Linkage: Iran, Settlements, Health Care & Israel?

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ahmadinejad twn 2010.jpgLate yesterday afternoon, I participated in an hour long Alhurra discussion program with three other Middle East specialists: Edmund Ghareeb of American University, Ori Nir of Americans for Peace Now, and David Schenker who directs the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The topic was the state of play in US-Israel relations after Vice President Biden’s visit and Israel’s alleged “insult” during his trip with the announced approval of 1600 new settlements in East Jerusalem.
During one of my times at bat during the interesting show, I suggested that Israel’s continued settlement expansion was directly helping Iran and enhancing its pretensions and goals in the region. The Washington Institute’s David Schenker responded that he really didn’t see a linkage between the settlements and Iran’s position. He stated that Iran really wasn’t all that welcome throughout the broader Middle East today and that its nuclear activities were making other Arab states nervous.
In part, he is correct about Sunni Arab antipathy towards Iran but neglected to note that officially, all of the other major Arab states are as furious about Israel’s settlements creep as the Obama national security team. But that’s not the issue that most caught my attention in this exchange.
Schenker, who offered some interesting insights on the show, went on to assert that while he saw no linkage between Israel’s settlement expansion and a boost to Iran’s regional posture, he suggested there was a linkage between US-Israel relations and getting Obama’s health care reform passed.
What?? Play that again.
So, David Schenker sees no linkage between what a huge number of observers see as Israel wrecking chances for a credible two state track — and the use of this grievance by Iran in its support of transnational Arab networks in the region, but nonetheless sees linkage between President Obama’s fragile health care reform position and the state of US-Israel relations?! Schenker’s view was that Obama couldn’t afford to have a testy, strained relationship with Israel because it would cost him support in Congress for his health care legislation.
If he is right, then the relationship with Israel has gone too far indeed.
The truth is that I believe that Schenker is wrong on both counts.
There is a linkage between Iran’s ability to compete for the position as true defender of the Islamic faith and the controversial settlements, and on the other front, there must not be a connection between the fragile coalition Obama is building to try and achieve health care reform and the state of the US-Israel relationship.
Any US Congressperson or Senator who actually explicitly withdrew or withheld support for health care reform because of loyalty first to Israel and its needs would invite serious questions about his or her patriotism and oath to the US Constitution and American people.
I support Israel’s right to exist, see it as an important ally, and believe that we should support its security — but not at the continued expense of Arab interests in the region and certainly not at the expense of core American interests at home. The interests of Arab states and Israel must be balanced and mutually pursued. Not to do so is a false choice for the U.S., but even worse would be the practice of punishing American taxpayers and their pursuit of key social reforms in favor of Israel’s interests.
I enjoyed the exchange with David Schenker and others — but whereas David has every right to assert that he does not see a linkage between settlements and Iran’s interests (though I disagree), I think that his second assertion that Obama might lose the health care battle by not keeping the Israel-tilting Members of Congress was hopefully wrong-footed.
If he’s accurate, then it’s time for political change in Congress again — but this time with a different filter.
– Steve Clemons
Update: When I wrote this piece, I tried to confirm that what I heard was heard by others on the program and had general confirmation from one of the other guests on the show. However, to be fair and up front, I also wanted to run this post by David Schenker — who was perfectly fair and civil on the program and from whom I learned some new things.
David remembers things a bit different — and we have not yet come up with a video segment or transcript, and I think that his own views on this should also be aired here.
I appreciate his fairness and balance in how he approached my post.
Here are his comments to me today:

Dear Steve:
I was surprised that you implied that I said the crisis with Israel would cause Congressmen or Senators to explicitly withdraw support for health care reform.
I didn’t say that. What I did was point out the obvious domestic political implications that Democrats could face-in addition to their current problems-in light of the very public row with Israel, especially one concerning the disposition of Jerusalem. Considerations like the mid-term elections and controversial health care legislation, I said, would likely lead the Administration to try and end the very public spat with Israel sooner rather than later.
The linkage between foreign and domestic policy considerations is well established. (Walt has written, for example, that the escalation in Afghanistan might cost Obama democratic seats in the midterms that would make it more difficult to pass domestic legislation).
Until I read your blog, I thought my comments were uncontroversial.
Best regards,
David Schenker

I appreciate David sending this correction and wanted it posted publicly. Onward and upward.

– Steve Clemons

Comments

87 comments on “Linkage: Iran, Settlements, Health Care & Israel?

  1. nadine says:

    stevieb, If Israel practices ethnic cleansing how come one million Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 turned into 2 – 3 million today? If Israel practices apartheid, how can there possibly be one million Arab citizens of Israel? Damn, Israel must be bad at it! I thought those damn IDF soldiers were killing machines, how could they have missed so many millions of Arabs?

    Reply

  2. stevieb says:

    Nadine – you’re clearly a very enthusiastic supporter of Israeli apartheid, ethnic cleansing and war crimes. Which is fine. But going on websites and stinking them up with outdated and well-falsified pro-Israeli propaganda simply won’t do. Times have changed very quickly, my dear. You might want to have a word with your team leader about the quality of the hasbara cards you guys are working with, because IMHO they are absolute shite.
    BTW, It looks like you’re working the good cop/bad cop routine with another card carrying member. The ‘good cop’ – the one whose only concern is for America – plays the clever line that it makes no sense for the U.S to reject Israeli apartheid, genocide and ethnic cleansing because, Hey! The Arabs would still be scumbags anyway.
    Very nice.

    Reply

  3. nadine says:

    David,
    The Mideast isn’t into Europe’s delusions about soft power. It’s a fairly primordial place, diplomatically speaking. Who is strong and who is weak, that is the Mideast question.
    Israel is America’s ally in the Mideast. Beating up on your own ally in public while sending gifts and pleas for talks to your enemies reeks of weakness. Accepting insults meekly reeks of weakness. Syria and Iran have openly insulted us — Assad invited Ahmedinejad into Damascus to insult us the minute Hillary Clinton left — and yet we made no response. Instead we beat up on Israel for a housing announcement! Does Obama think beating up our own ally will impress Syria or Iran? Displays of weakness are provocative in the Mideast; they invite more aggression.
    Obama is completely lacking in the most basic street smarts. The end he is really working for, but is too dumb to realize it, is the end of American influence in the Mideast.

    Reply

  4. David Trilling says:

    Steve,
    Your argument that is disputed by the fellow you quoted
    (thanks for providing his reaction to your post) is more
    reflective of your views of the American “pro-Israel” lobby
    than about it’s ability to coerce members of Congress
    considering health care legislation.  Whether or not you
    believe this group is acting in the interests of U.S. National
    Security, the Obama Administration’s is naturally reluctant  to
    be distracted by major rows over whatever tugs attention
    away from their number one priority.  It also would mean
    expending some political capital on the Middle East when it’s
    capital at the moment is so scarce.  It may follow that Israel
    could therefore coerce members of Congress (or more likely
    the administration or behave in an irresponsible manner), but
    that’s true for any player whose actions can materially affect
    the outcome of this health care initiative (and since its so
    hard to get support, relatively small things could make a
    difference — like Senator Reid’s family getting into an auto
    accident — not small to them or to Reid — but tiny relative to
    the stakes of the passage of tgis legislation).  
    You could just as easily argue that Russia could coerce the
    U.S. into not standing in the way of it’s invasion of Georgia
    since such an invasion at this time could easily distract the
    Administration from health care and miss this opportunity.  
    Does that mean that Russia, because it is in such a position,
    has so much control over US foreign policy?  This would also
    be a terrible time for the leading administrators of the
    European national health systems to get together and
    maintain that covering
    all their residents just doesn’t work and only hurts everybody
    in their countries.  Does that mean that they now have
    enormous leverage over the U.S. since they’re holding off on
    such statements could play an important role in determining
    the success or failure of such an initiative?
    I do think that the most outspoken voices in “support” of
    Israel, irrespective of it’s behaviour, don’t serve Israeli long-
    term security, much less ours.  But one of the most effective
    ways of not giving in to the “Israel, Right or Wrong” is to help
    forward the administration’s efforts at defining it’s and the
    workd’s interests in a more nuanced way than some of it’s
    predecessors.  Hamas and a number of the Arab
    governments look to so many Americans as compatriots of al
    Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.  I don’t think you can easily
    change that view. However what you can do is make a
    compelling case for talking with and trying to better relations
    with your adversaries.  If tough guys Richard Nixon and
    Ronald Reagan could break bread with people who could
    have incinerated us, why can’t American leaders talk with the
    Taluban, Iranian, and North Korean leadership?  It would be
    great if you devoted some energy to this point (by perhaps
    cutting in half your anti- Emanuel and anti-Obama pieces that
    I don’t see how could be bringing the Arab-Israeli conflict
    closer to an end :).    
    Without helping to make this case, while it may feel good to
    criticize, you’re not forwarding the prospects for peace in that
    part of the world.

    Reply

  5. JohnG says:

    Jason said:
    “He doesn’t pick Syria or Iran for the big fight he picks Israel.”
    Your comparisons to Syria and Iran are red herrings.
    When one one party financially supports and defends the actions of another party, strings come attached.
    When the US gives Israel USD 5+ Billion a year and provides them cover in the world community regardless of their actions, it is reasonable for the US to expect and demand that the Israelis not exacerbate the already deteriorating peaces process.
    It is as simple as that.

    Reply

  6. DonS says:

    “Any US Congressperson or Senator who actually explicitly withdrew or withheld support for health care reform because of loyalty first to Israel and its needs would invite serious questions about his or her patriotism and oath to the US Constitution and American people.” (Colin Laney)
    My local paper ran an AP story this morning with the sentence: “For President Obama, the unusually public fight tests his willingness to take Israel to task in the name of Mideast peace, even if it means angering some powerful political forces whose support is necessary to furthering his domestic agenda”. Just how far this is taken or viewed might pit those who see politics as usual — just coincidentally centering around Israel — or another example of the pernicious influence of the Israel lobby. What would really be interesting would be the degree of specificity particular pols would be willing to show in making such a linkage, in public, on health care or other issues of importance.

    Reply

  7. Colin Laney says:

    Any US Congressperson or Senator who actually explicitly withdrew or withheld support for health care reform because of loyalty first to Israel and its needs would invite serious questions about his or her patriotism and oath to the US Constitution and American people.
    Wanna bet? Lieberman has been putting Israeli interests before US interests for years. No one in the mainstream press has commented. Anyone who did would be universally and immediately condemned in the mainstream press as an antisemite.

