It might have seemed a no-brainer that the vital security interests of the United States would eventually trump the demands of a small client state that lately has not been much given to rational behavior. But in the latest showdown between the friends of Israel and the Obama Administration the President of the United States blinked first, demonstrating once and for all that no one in the US has the power to say no to Israel. And the truly amazing part was that the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was so confident of the outcome that it didn’t even bother to hide very much of what it was doing, hardly deigning to engage in its usual clandestine arm twisting and slipped under the door "position papers." It immediately issued a public statement slamming the White House, asserting that "The Obama Administration’s recent statements regarding the US relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern. AIPAC calls on the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State." It then unleashed its friends in Congress and the media. Its brazen campaign against the American president was executed all out on public view, right up front and recorded on the AIPAC website.
Lest there be any confusion about what happened, the White House said "Thou shalt not" and Bibi Netanyahu responded "I shall" with Bibi left standing at the end. AIPAC managed to get the support of nearly every congressman who mattered, including many leaders from Obama’s own party. Half of the entire Congress attended the Monday evening gala dinner where Bibi Netanyahu was the guest speaker and there was what amounted to a bipartisan love fest when the Israeli Prime Minister visited Capitol Hill on the following day. Many legislators wrote statements affirming the US-Israeli relationship, carefully recorded by AIPAC in a 39-page document on its website. House Minority Leader John Boehner weighed in with a comment that might have been composed by a twelve year old, which means that he probably actually wrote it, and was echoed by Republican stalwarts Eric Cantor, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. Other commentary repeated the same themes: a threatening Iran, Palestinian intransigence, and Israel as a staunch ally. It all read as if from a script, suggesting a common source. Israel’s apologists never took Tel Aviv to task for anything, not even for being rude to the Vice President of the United States. Meanwhile the media was on board the trashing of the White House right from the start, supporting the perceived interests of a foreign country against those of the US. The Washington Post led the charge, calling on "expert" analysis of the situation from Elliot Abrams, Danielle Pletka, David Makovsky, Aaron David Miller, Daniel Curter, Martin Indyk, and Charles Krauthammer while excoriating the White House with its own lead editorials.
And this was in spite of the fact that opinion polls revealed that two-thirds of Americans were supporting the President, finally aware that far from a strategic asset, Israel is a strategic liability costing billions of dollars annually and has been so for years. And the Pentagon had even weighed in, for once telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth by saying that the fallout from Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians directly threatens US troops in the Middle East and Central Asia. But it wasn’t enough.
At the AIPAC conference on Monday, Hillary Clinton agreed to the terms of the final surrender by the United States, telling the assembled friends of Israel that American commitment to Tel Aviv is "rock solid, enduring, unwavering and forever." Her entire speech portrayed Israelis and even the despicable Netanyahu in purely positive terms while blaming all violence in the region on the Arabs. She peppered her oration with commentary that is palpably ridiculous, like "The United States has long recognized that a strong and secure Israel is vital to our own strategic interests…And we firmly believe that when we strengthen Israel’s security, we strengthen America’s security."
And there was little doubt about who the real enemy is, with Hillary Clinton using much of her speech to lambaste Hamas and Iran, calling for sanctions against the latter "that will bite." And that little contretemps about settlements? Well, she delivered a mild rebuke and called for a two-state solution, stating that the status quo is not sustainable largely because of the demographic pressure caused by the Arab birth rate. But she put no teeth into her call for change and instead insisted that the disagreement with Netanyahu’s government was little more than a spat between friends that "exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit." So you see, it was much ado about nothing and the allegations that the continuing conflict over Palestine is endangering American troops in the region is little more than an excuse for the nasty neighbors (i.e. non-Israelis) to make trouble.
Clinton did make one intriguing comment, perhaps not completely understanding the implications of what she was saying: "We cannot escape the impact of mass communications." She meant that many people have now become concerned about what is going on in Israel and Palestine because of what appears on the internet. But if Israel were truly the cowboy in the white hat upholding truth and justice that would hardly matter, would it? In reality, the narrative of Israeli exceptionalism and entitlement that has been carefully shaped by the Israeli government and its friends in the mainstream media has been thoroughly discredited by alternative sources of information made available through the internet. Once upon a time, only a very narrow audience that could easily be dismissed as "kooks" was aware of the Israeli repression of the Palestinians because the news was carefully filtered, particularly in the US. Today anyone with a computer and interest in the subject can become well-informed very quickly. If there was one hopeful aspect of Hillary’s speech, that was it. The rest was depressing, scripted, and did absolutely nothing to address the real issues.
Vice President Biden followed up on Hillary’s performance by hosting Netanyahu for dinner Monday evening. The media reported that the gathering was intended "to salve hurt feelings" so one presumes Biden apologized effusively for offending his host two weeks before when he became angry over the 1600 new settlements. A misunderstanding, surely. And for all the groveling, guarantees of eternal friendship and continued largesse what did Bibi Netanyahu agree to in return apart from pledging to build more settlements and to retain all of Greater Jerusalem no matter what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Now that we have returned to the status quo ante of wag the dog, it is perhaps a good time to consider if anything positive has resulted from the American-Israeli crisis that never was. The disagreement revealed the utter impotence of the American government in dealing with Israel, even when national security issues are raised. For those who care about the future of the United States, it’s really past time to get hopping mad. The US government has effectively been held hostage to uncritically support a foreign government that engages in both apartheid and ethnic cleansing, something that few Americans would endorse if they were ever allowed a voice in shaping foreign policy. The presence of half of the US Congress at a dinner paying tribute to a foreign leader who is pursuing policies damaging to the United States is little more than a shameless spectacle, but no less than what we have come to expect from the Quislings on the Potomac. And then there is the fighting and dying in what is fashionably referred to as the "long war." Israel and its lobby were undeniably significant players in contriving the case that led to war with Iraq. The propaganda spewed at the current AIPAC conference makes it equally clear that Israel and its supporters are the leading advocates of an attack on Iran and their victory over Obama will only embolden them. Israel can trigger a war by bombing Iran and provoking retaliation that will draw the United States in and there is nothing Washington can do to stop that. When war happens and the awful consequences become clear Obama and Hillary will wish that they had stood up to Israel and AIPAC this week and stopped the madness. But by then it will be too late.