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Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Is Apparently Prepared To Sell Israel F-22 Jet Fighters

December 28, 2009

It certainly seems on the surface that the Obama Administration and Netanyahu’s Israeli government are locked in a nasty struggle over Israel’s Settlement policy with Obama trying to nudge Israel to make concessions and Netanyahu obstinately resisting (with Israel’s majority and the American Jewish Community cheering `Bibi’ on).

Yet US-Israeli relations proceed on a number of levels and for the most part, the relations between the two countries are better than ever and in some key ways, strenghtening and not weakening.

1. Strategic security relations flourishing

“Leaders in Washington and Jerusalem have publicly locked horns over the issue of West Bank settlements. And Israel public opinion has largely viewed America’s new administration as unfriendly. But behind the scenes, strategic security relations between the two countries are flourishing”

Thus began a piece by Nathan Guttman in the December 25, 2009 issue of the The Forward, to my mind, the most interesting of the mainstream Jewish press, unlike many local Jewish publications around the country, including here in Colorado, always worth reading. The piece was picked up, among others by Glenn Greenwald and quoted extensively in his December 21, 2009 blog entry `Cruise Missile Attacks In Yemen’.

The Guttman piece goes on to probe the nature of US-Israel relations behind the headlines. While there are some tensions over Israel’s refusal to address West Bank settlements, thus once again, freezing any prospect of a US brokered Israel-Palestine peace process, apart from that, actually US-Israeli strategic relations could not be better.

Weapons sales and sophisticated technology transfers speak more loudly than fine words delivered in Cairo.

While of course, the developments on the ground in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel itself merit attention – as I write there is yet another effort, apparently running into difficulties from the Mubarek government – to deliver needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza through Egypt – the lack of attention to the US-Israel strategic relationship is striking. This is not untypical. The extent of US military aid to and cooperation with Israel is rarely addressed these days, although much (but not all) of it is an open record that a good goggle search could easily uncover.

The Forward piece gives an excellent take on the mainline of US policy towards Israel which boils down to: strengthen the strategic (meaning military) cooperation between the two countries, which entails increased military and economic aid while pressuring Israel, apparently rather gently if at all, to make some concessions on settlements. To be crude, it’s called bribery and the funny thing is, that it in Israel’s case, it didn’t work in the past and isn’t working now. So Israel takes the money and gives nothing on settlements. This pattern has gone on for 42 years and there is nothing new about it except perhaps the growing sums which the United States is willing to give Israel to encourage it to budge.

The public impression, as exemplified in Obama’s Cairo Speech of June 4, 2009, is that the Obama Administration has opened a `new page’ on the US approach to brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But as the weeks turn into months, the Cairo Speech (which I wrote about and defended quite openly) appears, like so many other previous US `peace initiatives’ to be little more than fluff – a verbal crumb to US Arab and oil producing allies – combined with every closer and far more significant US strategic cooperation with Israel. Impressive for its duplicity to say the least.

2. Obama’s Hanukah Gift To Israel

What The Forward article provides are the details and it does so well. I am guessing that they are publishing such a piece to calm American Jewish concerns about Obama pressing Israel (but not too hard) on the settlements, offering them a psychological end of the year Hanukah gift.  The message is simple and to the point: under the surface where it counts, US-Israeli relations couldn’t be stronger and indeed they are strengthening every day. So what are the main facts that the article reveals:

1. That Israeli officials are `singing the praises of President Obama’ for his willingness to address their defense concerns and `for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge’, an edge `eroded’ according to Israel, during the final year of the Bush presidency. What does the above translate to? It means more weapons and weapons related transfers to Israel, and closer military and intelligence sharing (as if it could get any closer)

2. The Obama Administration has agreed `adjustments’ in a massive July 2007 $20 billion arms deal that the Bush Administration made with Gulf States, meaning they will put strict conditions on their use and controls on advanced technologies (as they have in the past). The Obama Administration has also upgraded US military cooperation on missile defense. A deal is expected next year that will see once of the United States most advanced fighter jets – F-22s – go to Israel with some of America’s most sensitive technology

3. As The Forward article notes, all this is pursuant to 2008 Congressional legislation pushed by AIPAC (whom else?) that makes maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge (over its Arab adversaries and Iran) codified by law. It requires the president to report to Congress periodically on actions taken by the administration to ensure Israel’s advantage.