    Reply

  8. jason says:

    One senior U.S. official acknowledged that the tough U.S. position is not just about Israel and the settlements issue, but about “sending a message more broadly about what we’re willing to put up with. . . . This couldn’t continue.”
    http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-us-israel17-2010mar17,0,4929180,full.story
    3rd paragraph from the bottom
    Amazing make your big stand and punish an ally because you are weak
    He doesn’t pick Syria or Iran for the big fight he picks Israel.

    Reply

  9. jason says:

    Syria’s president can call u.s a colonial power right after u.s returns their ambassador in a press conference with Iran’s president.
    Obama administration apologizes to gaddafi after he was mocked for saying he wanted jihad in switzerland.
    This was no slap at Biden. The project started in 2006 and there had been several dozen meetings and this meeting was called before biden said he was coming and the agenda was already set.
    No one was trying to insult bibi. This is what really hurts israel the notion that they were trying to insult Biden? Why? Haaretz had a backstory to this meeting and it had nothing to do with politics. They were low level clerks apponted by local councilmen who probably couldn’t pick Biden out of a lineup.

    Reply

  10. jason says:

    There are no demands on syria to stop arming, training, and hosting islamic jihad and hezbollah, and hamas.
    Syria’s president and Iran’s president publically dissed clinton in a press conference saying her translation must be lost if they think iran and syria are growing apart.
    Assad Jr is not like his father who was pragmatic and kept distance from hezbollah and iran. So this notion of splitting iran from syria is a joke.
    Obama has given syria airplane parts, sensitive communication systems, sent our ambassador back there, and is reportedly going to allow syria into IMF.
    What has syria given back nothing. John Kerry and his wife go on dinner dates to damascus and praise assad.
    There are no ultimatums on syria. Syria’s foreign minister threatened israeli cities with rocket attacks. This came after hamas’s leader msehaal threatened israel’s airport.
    Syria and Iran are sending long range rockets to hamas and hezbollah.
    Syria is still hosting baath party militants from iraq.
    Syria and Iran are using sudan’s leader to bring in weapons to gaza through sudan and syria, hamas, and iran went down to sudan to lift the leaders spirits when he was under attack.
    The left goes after israel for apartheid yet hamas, syria and iran are supporting the leader who is committing genocide in darfur.
    Samantha power is flexing her muscles. In 2002 she wanted military force against israel you can see in a youtube video. Obama put her in charge of Israel file at NSC.
    Wall Street journal had someone leaking that Obama last july said he would distance u.s from israel so arabs can change the way they see us.
    Before Obama had Clinton blow it back up on friday the palestinians said they would get back to talks.
    Now Obama has put in place impossible obstacles. The local planning committee has statutory power as this stage in the process and bibi can’t do anything until the permits stage which is years off.
    Also even abbas and arafat agreed israel would keep ramat shlomo it was one of the few areas they agreed israel could keep.
    And how can Israel release hundreds of prisoners which was another Clinton demand in the middle of trying to get the shalit negotiations back on track.
    Obama presented Clinton with with impossible demands when he made them for Clinton to read out to Bibi.
    That is so Obama who used the word condemn and also that relations are at stake.

    Reply

  11. jason says:

    Obama has a habit for insulting leaders. Rahm was the one that probably leaked to the press that Obama thought David Cameron was a lightweight because of his views on the EU are opposite Obama’s love affair with the EU.
    Great to insult potentially the next UK prime minister. But Obama’s people don’t really care about close allies as Clinton went to argentina when UK was pleading with her not to over the falklands issue. You would think with all the UK has done for the U.S in afghanistan and Iraq that Obama and Clinton would give the UK a break. But for Obama looking worldly always comes ahead of being close allies.

    Reply

  12. nadine says:

    “Here’s another take on what Obama is trying to do and this one makes a whole lot more sense than the speculation Nadine posted. Get Netanyahu out and Livni in.” (questions)
    Actually the aim is more like, Get Livni in and Lieberman out.
    Heaven help us if this is really the ‘more sensible’ explanation. The other explanation at least provided a figleaf of cover for Obama’s idiocy – a panicked reaction to the Arab League and the prospect of losing the talks.
    If Goldberg’s explanation is right, this is a repeat of last year’s idiocy, only with a bigger hammer.
    It means that Obama has not managed to learn, after a whole year, that routine housing developments in Jerusalem don’t make a good issue to try to fracture an Israeli coalition over. I think Bibi will be strengthened by standing up to these unreasonable demands, which will be seen as anti-Israel by 90% of the Israeli political spectrum.
    I checked out Haaretz, the left-wing equivalent to the NYT in Israel. A couple of columns criticized Bibi for blundering; all said that Obama was over-reacting, perhaps to break the coalition; none suggested Bibi knuckle under or call new elections. Mind you, Haaretz usually likes Bibi as much as the NYT liked GW Bush.
    “Geez, ya mean the US might interfere in some other nation’s sovereign space? Hmmmm.”
    Only small democratic allies like Honduras and Israel. Enemies get deferential treatment. Iran hung six more protesters today; there was no comment from the White House.
    Did you notice where Goldberg’s White House source told him that Obama thinks Bibi is stupid? Helluva thing to say about a PM who presumably he will need to work with in the future. And Bibi is smart. Inside Israel, he’s a vaguely Clintonesque figure; he may be regarded as slippery, and some of his deals may be shady, but nobody calls him stupid.
    Obama combines arrogance and ignorance to an unprecedented degree. He doesn’t do his homework and he’s not learning on the job. Come to think of it, he’s doing the same thing with healthcare: the answer to setbacks is always more of Plan A. He won’t (can’t?) change course. It’s somebody else’s fault if it doesn’t work. Arrogance + incompetence = inflexibility.

    Reply

  13. questions says:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/16/AR2010031602078.html?hpid=topnews
    And another that suggests that Livni might be the beneficiary.
    I would love to be wrong about a rightward turn in Israel after this.

    Reply

  14. questions says:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/03/what-obama-is-actually-trying-to-do-in-israel/37548/
    Here’s another take on what Obama is trying to do and this one makes a whole lot more sense than the speculation Nadine posted. Get Netanyahu out and Livni in. Geez, ya mean the US might interfere in some other nation’s sovereign space? Hmmmm.

    Reply

  15. nadine says:

    Sweetness, there is zero chance of progress on I/P. The Palestinians have moved on from talking-but-never-making-a-deal, as they did under Arafat, to demanding-ever-higher-preconditions-even-to-talk under Abu Mazen. Obama has just handed the Palestinians their second great excuse for running away from the table and raising their demands. I would bet you $1000 there will be NO talks this year. But lots of riots. Maybe a third intifada.
    So once again, Obama has achieved the precise opposite of what he intended.
    DonS, I remember Rolin Martin from the 2008 campaign. Even by the standards of widespread Obama worship in the media, he was extraordinarily worshipful.
    His comments seem rather ordinary remarks about being willing to get tough with both sides. My question is, if Obama wants talks so much, and all this time the Israelis have been saying ‘yes’ while the Palestinians said ‘no’, how come Obama never made any statement to the Palestinians, not even “I’m trying to get you the best deal I can, but you’ve got to step up to the plate”? Obama only talks tough to the Israelis, who have been more cooperative with him than the Palestinians.

    Reply

  16. questions says:

    Nadine, interesting strategy post. I get the feeling it’s the sort of event that will have a thousand tellings by a thousand witnesses. Who really knows what was accident, what was deliberate. Possibly each event in the series was a bit of both opportunism and planning.

    Reply

  17. questions says:

    Thanks for the comments! And always feel free to quibble, amend, outright disagree, correct…. My position matters not a bit to me, good policy thinking is the real issue.
    And you actually caught me! I had been thinking off and on about what I might consider reasonable national interests that are not radically perspectival, but are closer to the “view from nowhere.” On a quibbling note, the safety of the troops is one of those sort of ironic things for a couple of reasons — first, they ARE troops so safety is more of a relative term, and second, those who are into sending troops don’t seem to be equally into sending reasonable protective gear or taking care of them when they get home…. So to hear the national interest crowd cite this as an issue while not really acting on it….
    But I agree that there are some pretty obvious topics for exploration– some kind of energy policy, some kind of industrial/production/jobs policy/some kind of protection for health, education, welfare, some kind of moral presence, some sense of the limiting of desire so that we are not the world’s biggest exploiters…. The boundaries of these issues are really up in the air, though I have my preferences for sure!
    I agree that I hope we don’t waste the crisis. I am deeply concerned about the status of Israeli society and the way that it manages to justify conditions in Gaza. I’m not surprised, and I don’t know the way out, but I hope we start crawling in that direction.
    Thanks again for the comments!
    And by the way, the number of times I’ve restrained myself from writing “what Sweetness says” is a large number.

    Reply

  18. questions says:

    OT, but super interesting thing on the national debt, our BIGGEST CREDITOR and what we should do about it…..
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/3/16/846434/-Who-Is-Our-Biggest-Creditor-Hint:-Its-Not-Japan-or-China
    I learn something new every day. Totally recommend everyone’s reading this because it gives some perspective on the economy.

    Reply

  19. Sweetness says:

    Questions, I agree with you on the general question of “national
    interests.” For one thing, what one person considers to be
    America’s true “national interests” depends on what he or she
    thinks are worthy goals for the country and how s/he assesses
    the international scene. And people will vary WIDELY on that.
    And they will vary even more on what they’re willing to say the
    US should DO about pursuing those interests.
    So it’s comical to hear posters talking as if this were an obvious
    question. And it’s telling what people are willing to say. So, a
    lot of people agree that protecting Israel is NOT in the national
    interests of America. And they’ll go on to say that, in fact, Israel
    is a liability. Even if Israel helped out America out during the
    Cold War, those days are dead and gone. This seems to be WM’s
    position.
    Some people will throw another log onto the fire by saying, “And
    Israel doesn’t even have oil!” But these folks, at least on the left,
    aren’t willing to say how far the US should go, or what the US
    should do, to protect America’s “national interests” in a steady
    flow of cheap oil.
    But, as much as I agree with you, and really you’re the only
    person willing to deal with these questions on a certain level so I
    probably shouldn’t complain, I do think there’s a time for
    making some concrete statements.
    For example…
    I think it’s undeniable that the safety of our troops in Iraq is very
    much a true national interest. We don’t want our allies
    jeopardizing their safety and welfare. So, when our military says
    that Israel is doing that, it’s an important statement.
    I agree that this very clear statement sits on top of a thicket of
    thorny questions, such as, aren’t WE doing the same thing to our
    military by sending them out on these fools’ errands? And
    many, many others.
    But I do think it’s important to take a stand and say X on these
    critical issues. Personally, I’m hoping this crisis will upset the
    applecart enough that we get some movement on IP (despite
    what Wig predicts). All the parties are locked into very bad and
    self-defeating stances (and holding each other in place) and
    something needs to break the embrace.
    The status quo isn’t rational, and I don’t think we can wait for
    the truly rational solution (as much as we might want it) before
    we try to move forward. Sometimes, you just need to try
    something new and different to break the trance.

