Monday, March 15, 2010

More on US-Israel dispute ("the Biden crisis")

The US-Israel dispute continues to make news. Jim Lobe, who was dubious as to whether the Obama administration would significantly change its approach to Israel, is now asking Tipping Point After All? LobeLog Foreign Policy 03/14/10. He points to this article by Mark Perry, The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story Foreign Policy 03/13/10, and this one by of Paul Woodward, Israel is putting American lives at risk War in Context 03/14/10. Lobe writes that Perry's reporting shows that:

... Biden's private warnings to Netanyahu et. al. regarding the relationship between Israeli settlement activity and other outrages, on the one hand, and the health and welfare of U.S. soldiers and strategic interests in the region, on the other, reflected more than his personal outrage and concerns. It seems now that Biden’s the message may well have originated with the military brass, namely the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, and neo-con hero and CentCom commander, Gen. David Petraeus. ...

If Perry’s account is accurate — and I have NO reason to think that it isn’t — the Biden/Clinton-Netanyahu contretemps now looks a bit more like a tipping point than it did on Friday, if only because the military is a far more formidable force for the Israeli government and “Israel Lobby” to have to contend with in U.S. domestic politics and even in the U.S. Congress than a mere Democratic administration. [my emphasis]
Apart from its current effect on the US-Israel dispute, the bolded part is in itself a very sad commentary on the state of American democracy. And on the state of the Democratic Party and the Obama administration. The military-industrial complex really does play a dangerously autonomous role in the US political system. Now with the huge role played by mercenary firms like Xe/Blackwater in the US military system, the danger is getting considerably more complex.

Lobe thinks that the political alliance between Petraeus and the neocons may be coming to an end as well, concluding:

Thus, while Petraeus has been very successful in rallying the neo-cons behind his war tactics, his strategic calculations regarding the politics of the region and U.S. interests there have from the outset tended to echo those of the dreaded “realists.”

If Perry’s account about the brass’ view of the link between U.S. security and the Israel-Palestine conflict takes hold in Washington, and if — a big if — the administration is willing to state publicly what Biden is reported to have said privately in Israel, this could indeed become a tipping point [in US-Israel relations]. [my emphasis]
Lobe includes the text of a press release by AIPAC (the American-Israeli Political Action Committee), saying:

The foundation of the U.S-Israel relationship is rooted in America’s fundamental strategic interest, shared democratic values, and a long-time commitment to peace in the region. Those strategic interests, which we share with Israel, extend to every facet of American life and our relationship with the Jewish State, which enjoys vast bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people.

The Administration should make a conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel, with whom the United States shares basic, fundamental, and strategic interests. ...

We strongly urge the Administration to work closely and privately with our partner Israel, in a manner befitting strategic allies, to address any issues between the two governments. [my emphasis]
The AIPAC press release Lobe quotes also states: "Consistently ranked as the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill, AIPAC is a bipartisan American membership organization that seeks to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Israel." (my emphasis) Glenn Greenwald tweets about the AIPAC press release, "Like ADL, AIPAC seems to be siding with Israel and against U.S. in the U.S./Israel dispute."

Perry also shares Lobe's depressing judgment about the status of the US military as a lobbying force:

There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA, the American Medical Association, the lawyers -- and the Israeli lobby. But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the U.S. military. While commentators and pundits might reflect that Joe Biden's trip to Israel has forever shifted America's relationship with its erstwhile ally in the region, the real break came in January, when David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America's relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America's soldiers.
Paul Woodward reminds us:

In December 2006, the Iraq Study Group Report was explicit in making this linkage: “The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability.”
And Woodward quotes from his own interview with Perry:

My sense is that General Petraeus neither likes nor dislikes Israel: but he loves his country and he wants to protect our soldiers. The current crisis in American relations with Israel is not a litmus test of General Petraeus’s loyalty to Israel, but of his, and our, concern for those Americans in uniform in the Middle East.

It is, perhaps, a sign of the depth of "the Biden crisis" that every controversy of this type seems to get translated into whether or not America and its leaders are committed to Israel’s security. This isn’t about Israel’s security, it’s about our security. [my emphasis]
Laura Rozen, who does very good reporting on intelligence issues and US-Israel issues, has a blog now at Politico - that fact being the best thing I've heard about Politico - and she's also following this story, as in: AIPAC urges Obama admin. to quiet criticism of Israeli government 03/14/10; The Petraeus-Mullen briefings 03/14/10 (in which she refers to Mark Perry as "a former Newsday stringer and later advisor to Yasir Arafat"; she doesn't dismiss Perry's reporting but treats it with some reserve); Israel tries to lower tensions with Washington 03/14/10; "Tell Bibi to stop worrying about the right-wing, and start worrying about the United States" 03/13/10; Maariv: Missed Opportunities 03/12/10.

She links to these two articles: Are America and Israel drifting apart? Washington Post 03/14/10, which includes comments from several people including Iran-Contra criminal and leading neocon Eliot Abrahms, and Driving Drunk in Jerusalem by Tom "Suck.On.This" Friedman New York Times 03/13/10, as worth noting.

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