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PORTSIDE  March 2012, Week 2

PORTSIDE March 2012, Week 2

Subject:

Hanging with Netanyahu at AIPAC

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Date:

Fri, 9 Mar 2012 00:55:59 -0500

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Hanging with Netanyahu at AIPAC

Left Margin

Hanging with Netanyahu at AIPAC

By Carl Bloice, BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board

The Black Commentator
March 7, 2012

http://www.blackcommentator.com/462/462_lm_netanyahu.php

Here's something you probably didn't read in your local
newspaper. It wasn't in the New York Times or the Washington
Post. Blogging from the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, Chris McGreal of
the British Guardian wrote: "Ahead of the speeches there has
been a foreign policy discussion panel. Among the speakers
was Liz Cheney, a former State Department official and
daughter of George W. Bush's vice president. There was
widespread applause for her attacks on Barack Obama
including when she said the president is more interested in
`containing Israel' by discouraging it from attacking Iran
than blocking Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb. There
was also applause when she said there was no president who
had done more to `undermine and delegitimize' Israel. There
were loud cheers when she predicted that the next AIPAC
conference will be held under a new US president."

In the end, the weekend turned out to be a disappointment
for Cheney and the other homegrown U.S. political
opportunists and reckless supporters of Israeli President
Benjamin Netanyahu and his rightwing Likud party. While a
big effort has been made to put a positive face on the
weekend confab, they didn't get what they really wanted.

"Basically, Obama has refused to have the Greater Israel
Lobby move the red lines to rendering Iran incapable of
producing a nuclear weapon, rather than deciding to make one
or actually making one," Andrew Sullivan wrote on the Daily
Beast. "And this will be where the Greater Israel lobby
shifts its support to the Christianist GOP, already
committed to the Netanyahu-Lieberman position on Iran and
the settlements, and now financed by Greater Israel
fanatics, like Sheldon Adelson... So no surprise to hear Liz
Cheney was on a panel with this kind of reception."

Right before Cheney spoke, McGreal blogged, "Then came a
statement from one of AIPAC's members that sets the tone of
the conference of Israel as besieged by threats and enemies:
`Iran is marching towards the bomb, the Palestinians seem
more interested in bringing the terrorist group Hamas in to
power and the Arab Spring has turned to a cold winter.'"

"Tellingly, Obama made only a brief reference to the
Palestinian issue and Netanyahu said nothing about it at
all, demonstrating how much it has been sidelined by the
Iran crisis, to the Israeli leadership's gratification,"
McGreal reported.

But alas, the Palestinian issue is hardly going to go away.
In an opinion piece in Monday's Financial Times, John
Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, professors at the University
of Chicago and Harvard Kennedy School respectively, wrote
that the AIPAC confab offered Netanyahu and the U.S.
President "a chance to appeal to some of Israel's most
ardent American supporters. We can therefore expect to hear
repeated references to the `common interests, `unshakeable
bonds' and `shared values' of the two countries."

"This familiar rhetoric is misleading at best and at worst
simply wrong," Mearsheimer and Walt wrote. "No states have
identical interests, and Israel and America are at odds on
two vital issues: Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mr. Obama should continue to rebuff Israel's efforts to push
him into military confrontation with Tehran, while reminding
Mr. Netanyahu the true danger to Israel lies in its refusal
to allow a viable Palestinian state."

"On Iran, Mr. Netanyahu is convinced it wants nuclear
weapons, and that this goal threatens Israel's existence. He
does not think diplomacy can stop Iran, and wants the US to
destroy its nuclear facilities. If Mr. Obama refuses to
order an attack, the Israeli leader would like a green light
to do so."

"Mr. Obama and his advisers - including the military - see
things differently," The two wrote. "They do not want Iran
to obtain nuclear weapons, but they do not believe a
nuclear-armed Iran would pose an existential threat to
Israel. After all, Israel has its own nuclear arsenal, and
could obliterate Iran if attacked. US intelligence is also
confidant Tehran has not yet decided to build nuclear
weapons. Indeed, US leaders worry that, no matter who does
it, an attack would convince Iran it needs its own nuclear
deterrent. They are correct."

"The gulf between Washington and Jerusalem is just as wide
on the Palestinian issue," Mearsheimer and Walt wrote. "Mr.
Netanyahu opposed the 1993 Oslo accords, which sought to
resolve the conflict and establish Palestinian self-rule.
The only `state' he would countenance today is a set of
disconnected and disarmed enclaves under de facto Israeli
control. He was elected in 2009 on a platform rejecting
Palestinian statehood, and his cabinet is populated with
politicians who want to control the West Bank forever. His
government continues to expel Palestinians from their homes
in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and to expand Israeli
settlements there."

