“Israel”, Netanyahu proclaimed, “is America’s unwavering ally”. And in case members of Congress didn’t get the hint (and it’s forgivable—they’re not, as a rule, the brightest bunch), he added, “Israel has always been pro-American, Israel will always be pro-American”.
And indeed, how could it conceivably be otherwise when in recent years the U.S. has happily thrown every rule of diplomacy out the window when it comes to Israel, and has, without demanding anything in return, given unqualified material and moral comfort to a regime which, while democratically elected by one class of citizens, presides over an oppressive mini-empire, itself based on violence and instability.
That regime, with the open approval of the United States, has ignored the violent and disturbing circumstances of its birth and has asserted its right to expand unchecked, to police its borders (obtained in war) violently, to discriminate against its subjects, and to steadily erode not only the rights of those subjects, but their very ability to survive.
The fact that the U.S. has underwritten this shameful process means that we come in for considerable and well-deserved blame. Successive Congresses and Administrations remain unwilling to check Israel, to deny it its right of carte blanche, to call out brutal injustice, or to retract the material support that allows it to imperil itself and the region.
How indeed could Israel’s government possibly object?
Congress, having resolutely donned its most logic-proof blinders after Obama had the temerity to suggest that the 1967 borders between Israel and Palestine should provide the basis for negotiations as they move forward, has now unleashed its fury on the President.
My own half-witted Congressman, Wally Herger, bleated shamelessly about Obama’s “latest verbal jab against Israel’s interests”, never mind that every own-goal scored by the U.S. through its blind support of Israel over the years has been assisted by a supine Congress, eager to procure for twin constituencies: the powerful and militant Israeli lobby, and the ferociously consumptive national security complex.
Herger had to plumb to unusually-absurd depths even by his own standards to come up with a justification for his contention that the U.S. needs to continue to write blank cheques to Israel. “The reality is”, Herger noted, using a sleight of hand that will undoubtedly be used by many of his colleagues as they find themselves on grounds of tenuous moral and rational stability, “that Israel has taken proactive steps to advance the cause of peace, such as unilaterally leaving Gaza in 2005”.
No mention there of the Israeli military’s late-2008 return to Gaza, using aircraft to pummel the region. Or of its ground invasion in early 2009, during which it left some 50,000 people homeless, half a million without running water, and one million without electricity. Or of its blockade, begun in 2007, which has subjected the region to acute food shortages, health crises and which has institutionalised chronic unemployment.
When meeting with Obama last week, Netanyahu warned that “peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality”. He followed that warning up with another in his speech to Congress. “In an unstable Middle East”, he declared, “Israel is the one anchor of stability”.
That any thinking person would buy this tripe is incredible, but since he comes with AIPAC’s calling card and the backing of a significant political establishment, Netanyahu’s wares might be sufficiently politically salubrious to tempt U.S. representatives into abandoning the critical thinking skills they are generally quite ready to ditch whenever an easy way out proffers itself.
Because clearly one of the “rocks of reality” on which the Middle Eastern Peace Process has repeatedly foundered is Israeli intransigence and militancy. Israel’s behaviour constitutes that reality and doesn’t stand apart in space and time from it, as Netanyahu would like the overly credulous to believe. Israel’s behaviour, in large measure underwritten by U.S. backing, creates the instability against which it then cleverly positions itself.
The trouble is that, in labelling Hamas a terrorist organisation and refusing to work with it, all the while subjecting Palestinians to humiliation and material suffering when not outright military assault, Israel has conveniently burdened Hamas with all of the responsibility for the situation, while accepting not one iota of the blame for creating the conditions that ensure that armed violence is the only recourse left to Palestinians.
No one would accuse Obama, here or elsewhere, of possessing any particular courage or of subscribing to any novelty of approach. But the ferocity of the response to his most tentative of gestures indicates either that Netanyahu and his American allies scent weakness on the President’s part, or that they fear that this round of the peace process might actually get somewhere.
It takes a particular brand of bonkers to stand up in front of a national legislature and ask its members to commit to supporting the national security agenda of a second country that has consistently imperilled the safety, security and moral standing of the citizens the legislature is meant to be representing. You’d have to be even crazier when the approach called for by that national security agenda rests on the impoverishment and military subjugation of a large group of people, in violation of every conceivable standard of decency.
But Netanyahu pulled it off in style, and had the low-grade morons who run our country on their feet clapping.