Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Between the rock (Petraeus) and a hard place (AIPAC)

It doesn't come much clearer than this:
John Podhoretz commenting on the Obama administration's criticism of Israel
"It's hard right now to see any benefits that will accrue from it, especially this week, when he needs every ounce of his own political strength to get the House to act as he wishes on health care; and this year, when he will need every ounce of financial and political support he can squeeze out of his party's core voters and donors to mitigate the effects of a looming political disaster." 
Or this:
On Jan. 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel (...) Not surprisingly, what Biden told Netanyahu reflected the importance the administration attached to Petraeus's Mullen briefing: "This is starting to get dangerous for us," Biden reportedly told Netanyahu. "What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace." (...) The message couldn't be plainer: Israel's intransigence could cost American lives. " Mark Perry - Foreign Policy
David Seaton's News Links
That is the situation: the United States armed forces want a viable Palestinian state soon...  Yesterday if possible, so that they can withdraw as bloodlessly and with as much of their honor intact as possible from Iraq and Afghanistan. But, if Obama tries to force the Israelis to do that, he may very well lose most of his Jewish votes and financing and media support coming into the fall elections and beyond.

Well, that's easy for a politician you'll say, just fudge it, because every president that has tried to rein in the Israelis beginning with Gerald Ford, has come to grief. However, this is the first time that the US armed forces have ever been bogged down in the Middle East, taking casualties and stressing their capabilities to the utmost. You may have forgotten that the USA is supposedly ruled by a military-industrial complex, the Israelis sure seem to have.

Perry finishes his piece with the following:
There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA, the American Medical Association, the lawyers -- and the Israeli lobby. But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the U.S. military. While commentators and pundits might reflect that Joe Biden's trip to Israel has forever shifted America's relationship with its erstwhile ally in the region, the real break came in January, when David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America's relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America's soldiers. Maybe Israel gets the message now.
So you can see that POTUS is caught between a rock and a hard place. It will be interesting to see how, or if,  he can get out of this trap.

Among the many questions I ask myself is why it took the US military so long to connect the dots?

The neocons have really screwed it up good. Their idea was to draw the US military into a war in the Middle East and by having them break Iraq and then Iran, with Egypt already neutralized,  this would allow the Israelis to deal with the Palestinian "problem" at their leisure. The exact opposite has happened. Now the US armed forces are putting pressure on the Israelis. It wasn't supposed to be like that!

In the coming days we are going to get all sorts of spin and pleading in the coming days and weeks and very little of it will have the tone of The New York Times' Roger Cohen:
Peace is a vital American interest for many reasons, including its inalienable commitment to Israel’s long-term security, but the most pressing is that the conflict is a jihadist recruitment tool that feeds the wars in which young Americans die.
However, I'm afraid a great deal of it will take the tone that John Podhoretz takes in Commentary:
Hillary Clinton called up Bibi Netanyahu on Friday and, if one reads between the lines in the reporting on their conversation, basically screamed at him for 45 minutes. Then her spokesman went out and told the world she had done so, and used startlingly violent language — calling the announcement a "deeply negative signal." That is the kind of talk a country uses against an enemy, and that is why the reaction to it from the Jewish community has been so stark. AIPAC issued a statement the likes of which I'm not sure we've ever seen before, a directly confrontational take on the administration: "The Obama Administration’s recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern. AIPAC calls on the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State." Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who doesn't usually speak so directly, especially to Democratic presidents, said, "We are shocked and stunned at the Administration’s tone and public dressing down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem. We cannot remember an instance when such harsh language was directed at a friend and ally of the United States.”
The fat is in the fire, from here on out, there will be many very articulate and sophisticated arguments and great financial and political pressure employed trying to refute this very simple and powerful message: The lives of young American men and women serving in uniform are in jeopardy because of Israeli intransigence.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and how Obama manages to talk his way out of this fix. DS


stunted said...

Obama will roll over. Hillary has already begun the face-licking. A connection between Israeli intransigence and loss of American lives is one that will never be made in American media. Things could get interesting if Petraeus, who has visited New Hampshire lately, decides to take a shot at the White House in 2012. Palestinians, of course, are no part of the equation. Edward Said, once courted by the community organiser, is sadly and terribly missed.

Stephanie said...

No, Biden did the face-licking. However, his boss was angrier, or at least his aides are telling the press he was angrier, and apparently he sent out Clinton as his attack dog. Since there's no "or else" attached to the tough talk I doubt Netanyahu is unduly concerned right now. Hillary and Bibi will be making nice at AIPAC, I'm sure.

Petraeus spoke up for the Administration today. The military is definitely worried.