Tom Maertens, Mankato Free Press. My View: Israel Pushing U.S. Toward War

My View:  Israel Pushing U.S. Toward War

By Tom Maertens  Mankato Free Press   June 21, 2011

 In most times and places in history, it would be considered disloyal — or worse — for politicians to support a foreign leader over their own.

But in 21st Century America, this is considered normal.

A fawning Congress recently gave Benjamin Netanyahu, the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, 29 standing ovations for his speech criticizing President Obama’s Middle East peace proposal, a spectacle even the pro-Israel New York Times labeled “pandering.” Every prominent Republican (and some Democrats) who could find a live microphone attacked Obama’s proposal. The worst sycophants even praised Netanyahu for lecturing Obama during a White House photo op.

What Obama suggested — basing negotiations on the 1967 borders with land swaps — was virtually identical to a joint statement issued last November by Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Indeed, Israel’s former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, recently criticized Netanyahu for having foolishly rejected a Saudi peace initiative that promised full diplomatic relations in exchange for a return to the 1967 lines.

Dagan’s comments also suggested that Netanyahu’s judgment was faulty, which is now self-evident: Netanyahu just picked a fight with the leader of Israel’s only friend in the world.

So why does Congress fawn over Netanyahu? For the most part because it pays. For example, 70 percent of campaign funds the Republican senator I once worked for received came from pro-Israel groups, including Christian Zionists. This is not unusual.

Some of the fervor comes from true-believers, represented by the “JINSA crowd” (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), as Colin Powell called them, led by former JINSA board members Dick Cheney and Douglas Feith. For them, no sacrifice is too great to defend Israel; they essentially orchestrated the invasion of Iraq. As Philip Zelikow, executive secretary of the 9/11 Commission said, “(T)he ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The unstated threat was the threat against Israel.”

They emphasize Israel’s “strategic value” to America, which presumes we would use Israeli territory to attack Arabs. But we have never stationed forces in Israel except for a few Patriot anti-aircraft batteries during the first Gulf War. In contrast, there are more than a dozen U.S.bases in neighboring Arab countries.

Another favorite claim is that Israel is an outpost of democracy in the Middle East. But Israel is not a democracy for Palestinians. Been there, seen that.

By any impartial assessment, we have little to show for this relationship except Arab hostility, which led to two oil embargos in the past — retaliation for supporting Israel in the 1973 war. OPEC itself was created as a result of the America’s one-sided position in the Middle East and has cost us trillions in higher oil prices.

In addition, Congress has approved over $100 billion in direct aid to Israel since the mid-’70s, purportedly to enhance U.S. security, but how are we more secure? What that money does is subsidize religious extremists who steal more Palestinian land. George H.W. Bush termed them “an obstacle to peace” when there were 100,000 settlers; now there are 300,000, plus 200,000 more Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.

A more immediate problem is Iran. The ex-Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, publicly fretted that the simultaneous retirements of the military chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi; the director of the Shin Bet internal security agency, Yuval Diskin; and his own, means there is no one to stop Netanyahu from “dangerous adventures,” such as attacking Iran.

The Israel lobby has been beating the drums for us to attack Iran for years, led by John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman, who once made the claim that it is unpatriotic for Americans not to support Israel. Anyone who disputes such assertions risks being branded as anti-Semitic, as if criticizing a state were equivalent to discriminating against Jews.

But Iran poses no real threat to the U.S., and — despite Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory rhetoric — little threat to Israel, whose nuclear arsenal far surpasses anything Iran could possess in the foreseeable future (see “The Samson Option” by Seymour Hersh). Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former IAEA director-general, said recently, “I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.”

He is not alone: All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded “with high confidence” in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had halted its nuclear-weapons program as of 2003.

We can’t be misled and stampeded again by Israel’s Fifth Column into another unprovoked war on Muslims to protect Israel.

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