    Reply

  20. nadine says:

    Here is a comment that a “plugged-in” aquaintance sent to John Podhoretz, which he posted at Contentions blog. It offers an angle that no other commenter has addressed so far. It sounds very plausible to me. It’s just the way the Obama administration thinks:
    “I think the Obama administration’s blow-up wasn’t about the “insult” at all. That was just a convenient excuse. The issue is that Obama has zero to show for his first year in office in the foreign policy realm. His one arguable success is the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (even if I’d call it a self-inflicted failure created by his outrageous public scolding of Israel in May 2009 on a total settlement freeze that limited PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’ ability to maneuver). The Palestinians are constantly — and tactically — looking for any excuse to walk away from negotiations to cause Israel to better its offer. When the housing announcement was made during the Biden visit last week, the Arab League jumped all over the State Department and the Obama people saw the entire Mitchell “proximity talks” project as being at risk. The wild overreaction was a deliberate effort to shock the Israelis to make more concessions, of course, but more so to impress upon the Arab League that it should not withdraw its support for the proximity talks. A tactically foolish approach, as it will hurt, not help, forward movement on the talks — which will go nowhere soon anyway. But not just a fit of pique.”

    Reply

  21. DonS says:

    Here’s a great summation by Roland Martin (who I am not very familiar with); it actually seems objective, although my own cynical self fears it may be too idealistic.
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/03/16/martin.israel.criticism/index.html?hpt=Mid
    So Hillary is downplaying the rift, while Michael Oren (Israeli ambassador to US) says its the worst crisis since 1975 (that ought to get the AIPAC copy machines running at high gear, which we see already)
    What I wonder is who from the US is continuing to play the bad cop to Hillary’s [now] good cop? Obviously the Israelis see an angle in it for them to play up the situation from some quarters.
    The US has been handed a gift; a certifiable rift; even the Israeli ambassador agrees. So why can the US not seem to take advantage of it, but rather quickly plays it down after the initial “insult”, “affront”, etc.
    This is not so much a checkers/chess thing as wrestling/judo. To all observation, Israel has committed a forceful and aggressive gesture. The US initially struck back pretty hard, by US standards for dealing with Israel. Now Israel is diversifying its tactics; affirming, accusing, apologizing, threatening . . . Where are the US judo masters? Inquiring minds really need to know.
    A good conflict is a precious thing to waste.

    Reply

  22. Sweetness says:

    Nadine…ha!…good one.

    Reply

  23. nadine says:

    Sweetness, Carroll has reminded me of an old joke:
    Two old Jewish retired men, Avram and Moishe, arrange to meet each other in the city park on a nice sunny day. Moishe runs a little late, and as he approaches the park, he sees Avram sitting on a bench reading a newspaper. But as he draws near, he sees that Avram is not reading the Jewish paper, but the worst anti-Semitic yellow sheet in the city. He cries “Avram! Why are you reading that awful rag?”
    Avram replies, “When I read the Jewish paper, it is full of bad news. All over the world Jews are hated and suffering. We are few in number, most of us are poor, and our enemies are many and powerful and they threaten to destroy us. It is very depressing.”
    “But when I read this paper (holding up the anti-Semitic rag), it’s completely different. Here, we are all rich and powerful — in fact, we secretly control every government and we rule the whole world! I feel so much better!” he cried.

    Reply

  24. Dan Kervick says:

    “Ok Dan, so now you’re ignoring your own principles, spamming this blog with a cut & paste from Ha’aretz?”
    “But why on earth didn’t you provide a link?”
    Sorry, Paul. Here’s the link. There’s a picture of Biden following his meeting with Netanyahu.
    http://www.an.no/

    Reply

  25. Sweetness says:

    Hey, Carroll, thanks for your comment. Here’s my thinking on it:
    • First, I don’t know if the statistic is true. JJ Goldberg at The
    Forward, I think, was the first one to float this, and it’s been
    picked up and passed around. So maybe; maybe not. It looks
    so bad for gentiles, I’m reluctant to believe it. And it’s a pretty
    extreme statement, so I’m a bit incredulous.
    CL: Gentiles don’t give as much money politically as do Jews. At
    first I suppose because they thought this actually was a
    democracy and then too political bribery use to be considered
    scandalous…before it congress legalized it.
    • The problem with this is that American politics have been
    soaked through with money since the beginning. Boss Tweed.
    Huey Long. John Daley. The robber barons. The railroads. And
    many, many others. I’d wager that, in a way, we’re living in a
    less corrupt time than many others. Remember all those smoke-
    filled rooms? The idea that gentiles (a pretty varied “group,”
    actually) were naive to the realities of American politics when so
    many gentiles were in the thick of it doesn’t speak highly of
    them–and, actually, isn’t believable.
    CL: Then as our politics became more corrupt a lot people
    assume it doesn’t matter because they can’t match the money
    from special interest anyway.
    • I still think the corruption scale is going the other way. But
    Dean and Obama proved to a lot of people that small donations
    do count. Paul did too.
    CL: Jews on the other hand because of their tenuous positions in
    countries they lived in, and historically, have always tired to or
    had to buy their protection or favors from various governments
    or rulers with money.
    • There’s probably truth to this. The vast majority of Jews,
    though, have been poor. But the rich ones acted like rich people
    all over–wielding their money as power, I’m sure.
    CL: And of course fanatics on any issue, Jews on Israel, liberals
    and conservatives on various issues, and etc. always give more
    to buy influence than your average non fanatical citizen.
    • True, but the only thing is, we’re not talking about Israel here.
    We’re talking about contributions to the Democratic Party which
    has always stood for much more than Israel (however much it
    was in Israel’s pocket). So this doesn’t really work.
    I mean, don’t gentiles care about social services, education,
    health care, welfare, a fair tax policy, a clean environment,
    workplace safety, space exploration? Is it really possible that
    Jews care THAT much more about these issues than gentiles?
    Again, I think this paints an unflattering picture of gentiles’
    political consciousness and concern for their country’s welfare.
    PS to Sam B: I’d respond, but I don’t know what you’re saying.

    Reply

  26. DonS says:

    Hillary gets the 3 a.m. call. Immediately falls to her knees.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8571143.stm

    Reply

  27. samuelburke says:

    asked by sweetness>>>”Sam, you know I’ve always wondered
    about this “truth.”
    “What do you think it is?”<<<
    it definitely can not be anything that causes the deaths of so many
    civilian innocents on many sides and in many nations.
    humanity must be the first consideration.

    Reply

  28. JohnG says:

    Ring Ring….
    Hello?
    Yes, he/she is. May I ask who’s calling? OK. Honey! It’s AIPAC on the phone!:
    http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0310/Democrats_begin_to_criticize_Obama_on_Israel.html

    Reply

  29. Carroll says:

    Posted by samuelburke, Mar 16 2010, 2:58PM – Link >>>>>>>>>
    Yes I know.
    I saw the original article about dem jewish donors in the WP a long time ago. It said the dems got 60% of their campaign money from them.

    Reply

  30. Carroll says:

    Posted by Sweetness, Mar 16 2010, 3:07PM – Link
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I would think you would know the answer to your own question.
    Gentiles don’t give as much money politically as do Jews. At first I suppose because they thought this actually was a democracy and then too political bribery use to be considered scandalous…before it congress legalized it. Then as our politics became more corrupt a lot people assume it doesn’t matter because they can’t match the money from special interest anyway.
    Jews on the other hand because of their tenuous positions in countries they lived in, and historically, have always tired to or had to buy their protection or favors from various governments or rulers with money.
    And of course fanatics on any issue, Jews on Israel, liberals and conservatives on various issues, and etc. always give more to buy influence than your average non fanatical citizen.

    Reply

  31. Sweetness says:

    Sam, you know I’ve always wondered about this “truth.”
    What do you think it is?
    Do gentiles just not give a shit about politics?
    Are they cheap?
    Are gentiles mostly Republican?
    Anyway you slice it, it doesn’t look good for gentiles.
    I mean, think about it: Jews make up 3% of the population. Not
    all of them are Democrats. Not all of them are rich or give
    money or large amounts of it. I think we can safely assume
    these things.
    The two richest people in America (generally) are gentiles.
    Why is a fraction of 3% able (or willing) to outspend the other
    97% on progressive causes?
    Many folks, as Mondo points out, consider this a Jewish
    “canard.” If true, I think it’s a pretty damning statement about
    gentiles, especially who think of themselves as the “real
    Americans.”

    Reply

  32. samuelburke says:

    carroll if you are referring to this, it is phil weiss from
    mondoweiss.net, i pasted the link.
    >>>Podhoretz urges ‘wildly disproportionate’ Jewish donor
    base to abandon Democrats
    by PHILIP WEISS on MARCH 15, 2010 · 30 COMMENTS
    I feel guilty whenever I point out that most of the money in the
    Democratic Party political process comes from Jews, per the
    Washington Post. Well John Podhoretz in Commentary is joining
    me in conveying that “wildly disproportionate” truth, I mean
    canard. But he’s telling the money boys to walk out of the
    Democratic Party because of Obama’s stance on Israel. This is a
    reminder that if the neocons are of any party, it’s a Zionist one;
    they left the Democrats in the ’70s over Israel.
    The word we keep hearing from Washington is that in the
    upcoming congressional elections there is an “enthusiasm gap”
    developing between resurgent Republicans and somewhat
    dispirited Democrats in the run-up to the 2010
    midterms.”<<<<

    Reply

  33. Carroll says:

    Posted by samuelburke, Mar 16 2010, 8:40AM – Link
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Excellent post today.
    I can give you a cure for the Jewish money donations to the dems problem.
    All Obama has to do is go before the public, tell them that he and the US military needs their support in fighting the powerful forces in congress and the jewish lobby who are putting the US troops in danger because of their loyalty/ concern for Israel.
    Told to the US public as “putting American troops in danger” would be dropping the A-bomb on Israel, Israelis in the US congress and the lobby.
    Sooner or later some President is going to do just that. There is no amount of campaign money that would be able to wipe that out of the minds of American voters, regardless of their party, religion or agendas.

