The shameful spectacle of American politicians trying to outdo each other in demonstrating their love for Israel played out again last week. The sparring began before the Olympic Games in London. Israel asked for a moment of silence at the opening ceremony to commemorate the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered in Munich 40 years ago. President Obama obligingly endorsed the proposal and Romney followed, even though it was none of their business, but the British organizers turned it down. They also refused to provide special protection for Israeli athletes, arguing that the security was adequate for everyone involved in the games, which it was.
Preparing to leave for London, Mitt Romney then upped the ante at the Veterans of Foreign War convention in Reno Nevada on July 24, stating to tepid applause that “President Obama is fond of lecturing Israel’s leaders. He was even caught by a microphone deriding them. He has undermined their position, which was tough enough as it was. And even at the United Nations, to the enthusiastic applause of Israel’s enemies, he spoke as if our closest ally in the Middle East was the problem. The people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world. And the chorus of accusations, threats, and insults at the United Nations should never again include the voice of the president of the United States.” Mitt also castigated Russia before going on to his real target, “There is no greater danger in the world today than the prospect of the ayatollahs in Tehran possessing nuclear weapons capability.”
Note that Romney was adopting the neocon and Israeli demand that Iran should not even have the capability to create a nuclear weapon even though it already is able to do so, as are a number of other countries. That means that going to war is already on the table. Mitt then continued “The same ayatollahs who each year mark a holiday by leading chants of ‘Death to America’ are not going to be talked out of their pursuit of nuclear weapons. … A clear line must be drawn: There must be a full suspension of any enrichment, period.”
Arriving in London, Mitt’s disastrous television interview regarding his feeling “disconcerted” over the security preparations for the games may have been partially motivated by the British failure to accede to Israeli demands for enhanced security. If so or even if he had some other objective, the comment was sufficiently boneheaded to do nothing but heighten the perception that Romney is clueless when it comes to foreign policy. He also forgot the name of the head of the Labor Party, referring to him as “Mr. Leader” and referred to looking out the “backside” of the prime minister’s residence. A backside in British usage is someone’s buttocks, perhaps a fitting metaphor for Romney’s overall performance.
With Romney safely diverted by trying to explain himself in London, President Barack Obama then dropped the bunker buster with a public signing ceremony for the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act while simultaneously leaking a story telling how National Security Adviser Tom Donilon had briefed Benjamin Netanyahu in detail on plans to attack Iran. In the signing photo op, Obama could be seen surrounded by Richard Stone, Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Harold Berman, and Howard Friedman. Friedman is a former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), while Stone is chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
The United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, which originated in Berman’s office, was reportedly drafted in part by AIPAC. The bill signed by Obama basically provides Israel with a blank check drawn on the U.S. taxpayer to maintain its “qualitative military edge” over all of its neighbors combined. It requires the White House to prepare an annual report on how that superiority is being maintained. In criticizing the bill, Rep. Ron Paul observed, “This bill states that it is the policy of the United States to ‘reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.’ However, according to our Constitution, the policy of the United States government should be to protect the security of the United States, not to guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign country.” Paul voted “no” and was joined by only one other congressman, John Dingell of Michigan.
The bill commits the American people to veto resolutions critical of Israel, to provide such military support “as is necessary,” to pay for the building of an anti-missile system, to provide advanced “defense” equipment such as refueling tankers (which are offensive), to give Israel special munitions (i.e., bunker busters, which are also offensive), to forward deploy more U.S. military equipment to Israel for the Israelis to use, to offer the Israeli air force more training and facilities in the U.S., to increase security and advanced technology program cooperation, and to extend loan guarantees and expand intelligence sharing, including highly sensitive satellite imagery. The objective is to provide Israel with the resources and political support to attack Iran, if it chooses to do so, while tying the U.S. and Israel so closely together that whatever Benjamin Netanyahu does, the U.S. will have “an unshakable commitment to Israeli security,” as our president so aptly put it at the ceremony.
The Act also calls for “an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises.” Israel as part of NATO, clearly the intent of Congress, would mean that the U.S. and Europeans would be obligated to come to the aid of a nation that has initiated a series of regional wars and that is currently expanding its borders while engaged in hostilities with three of its neighbors.
Romney, who traveled to Israel on the day after the signing, knew that Obama had scored big, so he had some catching up to do. His spokesman back in the States complained, “Unfortunately, this bill does nothing to address yesterday’s evasiveness from the White House on whether President Obama recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which raised doubt about the president’s commitment to our closest ally in the region.” Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, Romney’s key aide on the Middle East, Dan Senor, a former AIPAC staffer, stated that his boss would commit his administration to back Israel if it were to take military action against Iran, again stressing that Iran should not even have the capability to develop a weapon. This position is in sharp contrast to the Obama administration’s attempts to keep Israel from staging a unilateral attack that might threaten U.S. military and naval units in the region. Romney is basically saying that Israel’s interests in the region trump the interests of the United States and he would provide a green light for an attack on the Iranians. Senor also shortened the timeline for military action by adopting the new Israeli red line, noting that something must be done before Iran is able to harden its nuclear sites against possible air and naval assault.
After arriving in Israel, Romney made the obligatory photo-op visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, looking both sorrowful and resolute, before delivering a speech making the same points about perfidious Iran and adding a “basic truth” that the U.S. and Israel will always stand together lest our common enemies be “emboldened.” Romney repeated Senor’s endorsement of an Israeli unilateral attack on Iran, saying that he as American president would support it. And then, with an over-the-top flourish, he called Iran’s “radical theocracy” the “leading state sponsor of terrorism and the most destabilizing nation in the world. We have a solid duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions.” It was not clear if even the Israelis actually believed any of the wildly exaggerated rhetoric.
So the upshot is that we will likely have a war in the Middle East only because Mitt Romney wants to become president and is willing to sell out every U.S. vital interest to succeed in that goal. Obama has already walked down that road, leaving little hope for the rest of us to cling to. Ironically, while all this bowing, scraping, and pandering was taking place, another news item appeared that was quickly dropped down the memory hole by the mainstream media. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported an Associated Press story that the CIA regards Israel as one of the biggest espionage threats directed against the United States, that “U.S. national security officials consider Israel to be, at times, a frustrating ally and a genuine counterintelligence threat” responsible for the “death of an important spy in Syria for the CIA,” leading to the conclusion that “U.S. national secrets are safer from other Middle Eastern governments than from Israel.” Go figure. Mitt? Barack? Any comments?