What Does Israel Want?

Is anyone really surprised that Israel violated the cease-fire? Here, after all, is a nation that has defied the United Nations on 321 different occasions, refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and proudly proclaims its own lawlessness. Only a fool, or a masochist, would count on Tel Aviv to keep its agreements. Apart from that, however, this latest raid underscores the real objective of what the American media insists on calling the Israeli "incursion" (never "invasion") into Lebanon: it’s all about Syria and Iran.

The Israelis justified the raid on the grounds that:

"The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese army were not showing any intention to end the rearmament of Hezbollah, since the former was unwilling to confront the ‘terrorist organization.’ Thus, Israel had no choice but to act itself to stop the flow of weapons and missiles to the Shiite group, the official added."

This means the Israelis will continue striking at any targets, especially along the border with Syria, that they deem necessary to stop the "rearmament" of Hezbollah. But of course, Hezbollah is already very well armed, as the Israelis discovered to their sorrow and surprise, and their arms are hardly exhausted. This is yet another pretext, just like the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers, for continued aggression against Lebanon – and a means for the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to avoid or at least ameliorate the political consequences of its abortive military campaign. It has more to do with the political situation in Israel than the military situation on the ground in Lebanon. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the real objective of the Israeli raid may not have been interdicting arms at all:

"At least one independent analyst expressed skepticism of Israel’s claim that the raid was intended to intercept arms supplies. Arthur Hughes, former director-general of the Egypt-Israel Multinational Force and Observers, said the operation was so risky – both for the Israeli soldiers and the country’s international standing – that he found the government’s official explanation implausible. ‘I would guess there was something of high value they were trying to accomplish,’ Hughes said, suggesting that a rescue mission for the captive Israeli soldiers was more likely."

If the two Israeli soldiers could be rescued, then so could Olmert’s government – but it is more than just internal Israeli politics that is driving the IDF. As I pointed out last week, we were warned by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who admitted "The war isn’t over yet." Indeed, if the Israelis have their way, it has barely begun: they are now shifting their focus to a full-fledged effort to embroil Damascus in the conflict, and I wouldn’t rule out air strikes on Syrian territory before all this is over.

Lebanon is just a pawn in the game: Israel’s real objective is toppling Bashar al-Assad and militarily confronting the Iranian mullahs – using U.S. troops, of course. The resulting incredibly destructive regional war will see not a few of their old enemies tossed in history’s dustbin.

Israel’s partisans in the U.S. have, in some instances, been quite open about this objective: Michael Ledeen‘s infamous taste for "creative destruction" is vivid evidence of the neoconsnihilism. But this is nihilism with a purpose: out of all that death and destruction will come a new world, the vaunted "transformation" of the region that was supposed to lead to democratic societies in nations that had never known any such thing. But, as it turns out, democracy has nothing to do with it: it’s all about destabilizing the region to pursue an Israeli agenda. That agenda is the breakup and atomization of the Arab-Muslim world, so that it is little more than a collection of splinters. Lebanon is only the first phase of this campaign, and the Israelis are pushing ahead no matter what Washington thinks.

That is really the big question: is the U.S. going to go along with this crazed Israeli campaign? So far, George W. Bush has gone along for the ride. However, the distance between American and Israeli interests – never as aligned as the two governments averred in public – is fast becoming apparent, and it is only a matter of time before there is a public split.

I would qualify that, however, by adding that the prospects of a coming split are based on the assumption that the White House is putting American interests first, or is even concerned in the least with pursuing them. In the case of this White House, however, that may be assuming far too much.

There is no doubt that the U.S. put pressure on Israel to bring the "incursion" to a swift conclusion, but that wasn’t the White House talking. The direction and control of U.S. foreign policy is the object of much internal contention and is shaped by this internecine struggle rather than any central authority.

To be sure, a pro-American faction in U.S. policymaking circles exists but, so far, has been relatively powerless to exert any significant influence: only when U.S. policy seems to go off the rails does it reassert itself. This impulse resulted in the U.S./French effort to engineer a cease-fire, but, as we have seen, the Israelis can violate this and face no immediately discernible consequences.

Condoleezza Rice went to Israel to try to cobble together a cease-fire and was undercut by the IDF’s murderous assault on Qana. Condi was reportedly furious, but hers was an impotent rage. The Israelis delight in giving the finger to foreigners who would limit the scope of their actions, and especially, one suspects, to the Americans, whose largess makes the Israeli state possible. Every form of dependency breeds resentment, and in this case it is bound to come to a head in a very public way – given a U.S. commitment to its own interests, that is. But don’t expect that from this White House:

"In Washington, the White House declined to criticize the raid, noting that Israel said it had acted in reaction to arms smuggling into Lebanon and that the UN resolution called for the prevention of resupplying Hezbollah with weapons. ‘The incident underscores the importance of quickly deploying the enhanced UNIFIL,’ a White House spokeswoman, Jeanie Mamo, said, referring to a force of 15,000 UN peacekeeping troops called for by the cease-fire agreement to police the truce."

With 130,000 American troops in the midst of a Shi’ite sea in Iraq, with the entire Arab-Muslim world turning against the U.S. on account of our countenancing the rape of Lebanon, with our supply of vital oil and gas supplies endangered by the outbreak of a regional war and our military at the breaking point – in spite of all this, the president of the United States forges ahead with this mad plan to "transform" the Middle East. It’s an outrage, an act of treachery, and, yes, treason on a scale never before seen.

For years, we’ve been telling our readers that American foreign policy has been hijacked, and here we have the confirmation. The invasion of Iraq, the campaign of threats and provocations directed at Iran, and the destruction of Lebanon have all served the interests of a single country, and that country is not the United States of America. In the most successful covert action in history, Israel’s amen corner in the U.S. has essentially seized effective control of the American giant, and is now riding the dumb elephant for all he’s worth through the rubble of the Middle East.

The Israeli raid has showed how powerless the UN and the U.S. are against not Hezbollah, but Tel Aviv. As Maj. Gen. William L. Nash, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, put it to the New York Times:

"We know what they’re not going to do, but what will they do. They’re not going to disarm Hezbollah. But are they going to stop Israel from re-attacking Hezbollah? If the Israeli government decides there is an imminent threat, and attacks with F-16s, what is the mandate for the UN? What does the UN do?"

There is only one power on earth that can restrain the Israelis, and that is Israel’s American sponsors and financiers. But I wouldn’t bet the ranch on that happening, as long as George W. Bush – or his Democratic equivalents – reside in the White House. What we have to look forward to, in short, is perpetual war in the Middle East, for as far as the eye can see – unless a miracle occurs and we can reclaim U.S. foreign policy for American interests.

Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].