    Reply

  34. nadine says:

    DonS, Yes, Petraeus said the I/P conflict fomented anti-American sentiment. It was one point on a list of about twelve points about how the Mideast was sufficiently f—ed up to make his mission difficult. Militant Islamic movements, ungoverned areas, and piracy were also on the list. Very conventional stuff.

    Reply

  35. Carroll says:

    “Any US Congressperson or Senator who actually explicitly withdrew or withheld support for health care reform because of loyalty first to Israel and its needs would invite serious questions about his or her patriotism and oath to the US Constitution and American people”
    Thank you Steve.
    Just add …or withheld support for “anything” because of loyalty first to Israel…”
    Reminds me of your post about Sen. Schumer’s…”a vote against Bolton is a vote against Israel”
    I think there have been a lot of true patriots waiting for Israel to show their true colors toward the US and that everything they said about Israel and their Israeli firsters in congress is true. And Israel and the zionist in their monumental stupidity has proved them right beyond the shadow of a doubt.

    Reply

  36. DonS says:

    Petraeus, no interpreter, no stenographer:
    “In his prepared testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning, Petraeus said, “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR. … The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel.””
    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/03/16/conservatives-petraeus-listen-now/
    PDF of Petraeus remarks: http://armed-services.senate.gov/statemnt/2010/03%20March/Petraeus%2003-16-10.pdf

    Reply

  37. rich says:

    POA may want to take a note of this.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1155874.html
    ‘People are laughing at you’: U.K. expert on Israel’s PR effort
    ___
    As an aside, what’s with the usage of the meme “suicide terrorism” by the New America Foundation?
    Love to attend those sessions, but the ideologically-freighted euphemism hurts, rather than helps, our understanding of why citizens have reached the points where they’re willing to strap bombs to their bodies just to take out occupation soldiers or ‘contractors’.
    Didn’t Nathan Hale say “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country”?
    It shouldn’t be so hard to understand the motivation of citizens halfway around the world who are at this point basically defending their homes, families and territory—and our failure to do so will cost us blood and treasure, and gain us nothing.
    The use of “suicide terrorism” does not clarify our understanding of the political dynamics or military factors at work here.

    Reply

  38. nadine says:

    Hard to call the January 09 invasion of Gaza ‘stability’.
    It was designed to stop the rockets and return to the status quo ante of a quiet border. So far, it worked. This amounts to stability in the Mideast.

    Reply

  39. nadine says:

    “The Saudis were indeed conquered — by the USA. And the spoils of our conquest has been a steady flow of oil from that nation since since WWII.
    We patrol the Straits of Hormuz because that keeps the world market price stable — imagine what the price would do if we didn’t. We do that not for others but for ourselves” (JohnH)
    Wait a minute, JohnH, the money is going the wrong way! How come pay the Saudis billions and billions of petrodollars? They should be paying us!
    If we really were the imperial power of your hallucinations, they would be.

    Reply

  40. DonS says:

    “There’s actually a lot at stake here for the stakeholders, actual lives, not “interests” and destabilization might be a cure worse than the disease.” (Ques)
    That’s exactly the point; seems like the last decade of military adventures should have brought this point home?
    “is this one of those times that stability will have been preferable to change — even if that change seems to be in the direction of justice. Going backwards can be good sometimes” (Ques).
    Hard to call the January 09 invasion of Gaza ‘stability’. And unless I missed it, wasn’t it the Israeli pols who threw the rotten eggs at Biden? Now it is of course possible that one of the loyal moles could have tipped off the Israelis unofficially that Biden was going to try to kick start the talks, and decided on a pre-emptive strike. . .
    As to the ‘recipe’ for change, the parties have talked for so long, including the Geneva alternate talks (or whatever they are called) that there are more than enough details and maps in the hopper. Only the will is lacking. Meanwhile, Hamas gets stronger and more radical, and the settlers more legitimized. And isn’t there something about concern for Iranian influence that involves de-escalating tension, in the name of American INTEREST? Now if Bibi and company are playing a game of “leave us alone on Palestine or we will upset the apple cart and bomb Iran” I’d say the US can’t be party to that black mail.

    Reply

  41. questions says:

    The thing with breaking a few eggs is that one might want, say, a recipe, a reasonable expiration date so that one can be sure that the eggs aren’t sulfurous (nasty!) and I’m not sure that the admin thought this through very well — it seems to have been a pretty artificial outrage.
    I don’t know the best way to get a fucked up, psychotic country to accept a massive legislative and identity shift at the behest of an outsider. That is, I don’t know how to convince Israel to do what’s right, nor would I know how to convince US citizens who are freaked about immigration, sharing the planet, not being hegemonic or whatever.
    But what really has to happen is a major shift in Israel culture. If this little storm causes the fall of a right wing government and the imposition of a righter wingier government, then who is going to have been well-served by any of it?
    If, on the other hand, it leads to a weakening of Israel, a strengthening of Hamas, more intransigence on both sides, a new intifada, or whatever, more guns, more bombs… then what?
    There’s actually a lot at stake here for the stakeholders, actual lives, not “interests” and destabilization might be a cure worse than the disease.
    Lots of people have studied the issue of stability that isn’t fun as against instability that serves immediate pleasures. Sometimes stability seems to win out. And the 64 thousand dollar question, I guess, is, is this one of those times that stability will have been preferable to change — even if that change seems to be in the direction of justice. Going backwards can be good sometimes. And leaving sulfurous eggs in their carton in the back of the fridge til you remember to throw them away can be better than having to air out the whole stinking house.
    I worry that the admin miscalculates. I worry that the worry over the American anus is radically misdirected. I worry that the cure is worse than the disease and even more will die. It’s not a policy area for knee jerk non-thinking. In fact, I’d suggest a whole lot more dissertations need to be conceived and written on the topic of national interest.

    Reply

  42. samuelburke says:

    US heartland wakes to ‘colonial project’
    by PHILIP WEISS on MARCH 16, 2010 · 7 COMMENTS
    http://mondoweiss.net/2010/03/us-heartland-wakes-to-
    colonial-project.html
    March madness. Indiana University is promoting a prof’s
    statement that in Israel, US is funding “colonialism… rejected
    everywhere in the world.” Amazing that this is on the Indiana
    University website. Note that Rafael Reuveny is former IDF and
    came here years ago (university bio – includes: Technion, Israel
    Institute of Technology B Aeronautical Engineering, six years in
    IDF). I wonder what Shaul Magid, the Brit Tzedek guy/Kabbalah
    scholar who is the usual IU expert, has to say about this? The
    release, in part:
    IU Professor: U.S. must immediately stop funding Israeli colonial
    project
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    March 15, 2010
    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. –
    Vice President Joe Biden’s rebuke of Israel over proposed
    settlement expansion in Greater East Jerusalem is not only
    ineffective, it’s hypocritical, said Professor Rafael Reuveny, a
    researcher on Middle East violence and political economy at the
    Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs in
    Bloomington.
    “The United States has been funding the Israeli colonial project
    for decades,” Reuveny said.
    While Israel annually receives billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars
    and weapons, money and easy loans are then passed on to
    Israeli settlers to build homes and businesses in Palestinian
    territory. “It is terribly difficult for Palestinians who have very
    few rights in their homeland,” Reuveny said. “Not only has such
    colonialism come to be rejected everywhere else in the world, it
    defeats U.S. and Israeli interests and gravely risks their national
    security.”
    here is the link to the univerisity of indiana website.

    Reply

  43. samuelburke says:

    the link for the petraus testimony before congress did not
    work..you can get it here.
    http://mondoweiss.net/2010/03/sometimes-the-news-takes-9-
    years-petraeus-says-lack-of-progress-for-palestinians-is-root-
    cause-of-arab-anger.html

    Reply

  44. samuelburke says:

    this is from mondoweiss dot net
    it is starting to look like a full court press.
    “(Sometimes the news takes 9 years) Petraeus says lack of
    progress for Palestinians is ‘root cause’ of Arab anger
    by PHILIP WEISS on MARCH 16, 2010 · 2 COMMENTS
    Gen’l Petraeus’s testimony to Congress this morning:
    http://armed-
    services.senate.gov/statemnt/2010/03%20March/Petraeus%200
    3-16-10.pdf
    These factors can serve as root causes of instability or as
    obstacles to security.
    Insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East
    peace. The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its
    neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance
    our interests in the AOR [Area of Responsibility of Centcom]
    Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-
    scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American
    sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab
    anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and
    depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the
    AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the
    Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups
    exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives
    Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese
    Hizballah and Hamas.”

    Reply

  45. DonS says:

    Questions, in some respects Steve is just reporting and riffing on something that [he says] struck him as far out there; I would agree.
    In a other way, if there is to be movement on Is/Pal, and we all know that means the US breaking a few eggs in the process, as far as the US always turning a blind eye, than maybe Steve isn’t averse to exploring emerging memes that could foster the surfacing of such potential. I don’t find Steve [and his 'ilk] near the naif that, say, a Wigwag does.
    Actually, I think the [potentially] emerging linkage and public recognition of danger to American troops raised by Petreaus — and that Nadine and her ilk is doing everything they can to discredit the messenger — holds promise for finding a wedge into AIPACs death grip on policy parameters. (I realize you disagree)

    Reply

  46. questions says:

    Paul, what does “perceived national interests” even mean?
    What perceiver? What perception? What interest? When you have a copy of an image of a fake object and then you look at the shadow of it and think you have the truth because you’re looking at the shadow of a copy of an image of an object — by firelight even — what ever are you talking about?
    Perceptions of national interest? You only worry about perceptions when you don’t have a clue what reality is. And as for “national interest” we don’t have a clue. Because it’s not really a great category to be working with. It reifies the unreal, it makes it seem that there is some scientifically correct way to conduct a nation, it gives seeming authority to what are always muddled attempts to get by in the world. It lends an aura of respectability to what in fact isn’t very respectable.

