AIPAC. For all its influence on Congress, it will be much more difficult to get an angry Obama and his administration fully on board with the Israel Lobby’s project of destroying Iran. The reality of the Lobby’s power even in presidential politics, as indicated by what happened to George H. W. Bush,  is doubtless sobering to the Obama administration. But it’s one thing to effectively turn a blind eye to Israeli colonization and apartheid (as, in the end, all US administrations have done). It’s quite another ball of wax to get the US to lead the charge in a confrontation with Iran after 5000 deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan and a $3 trillion price tag just for the war in Iraq. This in an era where the federal deficit is already through the roof. Doing the Israel Lobby’s bidding on Iran requires a great deal of pro-active effort in getting international cooperation in the teeth of Israeli intransigence on settlement issues and the spectacle of Israel as an expansionist apartheid state for all the world to see.

Indeed, in her speech to AIPAC Hilary Clinton pointedly noted that “We cannot escape the impact of mass communications” — perhaps a comment that the reality of Israel’s brutal program of expansion is a very hard sell to the rest of the world, especially in the age of the Internet when there is more and more leakage in Jewish control of the media in the US and elsewhere. The statement by General David Petraeus that Israeli policies oppose US vital interests in the Middle East is all over the Internet — much to the chagrin of the ADL Petraeus himself has done his best to limit the damage by disputing this account.

It’s the same for Joe Biden’s statement that Israeli policy is dangerous for the US. It’s also all over the Internet,  quoted, for example, by John Mearsheimer in his blog — despite denials by Biden that he ever said it. As Mearsheimer notes, “it is now commonplace to talk about the lobby in the mainstream media and almost everyone who pays serious attention to American foreign policy understands – thanks mainly to the internet – that the lobby is an especially powerful interest group.”

With information about Israel more available than ever, with the costs of doing Israel’s bidding ever more prohibitive, and with Israel getting ever uglier with the passage of time, the job ahead for the Israel Lobby is going to be increasingly difficult. And Israel can’t escape its ugliness. The slow motion ethnic cleansing and land grabbing, the apartheid, the vast open air prisons for 3.8 million Palestinians simply can’t be stopped by any force within Israeli society. And it certainly won’t be stopped by the Jewish Diaspora no matter how much hypocrisy that entails given its commitment to multiculturalism and its opposition to White ethnonational interests. The racialist and religiously fundamentalist right is firmly in charge in Israel, and all the Jewish demographics are on their side. The extremists, as always, will win the day. That forecasts a very bloody future in the Middle East and beyond. And here in the US, AIPAC and the ADL have a long, tough road ahead.

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