As Glenn Greenwald aptly comments

`I have to confess that I didn’t realize that a law was enacted last year making it a legal requirement for America to maintain `Israel’s qualitative military edge’ – and even more amazingly– that the President of the U.S. is required to report regularly to the U.S. Congress on the steps he’s taking to ensure Israel’s superiority. That’s a rather extraordinary law, and the adminstration seems to be fulfilling its requirements faithfully.

3. Some Background
 
That strategic cooperation includes joint strategies of the two countries in the Middle East, Africa and in the past Latin America. In the 70s and 80s, Israel served US interests in Latin America selling arms and giving advice to the region’s chief dictators in Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina where relations were brisk. Israeli businessmen and intelligence operators thrive in Africa and have done so for decades, especially in the Congo (then Zaire of Mobutu), Sudan and in cooperation with South Africa during its apartheid days. There were extensive economic ties as well as military and para-military operations in support of US strategic goals on both continents.
It is to their everlasting shame, that liberal Zionists, especially here in the United States, defended these ties with the world’s scoundrels in the service of US Imperialism (sounds impolite – but it is accurate) and that more or less it continues to do so and the United States, including the Obama Administration encourages Israel to do so. There is a rich literature on these relations which we will perhaps explore in the period ahead but just a few more comments to probe this subject.

The US-Israel strategic partnership developed slowly after Israel’s creation in 1948. For the first 20 years of its existence, Israel had much closer strategic ties with Britain and France, the latter helping Israel get its nuclear weapons program off the ground. The declining of influence of Britian and France in the Middle East, and the obvious expansion of US power there were among the key developments that begged for an Israeli shift in strategic partners, but the US was somewhat reticent. Why? Because of the fundamental contradiction in US Middle East policy – that it is the Arabs and the Iranians who possess the strategic resources (guess what), while Israel has none, or hardly any. For the US to befriend Israel automatically meant complicating US relations with important oil producing allies like Saudi Arabia and (at the time) Iran.

But the strategic potential of having such a powerful military ally in the Middle East was simply too attractive to the United States to pass on. The rest is history. There is an interesting Israeli component to all this. During the Cold War, Israel was able to convince different US administrations of its usefulness in countering Communism, not just in the Middle East but world wide. And indeed it was a faithful and enthusiastic ally that included Israel pointing its nuclear missiles at Soviet targets.

From the Cold War to the War On Terrorism
 
Then the Cold War collapsed and with it, temporarily, the glue that held the US-Israeli relationship in tact. A new basis had to be found and was – in the war against terrorism. Listen to Israeli spokes people (both here in Colorado and elsewhere) and you will see that they hardly miss a moment to hammer away at this theme that Israel can be `useful’ to the United States, is an ally in the `war on terrorism’. Indeed so much effort has gone into creating a public aura of the US-Israel alliance in the war on terrorism (with all the nonsense pretexts that it involves) that one has to wonder if, under the surface, that the relationship has not become somewhat strained.

More and more there are figures in the US government on higher and higher levels that question the viability of the relationship, perhaps no one with more prestige than former US President Jimmy Carter, but also John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s attack on undo Israeli influence on US foreign policy, The Israel Lobby. All of them are raising serious questions about the viability of the US-Israel strategic alliance, is it becoming more of a burden than an asset? Is it obsolete? There is also increased pressure – although it has yet to be politically effective – to cut US military aid to Israel and to boycott companies a la South African anti-apartheid campaign that profit from the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Although progressive Jewish organizations are serious about ending the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and most support a viable two state solution (J-Street, B’rit Tzedek, Tikkun), they rarely venture into challenging the US-Israeli strategic relationship or in changing it and in so doing weaken their own message. Typical of this is J-Street’s position on Iran, buying into the myth of the Iranian threat (to Israel or to the USA) and its support of increased US Congressional sanctions. Disappointing, needs changing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2009 12:37 pm

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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