    Reply

  47. jonst says:

    Mar,
    My mindset, for better or worse, is so different from yours I am not sure we are ‘reading the same book’ never mind the same page.
    I don’t care what happens over the ME. I wish them all well. I simply want to be able to buy oil at the market price. That is all I want. I want my nation to be as involved, or not, as China, Japan, and Europe are in the ME. IOW…..not very involved. If you response is ‘ah, they can only maintain their postion so long as we maintain our Imperial pretense’ then fine. Let them pony up money for our involvement and I might change my mind.
    Here is a quote from an article posted last week on the net:
    >>>>>>Modesty in Washington? Humility? The ability to draw new lessons from long-term experience? None of the above is evidently appropriate for “the indispensable nation,” as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once called the United States, and to whose leaders she attributed the ability to “see further into the future.” None of the above is part of the American arsenal, not when Washington’s weapon of choice, repeatedly consigned to the scrapheap of history and repeatedly rescued, remains a deep conviction that nothing is going to go anything but truly, deeply, madly badly without us, even if, as in Iraq, things have for years gone truly, deeply, madly badly with us.<<<<
    That nears sums up what I am getting you. Yours seems to me to be dated way of framing the issue. But it is the majority one. Grant you that.
    I don’t care what Iran does or does not do in the ME. Let someone else worry about it. I am much more concerned with avoiding a Rome like fate here in American. We have bigger fish to fry at home.

    Reply

  48. Paul Norheim says:

    Questions may argue that it’s difficult, perhaps even impossible
    to identify the real interests of a nation. But in the real world and
    in the events discussed here, it’s the perceived national interests
    that matter.
    The big news right now is that the US administration no longer
    pretend that the perceived interests of those two nations are
    identical.

    Reply

  49. questions says:

    DonS, the entire Republican party is opposed to that really important national interest of health reform. So who are you really blaming? Seriously.
    Now as much as I would like single payer socialist/commie-inspired health education and welfare, I know that vast quantities of people are opposed to the same stuff. So blaming outside “foreign” forces for what a whole political party is also doing is a little weird.
    Again, health care could have been passed ages ago if the Repubs weren’t, well, Repubs. But rather than rage at them, you’re creating this possibly fictitious Israeli agent who is selling out the US to cut down on pressure on Israel — which this entirely fictitious agent might actually see as an action deeply within US interests, by the way.
    What Clemons seems to be doing in the post is A)warning people and B) setting up a rhetorical space to allow for all the more Israel-bashing and worse– which of course pressures those who might have thought of linkage to avoid linkage. I’m not so keen on the read of Congress, nor on the strategy, nor on the possible results. But I’m just one poster, who like bslev, feels a little uncomfortable with certain rhetorical moves.
    As for selling out to foreigners…I’m just not there on the issue. Really, just not there. My “dissertation” isn’t hedging anything. It’s suggesting that “national interest” is ill-defined, ill-used, carelessly tossed about, caught up with the national anus POA and even Kervick now seem worried about. It’s a problematic concept and as such, needs a lot more work than it gets around here.

    Reply

  50. samuelburke says:

    Chris Hedges’ Columns
    Israel Crackdown Puts Liberal Jews on the Spot
    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/israel_crackdown_puts_lib
    eral_jews_on_the_spot_20100315/
    “The campaign against Israeli dissidents has taken the form of
    venomous denunciations of activists and jurists, including
    Justice Goldstone. It includes a bill before the Israeli parliament,
    the Knesset, which will make it possible to imprison the leaders
    of Israeli human rights groups if they fail to comply with
    crippling new registration conditions. Human rights activists
    from outside Israel who work in the Palestinian territories are
    being rounded up and deported. The government is refusing to
    issue work visas to employees of 150 NGOs operating in the
    West Bank and East Jerusalem, including Oxfam, Save the
    Children and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without
    Borders). The new tourist visas effectively bar these employees
    from Palestinian territory under Israeli occupation. Professor
    Naomi Chazan, the Israeli head of the NIF, which has donors in
    the United States, is being publicly vilified by ultranationalist
    groups such as Im Tirzu. Foreign donors to the NIF, as well as
    other human rights groups, are being pressured by Israeli
    officials to halt contributions. Billboards have sprouted up
    around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with a grotesque caricature of
    Chazan, who has been branded by groups such as Im Tirzu as
    an agent for Hamas and Iran, with a horn growing from her
    forehead. “Naomi-Goldstone-Chazan” the caption on the
    billboard reads. Im Tirzu, the front organization behind many of
    the attacks, includes among its financial backers the John
    Hagee Ministries and the New York Central Fund, which also
    support extremist settler organizations.”

    Reply

  51. DonS says:

    Wigwag, your take down of Obama in re Is/Pal is not surprising. Nor of course you rooting on the sidelines for any “peace” initiative to fail since you have long since stated that you are just fine with he status quo, thank you (and BTW what do you think of Petreaus linkage to the safety of American troops).
    Regardless of Obama’s ham-handedness, which is becoming an article of zionist faith, though they are rooting for him to be even more ham handed in order to torpedo and possible accommodation, would you be in favor of the supposed talking that the parties did under Bush as preferable. Didn’t we all know Bush’s bottom line was that anything Israel did was ok with him, so where were any talks going?
    Maybe Obama’s bottom line is not so different. But I wonder, supposed Bibi was not so sure about Bush and he, or Shas, had pushed his little buttons. How would Israel hawks respond to an affront of Cheney, or Rice in such a blatant way. My guess is that it would be split, and part of that split would be the emerging of the anti-Semitism that lingers in the heart of many right wingers when you scratch just below the surface of their christianist facade.
    So, bad as Obama is, I still can’t help rooting for the American ‘side’, if it comes to that.

    Reply

  52. questions says:

    The Kervick satire above is part of this same underlying theme of power, respect, honor, fear of loss, protective of the American anus rhetoric that just permeates this blog. Wow.
    Are we really that afraid that sometimes we’re not the master? Given all the left criticism of what we’ve done with our world mastery? Really?
    I thought all these fears were more Israeli-style anxieties about power?

    Reply

  53. samuelburke says:

    SCHENKER SUGGESTED >>>>he suggested there was a linkage
    between US-Israel relations and getting Obama’s health care
    reform passed.>i think it’s a great idea to let the american citizenry know
    that the
    reason they are not getting health care from their government is
    because of the power that aipac has over our congress.
    me, personally, i would love for it to happen. i think the
    american people really really need to open their eyes and finally
    realize how much influence that little racist nation has on our
    congressional political representatives reelection chances and
    how they are beholden to aipac.
    like israel, aipac is a rouge entity.
    just my personal opinion.

    Reply

  54. DonS says:

    Questions, your dissertation on “national interest’ is typically, hedged. That aside, it strikes me as a smoke screen. You probably think you are reflecting the real world of political horse trading.
    But simultaneously you avoid or reject (as does Wigwag by inference) Steve’s point that there is a bright line crossed if the US public welfare involved in the health care legislative debate is linked to or held hostage to administration policy towards Israel, or any foreign power for that matter.
    Denying that bright line, or excusing it in this case, even rhetorically, is pretty shameful, maybe even akin to the false ignorance Nadine proclaims of the effects of American-supported Israeli policies on the safety of American troops.
    ****************
    BTW here’s an interesting and timely Roger Cohen column on the Biden related events:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/16/opinion/16iht-edcohen.html

    Reply

  55. questions says:

    jonst,
    what “American interests”? How do you determine them? How do you know for sure that dumping Israel, “not supporting them” won’t embolden Ahmadinejad et al and actually cause us more problems as we will simply be unable to contain any behavior in the region? If a variety of alliances suddenly over come Arab divisions (which indeed can happen), then we might end up in far worse shape.
    So to declare out and out that no US interests are served, while assuming A) you know what these interests are and B) that the results of a pull back from Israel will be good is really problematic. You don’t present an argument with reasons and facts. You present, instead, an emotive reaction to Netanyahu’s dissing the Americanness of America. (Which actually is a common theme around here — as if true patriotism rested in the self-assertion of the self-American.)
    Note that the Petraeus briefing language was kind of hedged with “could” and “might” make things worse and “some” Arabs are complaining…. There are memes that can set a people off. The Republicans are experts at finding those. You want to get the US to freak, use: race, class, anti-American, terror, death, collective, group, unfair, tax, brother’s keeper (isn’t that Biblical?), paying for someone else… any of these images will set plenty of people off. Maybe those Arabs whoe are communicating to Petraeus have, I dunno, an agenda? Is it even a possible read?
    We are in a very sudden panic mode in which we are likely to do something fairly stupid. Note that we don’t worry about Arab public opinion regarding troops in: Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia (this latter is what actually set bin Laden off in the first place, and Afghanistan is what got him moving for real — NOT Israel). We don’t worry about Arab public opinion about American women’s relaxed physical expression, and we don’t worry about Arab public opinion about much of anything else. In fact, we go about our lives without thinking about a whole range of people who don’t really like how we conduct ourselves. But when Israel can be involved…. Suddenly Arab public opinion is very very big indeed.
    So it seems that really the big concern around here is not human rights, not Arab public opinion, not the respect of the Arab world, not oil (because we already have lots of that)– nope, it’s Israel. And money. And the money we send to Israel. Even W and M realize the money is meaningless, trivial, unimportant. (Can’t pull the quote out right now. I think it’s in the intro to part II.)
    So then, if the money is trivial, and Arab public opinion isn’t the issue, and terrorism isn’t going away, and the Palestinians are still not going to get a fair deal because in fact the human rights issue doesn’t matter, then what is the issue here?
    Please let me know.

    Reply

  56. samuelburke says:

    Dan, your post is similar to the movie inglorious bastards…jewish
    wet dream.

    Reply

  57. DonS says:

    “To say that American troops are threatened by Israel’s attacking Iran would make sense. To say that American troops are threatened by a new apartment building in the center of Jerusalem is ridiculous.” (Nadine)
    Ridiculous avoidance of the obvious, tone deaf, myopic, Petraeus demeaning . . . or just selectively sentient?

