❄  Israel & the United States  

Saturday, March 17, 2007

❄  Israel & the United States  

There is continuing discussion of Israel’s role in promoting the White House decision to invade Iraq, and controversy about the extent to which Israel exercises influence on—some say ‘control of’—US policy in the Middle East.

In recent days the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been holding its annual meeting in Washington. Newspaper coverage makes scant mention of the charges against former officials of AIPAC that they obtained and passed classified information from the US Department of Defense to the Israeli Embassy in Washington.

Speeches and revelations in the last few days open windows on AIPAC’s role and relations between both major US political parties and the Israel lobby.

[1] ‘Dick’ Cheney spoke to the AIPAC Policy Conference, which took place 11-13 March 2007 in Washington. He used the opportunity to criticize those opposed to GW Bush’s Iraq policies. According to The New York Times he said that

Democrats and others who would limit President Bush’s authority to spend money on the war were undermining the troops and ‘telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out.’  . . .

“Mr. Cheney went on to argue that withdrawing from Iraq could endanger Israel by emboldening Iran—an appeal aimed directly at an audience he knew contained many Democrats who oppose the Iraq war.” [Note 1]

[2] AIPAC’s web site features Chicago remarks of Senator Barack Obama, who told an AIPAC Foreign Policy Forum that “The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy.” [Note 2]

The curious reader will consider three questions. Question #1: Which country in the Middle East has developed and militarised nuclear weapons? [Hint: It is the only country in the Middle East which has a nuclear arsenal.] Question #2: Is that country a “radical theocracy”? Question #3: If it is, what should be US policy, and policy proposals before the UN Security Council, concerning that country’s nuclear systems?

Were Obama’s remarks a coded rebuke of Israel’s nuclear weapons program? Probably not.

[3] NPR on 13 March reported that the draft text of the House of Representative’s current military supplementary authorization bill had been altered by removing a requirement that the White House obtain Congressional approval before any attack on Iran. Some reports attributed this deletion to pro-Israel pressure on the Democratic Party leadership in the House.

On the same day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drew a “smattering of boos” from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee audience when she termed the Iraq war a failure. [Note 3]

[4] Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in a video message to the AIPAC Policy Conference, [as Reuters summarized it] “warned the United States against a quick departure from Iraq.” He also gave the White House its marching orders vis-à-vis Iran: “All of you who are concerned about the security and the future of the state of Israel understand the importance of strong American leadership addressing the Iranian threat … ” [Note 4]

[5] Hillary Rodham Clinton, in an interview with The New York Times, stated that [Note 5]:

I think we have remaining vital national security interests in Iraq, and I’ve spoken about that on many different occasions.

“I think it really does matter whether you have a failed province or a region that serves as a petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda. It is right in the heart of the oil region. It is directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to Israel’s interests.

“So I think we have a remaining military as well as political mission, trying to contain the extremists.”

One might agree, subject to insisting that the distinction between ‘interests’ and ‘vital interests’ be stringently understood. It’s in almost everyone’s interest to end violence and restore an effective, just, and responsive civil society. One might be skeptical of any claim that the US military can be an effective instrument to “contain the extremists” in Iraq.

But why, then, the appeal to Israel’s ‘interests’? To adduce Israeli interests, and place them in the balance-scale, requires asking just what are the interests of the Israeli people, and whether it is imaginable that the United States would adopt policies which the Israeli government of the moment said were not in Israel’s interests. For example, if an Israeli government said—hypothetically—that it was not in Israel’s interest to withdraw to the 1967 borders and submit the issue of Palestinian rights of return to binding international arbitration, would a President Clinton be bound to agree? Why—other than that Israeli governments have claimed that their interests require it—does the United States not insist, for example as a condition of continuing financial subsidies to Israel, that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza enjoy normal freedom of movement in those territories and between those territories and other states, both people and goods?


[Note 1] The New York Times, 13 March 2007.

[Note 2] Senator Barack Obama, AIPAC FOREIGN POLICY FORUM 2007, 2 March 2007. Obama speech.

[Note 3] Washington Post, “Democrats Confident Iraq Plan Will Pass”, 13 March 2007.

[Note 4] Reuters, “Israel’s Omert warns against early Iraq exit,” 13 March 2007. Video link: 12 March 2007, remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

[Note 5] Interview 13 March 2007, interviewers Michael Gordon and Patrick Healy. Transcript published online 14 March 2007. Corresponding article by Gordon and Healy, “Clinton Says Some G.I.’s in Iraq Would Stay if She Took Office,” The New York Times, 14 March 2007.

[Bruce’s Blog: 2007.03.17 Post: B– Short Link: P=29 Front Door Index: http://blog.learnworld.com Permalink: http://www.learnworld.com/BRUCE/uncategorized/❄-israel-the-united-states/]