Monday, March 23, 2015

ISRAEL:  Whose Election Was it Anyway?


The strangest thing about the Israeli elections – from a US perspective – was not its outcome but the obsessive volume of press coverage here and around the world. The balloting in a smallish country thousands of miles away, was treated as though it were a crucial event in our own political life and dominated the headlines all over our mainstream media.  Nothing could better illustrate the bizarre influence of Israeli politics on our domestic scene.


Of course, this shouldn’t come as a great surprise, given the interpenetration of US and Israeli policies for decades and the weight of pro-Israel lobbying in our country.  Recently, it was regarded as an expression of great political courage – and risk – for Democratic members of Congress to abstain from cheering a partisan attack on the president of their own party orchestrated by the Prime Minister of a state which has received hundreds of billions of dollars in US aid.  Nearly all of the 60 or so Democrats who skipped Netanyahu’s Congressional address were at pains to justify their stand with undying loyalty to Israel.  Meanwhile, the Republican Party has become a virtual subsidiary of Israel’s Likud, financed to a large degree by US billionaires who profess loyalty to Israel.  The last two “Israeli” ambassadors to the US were in fact American-born immigrants who gave up their US citizenship to represent Israel.


Almost none of the vast commentary about the Israeli elections as an expression of “democracy” pointed out this simple fact:  Of the 12 million or so people who live under Israeli sovereignty around 4.5 million of them in the Occupied Territories had no vote whatsoever in the outcome – and another 1.5 Palestinian citizens of Israel could vote, but were effectively shut out from any real decision-making in the state and retain a permanent second-class status.


As to the Israeli election itself, despite all the hype about policy differences, in fact there was very little practical dispute among the parties as to maintaining this status quo.  Netanyahu’s statements about “a two-state solution” are endlessly parsed in our media, but the truth is that the Likud Party platform explicitly opposes a Palestinian state. And, with the possible exception of the tiny leftwing Meretz Party (4 seats out of 120 in the new Israeli Knesset), none of the Zionist parties is ready to offer conditions remotely acceptable to the Palestinians for a meaningful sovereign state in “the Land of Israel”.  The difference is mainly in how they talk about it.




Some commentators noted the “clarifying effect” of the Israeli elections. At least now there will be no liberal Zionist fa├žade, camouflaging Israel’s unwillingness to dismantle its colonial project.  (Israel, like the US, doesn’t have a colonial project – it is a colonial project).  It may be harder now for US constituencies – and the Obama administration – to close their eyes to the on-going reality that has existed for 50 or 80 years, depending on how you count.  And indeed, the White House has been hinting at some changes in “the special relationship” between our two countries.  That would be all to the good.  The reality is that there will be no self-determination for the Palestinians unless and until the US first declares its independence from Israel.


Obama says US rethinking Palestinian policy?

Obama also told Netanyahu that the US is reassessing its approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace in light of Netanyahu’s pre-election comments rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state, a White House official said… According to the White House, Obama “emphasized the importance the United States places on our close military, intelligence, and security cooperation with Israel, which reflects the deep and abiding partnership between both countries.”   More

A roundup of some US commentary here.

(More on Israel below)


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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had this warning for a Joint Session of Congress: “If this regime [Iran] …were to acquire nuclear weapons, this could presage catastrophic consequences… the deadline for attaining this goal is getting extremely close… ladies and gentlemen, time is running out.” That was nineteen years ago. 

For almost two decades, the Israeli Prime Minister has sounded the same alarm and urged the same US response: ever-harsher sanctions backed by military threats and a policy that treats negotiation as appeasement.

Some critics of his latest address contend that the intended audience was actually the Israeli electorate; others say it was conceived as a rebuke to the Democratic Administration.  One audience was almost certainly the handful of US senators, including Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, who will be called on to vote for the Republican Senate’s two attempts to undermine the hard-won diplomatic progress made by the P5+1 in keeping Iran’s nuclear program in check.



Too Clever by Half: Netanyahu Strengthens Obama’s Hand

It’s still unclear whether the negotiators in Switzerland can decide on a “framework agreement” by the March 31 target date, presaging a finished document by the June 30 deadline. But if an agreement is reached, President Barack Obama is now in a far better position to carry it into effect than he was just a few days ago. To use another metaphor, Netanyahu has shot himself in the foot. The big guns were supposed to be directed elsewhere. With the help of House Speaker John Boehner, Netanyahu spoke before a rapturous joint session of the U.S. Congress to urge rejection of an agreement with Iran even before it was completed. And he pulled out all the stops in citing his version of historic parallels. He even used Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, who did so much to make the world aware of the horrors of the Holocaust, as a stage prop. Then 47 Republican members of the Senate wrote an open letter to Iran’s leadership, lecturing them that any agreement that President Obama concluded with Iran could be revoked “with a stroke of a pen” by the next president. To say that this was irregular is an understatement, and it offended a lot of Americans who pay little or no attention to the Iranian nuclear issue but who do believe in the US Constitution.   More



The United States and Iran are drafting elements of a nuclear deal that commits Tehran to a 40 percent cut in the number of machines it could use to make an atomic bomb, officials told The Associated Press on Thursday. In return, the Iranians would get quick relief from some crippling economic sanctions and a partial lift of a U.N. embargo on conventional arms.  Agreement on Iran's uranium enrichment program could signal a breakthrough for a larger deal aimed at containing the Islamic Republic's nuclear activities.  More


Poll: Iran negotiations popular

Direct diplomatic negotiations with Iran are broadly popular, 68% favor them, while 29% oppose them. That support cuts across party lines, with 77% of Democrats, 65% of Republicans and 64% of independents in favor of diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran in an attempt to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.  More


One Neocon uncensored. . .

War with Iran is probably our best option

Sanctions may have induced Iran to enter negotiations, but they have not persuaded it to abandon its quest for nuclear weapons… Does this mean that our only option is war? Yes, although an air campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would entail less need for boots on the ground than the war Obama is waging against the Islamic State, which poses far smaller a threat than Iran does.  More


Big Bank’s Analyst Worries That Iran Deal Could Depress Weapons Sales

The possibility of an Iran nuclear deal depressing weapons sales was raised by Myles Walton, an analyst from Germany’s Deutsche Bank, during a Lockheed earnings call this past January 27th. Walton asked Marillyn Hewson, the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, if an Iran agreement could “impede what you see as progress in foreign military sales.” Financial industry analysts such as Walton use earnings calls as an opportunity to ask publicly-traded corporations like Lockheed about issues that might harm profitability… DefenseOne reports that over the next five years, “Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan are expected to spend more $165 billion on arms.” And in the U.S., concerns over ISIS and Iran have prompted calls for an increase in the defense budget.   More


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