    Reply

  58. Paul Norheim says:

    Last time Israel ignored Obama’s demands, he didn’t have a plan
    B. What’s the likelihood that he has one now?
    The recent humiliation was unexpected. I personally doubt that
    the US administration has had time to come up with a plan B
    during the few days since Biden’s visit. I think the administration
    is furious, and that’s it. And there can be no doubt that Israel will
    ignore their demands this time too.
    The most likely outcome is a strengthened Netanyahu, a
    weakened Obama administration, and violent reactions from the
    Palestinians. Perhaps even a new intifada.
    So where is the plan B?

    Reply

  59. JohnG says:

    “By the time he left office, George W. Bush had the Israelis and Palestinians negotiating face to face for months on end” — you seemed to have once again left out a fact:
    By the time he GWB left office, the Israelis were withdrawing from their attack on Gaza. That obviously in your world is irrelvant to the current state of affairs.
    And Walter Russell Mead is now apparently the “Great Oracle” whose thoughts are quoted/referenced at every opportunity.

    Reply

  60. Paul Norheim says:

    Ok Dan, so now you’re ignoring your own principles, spamming
    this blog with a cut & paste from Ha’aretz?
    But why on earth didn’t you provide a link?

    Reply

  61. JohnG says:

    Dan:
    “Christian Republic of Texas, Heartlandia, The Mexifornian Peninsula, The Old Seaboard States Republic, and Confederacy II”
    Brilliant!

    Reply

  62. WigWag says:

    I can think of only one thing that unites the issue of American health care reform and American-Israeli relations; they both demonstrate how politically weak the Obama Administration has become.
    Only an Administration as incompetent as Obama’s could turn what should have been its greatest triumph into a political disaster. Regardless of whether health care reforms passes or fails to pass, because of the stupidity of the Administration, Democrats will lose. If the legislation goes down to defeat, the Administration and Democratic members of Congress look grossly incompetent for failing to succeed in spite of huge democratic majorities in both Houses.
    If health care reform passes, a bill that is increasingly unpopular will looked like it was rammed through using unusual parliamentary procedures. What will happen to Democrats when the tax on high cost health plans start to cost union members hundreds if not thousands of dollars? What happens when premiums continue to rise while newspaper stories begin to appear reporting extraordinary profits from health insurance companies newly enriched from premiums paid by 30 million new customers forced to sign up by Congressional fiat? Amazingly, the good things in the plan like insurance exchanges and limits on life time caps mostly don’t kick-in until after the next presidential election. That was a brilliant political move, wasn’t it?
    The Administration’s efforts on behalf of Israeli-Palestinian peace have, if anything, been even weaker and more incompetent than its efforts on health care reform.
    By the time he left office, George W. Bush had the Israelis and Palestinians negotiating face to face for months on end; it took the Obama Administration only a few short weeks to ruin that. Then, blinded by an ideological predilection that that impelled him to reach out to an increasingly dysfunctional Muslim world, Obama tried to remedy what he perceived as a broken relationship between Americans and the Muslim street. Exactly how has that borne fruit?
    As for the Obama Administration’s reaction to the recent Israeli blunder, that too will end up redounding to the benefit of the Israelis while Obama is made to look increasingly out of touch.
    Does Obama really think that his sharp words will have any impact in light of the fact that by November, the American Congress will have more Republicans and be even more pro-Israel than it already is? Does Obama really think that a politically popular Israeli Prime Minister is more likely to antagonize his own coalition than risk confronting an American Administration that looks increasingly weak and vulnerable?
    The Israelis and Palestinians already can’t agree on most of the fundamental components for a peace plan. Has it occurred to Obama that every time he criticizes Israel the Palestinians become more intransigent and their demands go up, not down? Does this make peace more likely or even less likely? And are his harsh words to the Israelis likely to make Israelis quiver or to get their backs up even more?
    Does Obama know anything at all about Israelis? To paraphrase Walter Russell Mead, does Obama really think that a nation made up of descendants of people who survived the holocaust; or survived the indignities of living as second class citizens in hostile Arab nations; or fled from the wreckage and anti-Semitism of the former Soviet Union; or survived famine and degradation in Ethiopia is going to care what a weak-kneed and politically damaged neophyte like him thinks?
    What is clear to the Israelis and to everyone else who has paid attention for the past 14 months is that when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this Administration is incapable of following the old adage; “speak softly but carry a big stick.” Obama, Clinton, Mitchell, Axelrod, Emanuel seem to prefer to “speak loudly and carry a small stick.” But of course, the Obama Administration never really had a “stick” at all. After the next congressional elections, the twig that the Obama Administration is using to try to beat Netanyahu with will be reduced to little more than a splinter.
    In the meantime, his rhetorical offerings are likely to make a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians even more unlikely; which ironically will suit the Israelis and Palestinians just fine.
    On health care reform, energy policy, banking regulations, global warming and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Barack Obama has become the “anti-matter” King Midas.
    Everything he touches turns to shit.
    Even more amazingly for a President who is so rhetorically gifted, his words are becoming more irrelevant by the day.

    Reply

  63. jonst says:

    Mar,
    I am of the opinion that this, this proposed linkage, has nothing to do with “bargaining” of the kind you know. The only way this becomes relevant, and reprehensible, to me is if one person changes their vote because of pressure from overseas. It is really that simple.
    And for the record, I am not for “leaning” on Israel. Putting “pressure” on them. Or whatever. I am for not supporting them, period. Except where to do so is clearly in American interests. And where it is in American interests to support the Palestinians, I am for supporting them.
    But most of all I am for saying I don’t give a damn what happens there no one is going to get US money, US troops, and so forth. I want to focus on the crisis facing the nation.

    Reply

  64. JohnG says:

    Nadine:
    The Saudis were indeed conquered — by the USA. And the spoils of our conquest has been a steady flow of oil from that nation since since WWII.
    We patrol the Straits of Hormuz because that keeps the world market price stable — imagine what the price would do if we didn’t. We do that not for others but for ourselves.
    Except in relation to Israel, we do the things we do in the ME purely in pursuit of our own economic interests. In fact, that is the foreign policy that we apply to virtually evey country and that is the foreign policy that every other country in the world applies to their relationships.
    On balance, the side effects of our policy towards Israel outweigh whatever direct economic/strategic benefits that we enjoy from such policy.
    I know you disagree.

    Reply

  65. Dan Kervick says:

    Ha’aretz
    March 16, 2064
    Prime Minister Manny Bar Beitmiyon today sharply rebuked Brazilian President Thiago Cavaleiro for refusing to lay a customary kiss on The Great Behind during a recent state visit to Israel.
    President Cavaleiro, admired by his countrymen as the “Pele of Space Warfare”, was in Israel to discuss the terms of 150 billion BRL aid package to Israel. Cavaleiro has refused to acquiesce in recent Israeli settlement activity in West Tehran, which has been occupied since the Passover War of 2011. The Brazilian leader is in his second term as president of the western hemispheric superpower.
    The Great Behind is a renowned one million cubic meter piece of open-air sculpture, commissioned in 2019 and completed in 2021. Known affectingly by Jerusalem locals as “Mount Bibi-butt”, and by religious Jews worldwide as “The Wailing Ass”, it commemorates the historic events of 2010, when former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu turned and dropped his drawers during a televised joint press conference with Barack Obama, President of the United States at the time.
    Pious Jews believe that the sight of Netanyahu’s ghastly and fleshy posterior momentarily incapacitated and disoriented the leadership of the United States, allowing Israel to complete the expulsion of the Philistines from Jerusalem in late 2010.
    The ritual of kissing the west-facing Central Anus of The Great Behind has become a routine gesture of friendship and diplomatic courtesy during visits by foreign leaders and dignitaries to the Jewish State. The ceremony is typically presided over by the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, who initiates the ceremony by shaking both hands of the visiting official while saying “pucker up”.
    The United States was the predecessor state of most of the countries now spanning central North America, including: the Christian Republic of Texas, Heartlandia, The Mexifornian Peninsula, The Old Seaboard States Republic, and Confederacy II. The region is also the location of Ben Gurion, DC – the Israeli Hemispheric District of Columbia, which now serves as the western capital of the state of Israel.
    Historians generally attribute the breakup of the United States to events triggered by the double economic shock of the Great Recession of 2008, and the contemporaneous era of “The Three Holy Wars” in Iraq, Afpakghastan and Iran. The United States defaulted on several foreign loans in 2013, and its government collapsed in 2015.
    Bar Beitmiyon, who was famously filmed during his spring break from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2011 yelling, “Tell that ni**er to go back to darkytown” and vomiting on an Arab falafel vendor, went on to become the brash and brilliant head of the Persepolis Project in 2019, the Israeli scientific effort that genetically engineered Israeli citizens to be resistant to high levels of nuclear radiation. Genetically modified Israelis have been able to settle the Iranian Radioactive Zone, previously thought to have been rendered uninhabitable by the devastation of the 2011 Passover War.
    The 76 year old Bar Beitmiyon was elected prime minister of Israel in 2062.
    Following the trip to Israel, Cavaleiro was scheduled spend three days of rest and relaxation in Dubai with his family at Mi Qi Guo, still known by many in the western hemisphere by its old name, “Disneyland Middle East”.
    The start of the Dubai vacation has been delayed for a day as Brazilian diplomats worked to soothe ruffled feathers in Jerusalem. The Brazilian political action committee Bipac has urged Cavaleiro to rethink his decision and pucker up.

    Reply

  66. nadine says:

    JohnG, if it weren’t for the US, the Saudis could have been conquered a dozen times. Saddam Hussein would own them, or maybe Iran. They couldn’t defend themselves for a day. We patrol the straights of Hormuz. Yet for all this, we buy oil at the world market and don’t demand they sell it to us cheap.
    So explain why saving their lives and fortunes isn’t leverage enough? Why we need to kick Israel around to placate them?

    Reply

  67. P.S. Mueller says:

    Seems to me that the gentleman was dutifully attempting to sew
    what seeds of doubt he could for the team as the vote on
    healthcare reform looms. There is no question that markers are
    being called in from every imaginable and unimaginable quarter.