"By contrast, Mr. Obama is committed to helping create a
viable Palestinian state living alongside Israel in peace.
As he said in Cairo in June 2009, a two-state solution is
`in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's
interest, and the world's interest'. He knows the
combination of US support for Israel and Israel's treatment
of the Palestinians fuels anti-Americanism throughout the
Arab and Islamic world, and contributes to the global
terrorism problem."

"In fact, the Palestinian issue is the real existential
threat to Israel," the two academics continued. "More than
500,000 Israeli Jews now live in the occupied territories,
and continued settlement building will lead to a single
state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Given demographic trends, this "Greater Israel" could not be
both a Jewish state and a full democracy. Instead, it would
be an apartheid state, threatening Israel's legitimacy and
long-term survival. As Ehud Olmert, former prime minister,
said in 2007, if the two-state solution fails, Israel `will
face a South African-like struggle for equal voting rights".
And if that happens, he warned, `the state of Israel is
finished'."

"Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama have clashed repeatedly on the
Palestinian issue, and each time Mr. Obama has backed down.
He is unlikely to press the issue between now and November's
election. Instead, he will act as if the US and Israel
remain the closest of allies."

"If only this were true. In fact, this situation highlights
the dysfunctional nature of the `special relationship'" the
two wrote. "If the US and Israel had a normal relationship,
Mr. Obama could make his disagreements with Mr. Netanyahu
plain, and use the bully pulpit and America's substantial
leverage to help Israel rethink its course. But AIPAC and
other groups in the formidable Israel lobby insist
politicians admit no daylight between what Israel wants and
what Washington says and does. For Mr. Obama, acknowledging
these obvious strategic differences would alienate crucial
political allies, leading Democratic Party fundraisers and
Israel's supporters in the media, imperiling his re-election
prospects."

"Because war entails significant costs and risks, and brings
no lasting benefits, the best hope is that Mr. Obama will
continue to deflect pressure for military action, no matter
what he says in public. Meanwhile, the greatest danger to
Israel - the occupation - continues unchecked."

"For the worldview of Cheney and Netanyahu to prevail, Obama
must be defeated," wrote Sullivan (
http://tinyurl.com/6rzlea2). "That is clearly the agenda of
the current Israeli government, and what the NYT delicately
but accurately calls "`Israel's backers' in the US.'"

"My worry is that once the Likudniks begin to realize Obama
may not be defeated by the GOP at home, the current Israeli
government would launch a war without warning to create a
crisis to humiliate the president, rally end-times
evangelicals to vote, send oil prices soaring, and force the
US president to co-opt a war he does not want and does not
yet believe is necessary," wrote Sullivan March 4. "If that
helps the GOP nominee, so much the better. Every GOP
candidate is now committed to the most extreme positions of
the Likudniks Israeli right - and are to the bellicose right
of most Israelis.

"I hope that the Israeli government is not that reckless or
extreme. But ask yourself when thinking about Netanyahu:
what would Cheney do? These individuals are radicals. They
turned the US into a torturing nation and regarded that
decision as a `no- brainer.' A `wag-the-dog' scenario in
which Netanyahu creates a war to wound and weaken a US
president before an election is, sadly, not unthinkable. And
he will have the GOP as his critical back-up."

On Tuesday, the Financial Times put the challenge before the
Obama Administration in rather sharp terms.

The disagreements between the President and the Israeli
prime Minister, the paper said editorially, "go deeper than
Iran."

"For both the US and Israel, theirs is a critical
relationship that has gone sour over the past two and a half
years," paper's editors wrote, " Mr. Obama came to power
promising to bring a new approach to US dealings with the
Muslim world, most notably in his Cairo speech in 2009.
Implicit was the idea that the US would act more even-
handedly in the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio - requiring
Mr. Obama to play the part of Israel's candid friend.

"To say that he has underwhelmed in this role is to be kind.
Twice, for instance, Mr. Obama has called on Israel to
freeze settlement-building in the occupied territories.
Twice he has capitulated after being rebuffed."

"While preserving an amicable working relationship is
important, Mr. Obama should take a robust line, stressing
what the US believes to be its own interests regarding Iran
and Palestine,' the paper continued. "Echoing the US
military, he should make it plain to Mr. Netanyahu that an
attack on Iran at this stage would be a grave error, and
that Israel's own future is bound up with the need to find a
settlement with the Palestinians. Mr. Obama promised candor
on the Middle East. He must now deliver."

[BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is
a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National
Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence
for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a
healthcare union. He is one of the moderators of Portside.]

___________________________________________

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