    Reply

  68. nadine says:

    “Is there such clear evidence that if we disgorge Israel, suddenly Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and the rest will just totally love us? Bin Laden will go back to his cave or turn himself in? No other cultural or political or resource issues will arise? The US is better off with these allies? There aren’t internal power struggles in a variety of nations such that radical Islam is played off against milder versions so that autocratic governments can continue in their autocracy?” (questions)
    If you believe what Arabs diplomats say for public consumption, and/or that Jews are responsible for most of the bad shit that goes down in the world anyway, then you’ve got all the evidence you need. If you are wisely a little more skeptical, there is no evidence whatsoever. It’s one of the oldest con games going. The Arabs have discovered a permanent cost-free point of leverage. Not only is it cost-free foreign policy, it is beneficial to them in domestic politics. To think that the Arabs want to solve the ‘problem of Palestine’ with a peace settlement (as opposed, say, to vengeance and destruction) you have to be a real chump. Obama qualifies.

    Reply

  69. JohnG says:

    Questions:
    You said:
    “In general, this kind of trading is not merely normal, but actually is useful, necessary, and part of any kind of non-compulsive group action. There is either force or bargaining for reluctant decision-makers. Bargaining is probably better, if you ask me.”
    I agree that when two parties haggle over where their own government’s funds are to be allocated, that is called “bargaining” and that is a normal “group action” and an acceptable political activity.
    But when a government A exerts control over the funds, policies and military of government B (whether such control manifests itself directly or through sympathizers of A in B) that is not called “trading” or “bargaining”. B is referred to as a “puppet” state or a “corrupt” state
    You also state:
    “In this reading, to choose something “pro-Israel” is definitionally to betray one’s country, to be unAmerican, to be a traitor and to deserve death.”
    Aside from the hyperbole, choosing something “pro-Israel” is not in and of itself un-American. Choosing something that benefits Israel but does not benefit the US is in indeed betrayal.
    Which takes me to your next assertion:
    “But you only get there if you think that “national interests” are so clear, so self-evident, so obvious that there can be no real debate about the category and what it includes.”
    Who says that there can be no debate? That is what we are doing here, isn’t it?
    You also stated:
    “As I noted at some point, even access to cheap oil is an iffy national interest. If the climate change stuff is right, cheap oil is a national enemy, a human enemy, a life on earth enemy. Such an enemy is not a national interest. And yet, we argue that cheap and dependable oil is in our national interest.”
    Again, aside from the hyperbole and the pie in the sky statements, cheap and dependable oil is in our national interest. Ask the voters.

    Reply

  70. questions says:

    All that said, probably the only good reason to lean on Israel is the human rights issue. This of course isn’t “realism” or “national interests” or self-serving crap of any sort. It doesn’t tie the issue to any ill-defined category.
    It, of course, leaves one open to the charge of hypocrisy or selective concern because one picks on Israel over the Palestinian issue, ignores the Arab treatment of Palestinians (even W and M point this one out), ignores the Chinese treatment of its minority populations, the history of American transgressions against vast arrays of people….
    But at least there’s something true in it. There are real violations of human rights and somehow this issue should be dealt with just as is.
    But if you argue this point this way, you have to drop the pretense of American interests.

    Reply

  71. questions says:

    samuel burke, maybe the reason they aren’t getting healthcare is republican intransigence and the insurance interests? this coulda been done long ago, but was delayed for reasons having nothing to do with mr joe biden or israel or joe lieberman or the shas party or anything else that should have a capital letter.
    you’re suffering from some kind of cognitive bias here to blame the whole thing, in advance of events even, on israel. please note that the vote hasn’t been taken yet. linkage might not happen. and besides, linkage is standard operating procedure in congress. really.

    Reply

  72. questions says:

    I’m going to one-up jonst, but in a different direction. Of course there should be no shock that votes are traded for local preferences over some other set of preferences. In fact, that’s how the system works. The Cornhusker Kickback and the rest of the deals in the health care debate follow the same pattern. If I’m to take a risk for your legislation, if I’m to take action for you, I want something in return. My “loyalty” to the party goes only as far as the party’s service to me.
    In general, this kind of trading is not merely normal, but actually is useful, necessary, and part of any kind of non-compulsive group action. There is either force or bargaining for reluctant decision-makers. Bargaining is probably better, if you ask me.
    What muddies the I/P issues is this overriding sense that some people seem to have that there’s a clear “national interest” in place of “party.” In this reading, to choose something “pro-Israel” is definitionally to betray one’s country, to be unAmerican, to be a traitor and to deserve death.
    But you only get there if you think that “national interests” are so clear, so self-evident, so obvious that there can be no real debate about the category and what it includes.
    That’s a pretty strong claim to make about any political situation.
    Is there such clear evidence that A)Terrorism is CAUSED by US/I/P relations, or is it correlation and suspicion?
    Is there such clear evidence that if we disgorge Israel, suddenly Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and the rest will just totally love us? Bin Laden will go back to his cave or turn himself in? No other cultural or political or resource issues will arise? The US is better off with these allies? There aren’t internal power struggles in a variety of nations such that radical Islam is played off against milder versions so that autocratic governments can continue in their autocracy?
    If it’s self-evident that these are answerable with great certainty, then maybe there’s something here. But given that there’s a fair amount of doubt, that, say, our good friend Pakistan arms the very people we are simultaneously fighting regardless of Israel, given the Pakistan/India issue, and all the other regional interrelations and all their own internal issues, simply saying ISRAEL seems insufficient to me.
    The fact is that “national interests” is not a definable phrase. It’s a term to be argued and interpreted. My offhand guess is that even the execrable Joe Lieberman isn’t a “firster” and doesn’t think that he’s compromising US interests any more than Nebraska’s Nelson thinks the Cornhusker Kickback compromises the nation. And yet, if extra money goes to Nebraska, it doesn’t go to Appalachia, or Pensacola, or California, and so some interests are traded against others, and perhaps the whole is worse off. Welcome to group action.
    The whole issue of national interests needs serious work before it can be used as a basis for argument.
    As I noted at some point, even access to cheap oil is an iffy national interest. If the climate change stuff is right, cheap oil is a national enemy, a human enemy, a life on earth enemy. Such an enemy is not a national interest. And yet, we argue that cheap and dependable oil is in our national interest.
    Peace seems to be a good thing and in our national interest. But what kind of peace, on what terms, with whom, tolerating what? Suddenly it’s not so clear.
    Free travel seems to be a good thing, but we restrict immigration and work permission in our national interest. And all those not so free people whose lives are totally screwed up by our laws, where do they fit in to national interest?
    The term is murky, emotive, and not at all defined in this debate.

    Reply

  73. samuelburke says:

    i think it’s a great idea to let the american citizenry know that the
    reason they are not getting health care from their government is
    because of israel.
    that ought to open some eyes and get some to start asking
    question.

    Reply

  74. JohnG says:

    Dan:
    My comment on exposure was based on the assumption that the WH already has a really good feel for who is supporting health care reform. So, presumably, if a congressman changes his poistion….smoking gun?
    Then it is up to the WH (and his party if he is a Dem)to question such congressman’s patriotism (borrowing of the neocon playbook) — which any congressman would be loathe to suffer (ref: Iraq war).
    Don’t we all remember the question: “Do you support the troops?”
    Now if the WH could grow a spine and execute….

    Reply

  75. samuelburke says:

    “I feel guilty whenever I point out that most of the money in the
    Democratic Party political process comes from Jews, per the
    Washington Post. Well John Podhoretz in Commentary is joining
    me in conveying that “wildly disproportionate” truth, I mean
    canard. But he’s telling the money boys to walk out of the
    Democratic Party because of Obama’s stance on Israel. This is a
    reminder that if the neocons are of any party, it’s a Zionist one;
    they left the Democrats in the ’70s over Israel.
    http://mondoweiss.net/
    “The word we keep hearing from Washington is that in the
    upcoming congressional elections there is an “enthusiasm gap”
    developing between resurgent Republicans and somewhat
    dispirited Democrats in the run-up to the 2010 midterms. That
    ‘enthusiasm gap’ is not just anecdotal; it’s also about
    organization, which means it’s about money. It’s no secret that
    a wildly disproportionate part of the Democratic donor base is
    Jewish. While Jews are almost certain to continue to vote
    lopsidedly for Democrats, that doesn’t mean Jewish donors are
    going to open their checkbooks as widely as they have in the
    past three election cycles. A diminution in Jewish enthusiasm for
    Obama and the Democrats is a problem for them. This is not a
    good moment to be picking fights on an issue of major
    emotional concern to a key Democratic constituency, even if you
    know that many of its members are not disposed to support the
    building program.”
    “Notice the subtitles here: Jews may not like the settlements, but
    they’re emotionally tied to Israel, and Obama’s threatening that
    emotion. Rational thought.”

    Reply

  76. samuelburke says:

    Glen Greenwald has a piece out on lewrockwell dot com
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/greenwald/greenwald60.html
    “As for the second point: I’ve previously noted the glaring
    contradiction among neoconservatives, whereby they
    simultaneously (a) tell American Jewish voters to vote Republican
    because (they claim) the GOP is better for Israel and (b) insist
    that it’s anti-Semitic to point out that some are guided by their
    allegiance to Israel when forming their political beliefs about
    U.S. policy. Obviously, anyone who does (a) is, by logical
    necessity, endorsing the very premise in (b) which they want
    (when it suits them) to label anti-Semitic. Neoconservatives
    constantly make political appeals to Jewish voters expressly
    grounded in the premise that American Jews are guided by
    allegiance to Israel (vote Republican because it’s better for
    Israel), yet then scream “anti-Semite” at anyone who points this
    out. When faced with this glaring contradiction, their typical
    response – as illustratively voiced by Commentary’s Jennifer
    Rubin, after she argued in a 2008 Jerusalem Post column that
    American Jews should vote against Obama because he’d be bad
    for Israel – is to deny “that the interests of the U.S. and Israel
    are antithetical” and insist that “support for Israel in no way
    requires sacrificing one’s concerns for America’s interests.” In
    other words: to advocate for Israel is to advocate for the U.S.
    because their interests are wholly indistinguishable, even
    synonymous.”

    Reply

  77. jonst says:

    Steve,
    With all due respect Steve, and hopefully, a bit of humor, you sound like Claude Rains, in the movie Casablanca, “gambling, in Rick’s? I’m shock!” when you write:
    >>>>Any US Congressperson or Senator who actually explicitly withdrew or withheld support for health care reform because of loyalty first to Israel and its needs would invite serious questions about his or her patriotism and oath to the US Constitution and American people.<<<<<
    I have no questions about the Israel Firsters. That was resolved for me a long time ago with the USS Liberty deaths. I know where they’re loyalties lie.
    I hope people have the courage, and endurance, to keep writing and saying, out loud, in public, Israeli policy in the West Bank heightens the risk to US military personal, all around the world. Period. Just keep saying it. I don’t care what AIPAC shouts back, or Nadine et al, just keep saying the actions threaten our men and women.

    Reply

  78. Dan Kervick says:

    “If AIPAC has the audacity (which I think they do) to apply leverage on health care then the true “Israel First” sellouts in congress will be exposed.”
    I don’t know JohnG. I doubt there would be a smoking gun. Aipac will just tell legislators to “make their positions known” in some generic way or another. If key individual members of Congress decide to monkey wrench health care, and communicate with a wink that they will only remove the monkey wrench if the administration changes it’s position on settlements and the Netanyahu kneecapping of Biden, it will be very hard to prove what they are up to.

    Reply

  79. samuelburke says:

    “On Jan. 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team
    of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command
    (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the
    Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief Joint Chiefs of
    Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian
    conflict.”
    http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/03/14/the_petrae
    us_briefing_biden_s_embarrassment_is_not_the_whole_story
    “The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander Gen.
    David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of
    progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide, 45-minute
    PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that
    there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the
    U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s
    mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises,
    that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was
    jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell
    himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described
    it) “too old, too slow … and too late.”
    The January Mullen briefing was unprecedented. No previous
    CENTCOM commander had ever expressed himself on what is
    essentially a political issue; which is why the briefers were
    careful to tell Mullen that their conclusions followed from a
    December 2009 tour of the region where, on Petraeus’s
    instructions, they spoke to senior Arab leaders. “Everywhere they
    went, the message was pretty humbling,” a Pentagon officer
    familiar with the briefing says. “America was not only viewed as
    weak, but its military posture in the region was eroding.” But
    Petraeus wasn’t finished: two days after the Mullen briefing,
    Petraeus sent a paper to the White House requesting that the
    West Bank and Gaza (which, with Israel, is a part of the
    European Command — or EUCOM), be made a part of his area
    of operations. Petraeus’s reason was straightforward: with U.S.
    troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military had to
    be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged in the region’s most
    troublesome conflict.
    [UPDATE: A senior military officer denied Sunday that Petraeus
    sent a paper to the White House.
    "CENTCOM did have a team brief the CJCS on concerns
    revolving around the Palestinian issue, and CENTCOM did
    propose a UCP change, but to CJCS, not to the WH," the officer
    said via email. "GEN Petraeus was not certain what might have
    been conveyed to the WH (if anything) from that brief to CJCS."
    (UCP means "unified combatant command," like CENTCOM; CJCS
    refers to Mullen; and WH is the White House.)]
    The Mullen briefing and Petraeus’s request hit the White House
    like a bombshell. While Petraeus’s request that CENTCOM be
    expanded to include the Palestinians was denied (“it was dead
    on arrival,” a Pentagon officer confirms), the Obama
    administration decided it would redouble its efforts — pressing
    Israel once again on the settlements issue, sending Mitchell on
    a visit to a number of Arab capitals and dispatching Mullen for
    a carefully arranged meeting with the chief of the Israeli General
    Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi. While the American press
    speculated that Mullen’s trip focused on Iran, the JCS Chairman
    actually carried a blunt, and tough, message on the Israeli-
    Palestinian conflict: that Israel had to see its conflict with the
    Palestinians “in a larger, regional, context” — as having a direct
    impact on America’s status in the region. Certainly, it was
    thought, Israel would get the message.
    Israel didn’t. When Vice President Joe Biden was embarrassed by
    an Israeli announcement that the Netanyahu government was
    building 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem, the administration
    reacted. But no one was more outraged than Biden who,
    according to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, engaged in a
    private, and angry, exchange with the Israeli Prime Minister. Not
    surprisingly, what Biden told Netanyahu reflected the
    importance the administration attached to Petraeus’s Mullen
    briefing: “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden
    reportedly told Netanyahu. “What you’re doing here undermines
    the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan
    and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional
    peace.” Yedioth Ahronoth went on to report: “The vice president
    told his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world
    perceived a connection between Israel’s actions and US policy,
    any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian
    rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal
    safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism.”
    The message couldn’t be plainer: Israel’s intransigence could
    cost American lives.
    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. Maybe Israel gets the message now.
    Mark Perry’s newest book is Talking To Terrorists
    [UPDATE 2--from Mark Perry: A senior military officer told
    Foreign Policy by email that one minor detail in my report, "The
    Petraeus Briefing" was incorrect: a request from General
    Petraeus for the Palestinian occupied territories (but, as I made
    clear, not Israel itself), be brought within CENTCOM's region of
    operation was sent to JCS Chairman Mullen - and not directly to
    the White House. My information was based on conversations
    with CENTCOM officials, who believed they were giving me
    correct information. It is significant that the correction was
    made, not because it is an important detail, but because it is
    was inconsequential to the overall narrative. In effect, the U.S.
    military has clearly said there was nothing in this report that
    could be denied.]”

    Reply

  80. samuelburke says:

    “If he is right, then the relationship with Israel has gone too far
    indeed.”
    say it ain’t so shane.

    Reply

  81. meanto says:

    I can’t understand that why people are not happy to live in peace.
    mediocasa

    Reply

  82. nadine says:

    “Israeli aggression” is an Arab catchword that means “Israeli existence” or “Israeli victory in the wars we started to destroy Israel”.
    Remember, Israel only took the West Bank when it repelled Jordan’s attack on Israel in 1967. Levi Eshkol begged King Hussein to stay out of it; if Hussein had listed to Eshkol instead of Nasser, Jordan would still own the West Bank. Would there be an state of Palestine? Not a chance.

    Reply

  83. JohnG says:

    If one rejects the notion that Israeli aggression, whether military or political in nature, undermines US interests in the Middle East (which includes the safety of our troops), then it begs the question as to whose statements are indeed ridiculous.
    I agree that Petraeus is not in the habit of making ridiculous comments, but as for Nadine, well…
    And if one can only see this crisis in terms of a single housing development then you exist in the same parallel reality as the Israel First crowd.

    Reply

  84. nadine says:

    “Having said that, I don’t think the White House has the courage to stand-up to the coming firestorm without support from another power center. The power center that would add significant backbone to the WH’s position is the military, namely, a military that is more assertive in supporting the (rather obvious) notion that “our troops are threatened” by Israel’s actions.”
    JohnG, what is this really about? Has Israel building a housing development in Ramat Shlomo become some kind of a stand-in for Israel attacking Iran? To say that American troops are threatened by Israel’s attacking Iran would make sense. To say that American troops are threatened by a new apartment building in the center of Jerusalem is ridiculous. Petraeus is not in the habit of making ridiculous comments.

    Reply

  85. nadine says:

    The trouble with you and your fellow (unrealist) realists, Steve, is that, refusing to examine the inner workings of states, you mistake handy excuses for real grievances.
    A quick scan of the way Arab states have actually treated the Palestinians for the last 60 years, and are still treating them (e.g. the expulsion from Kuwait, Jordan’s stripping citizenship, etc) shows that all this talk about caring about the welfare of the Palestinians is a bunch of hooey.
    Now hating Israel, that’s real. Why? Because Israel is not Muslim, Israel is part of the West, the little Satan to America’s Great Satan. Now we come closer to the real reason: The Muslim world is weak and the Western world is strong, and how can this be? Allah promised the rule of the world to those who followed him. The Muslim world has been pondering this problem since 1800 when they found to their shock that it took an English Admiral to get a French general out of Egypt.
    Israel pushes this shameful geopolitical reality into the faces of the Muslim world. If you’re unable to defeat powerful America, that’s bad. If you’re unable to defeat tiny Israel, that’s insupportable.
    The promise of resurgent Muslim world is the card Iran is playing. The Palestinians are a handy excuse, a lowest-common-denominator argument that everybody can buy, EXACTLY like Bush’s arguments about Saddam Hussein’s WMDs before he invaded Iraq.
    Bush’s real reason for war had to do with the breakdown of sanctions, the character of Saddam, and what risks to America were if it left Saddam triumphant in the wake of 9/11. If you had proven to Bush in 2002 that Saddam didn’t have any stocks of WMDs, he would have changed his arguments but kept his Iraq War policy.
    Just so, if you miraculously achieved some kind of I/P settlement, Ahmedinejad would just switch to the next handiest argument about the crimes of infidels in Muslim lands, the crimes of Israel, the crimes of the US, and keep the same policy.
    Ahmedinejad’s objection to Israel is that it exists, he could care less about the Green Line or the Palestinians. Most of the Arabs feel exactly the same. Which is precisely there will be no I/P settlement anytime soon.
    Harming a real ally trying to placate a handy excuse is a fool’s policy. Since the excuse is very handy, the same people who are complaining the loudest will thwart all attempts to placate it — just as they have done for the last 60 years.

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  86. JohnG says:

    Assertions that AIPAC drives its agenda by bullying/threatening/coercing politicians were validated by the tone of their letter directed at the Executive Branch and the statements made by its minions in DC. The hubris of AIPAC is breathtaking.
    My hope is that Schenker’s claim of a linkage between Israeli settlements and health care is correct. If AIPAC has the audacity (which I think they do) to apply leverage on health care then the true “Israel First” sellouts in congress will be exposed, which would be a cathartic experience for US politics and would, in the end, yield a positive result.
    Having said that, I don’t think the White House has the courage to stand-up to the coming firestorm without support from another power center. The power center that would add significant backbone to the WH’s position is the military, namely, a military that is more assertive in supporting the (rather obvious) notion that “our troops are threatened” by Israel’s actions. This notion plays well to the patriotism of the general public and it is easily grasped by those (which is probably 99% of the US) who otherwise lack understanding of our Middle East policies.
    We can rest assured that, as a result of these events, AIPAC will do everything within its means to limit Obama to a single term. It will also come to light in the coming days which Republican congressmen will be pitching themselves as the frontrunner for AIPAC support for 2012. The reactions of Lieberman, Kantor et al. will be expected but what I really can’t wait for is the sickening display of obsequious groveling from the likes of McCain, Palin et al.
    I commend Steve on his patriotism and his courage to continue blogging his views on this issue. He will certainly feel the wrath of the Israel First crowd here and elsewhere.

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