Two eminent mainstream journalists — Tom Friedman and Joe Klein — recently called for United States to disengage from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, on the grounds that Palestinians were too divided to make a deal and the Israelis were not interested in one. Friedman couldn’t bring himself to draw the logical conclusion — if the United States [is] truly going to “disengage,” that also means cutting off its economic and military assistance — but Klein did.
I have a certain sympathy for this position (and even wrote similar things myself before I wised up), but there are two problems with this specific idea. The first is that it is a meaningless prescription: There’s no way to cut the aid package (or even put a hold on it, which is what Klein recommends) so long as Congress is in hock to AIPAC and the other groups in the status quo lobby. And unless I’ve missed something, I doubt groups like J Street would support it either.
Friedman and Klein’s statements do convey how discourse in the United States is changing, but the specific recommendation they offer here is a non-starter. Remember: we are dealing with a Congress that just voted to condemn the Goldstone Report by a vote of 344-24. The aid package may be indirectly subsidizing the settlements and threatening Israel’s future as a Jewish majority state, but a supine House and Senate will still sign the annual check. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — The perennial debate on whether the US will ever find the will to cut off aid to Israel invariably misses what is ultimately probably the most important sticking point: a lion’s share of the money that Congress allocates as foreign military aid ends up going back into the US economy. Members of Congress face pressure not only from the Israel lobby but also the defense industry lobby and in many cases their own constituents to keep on doling out the cash.
The Israeli government is currently in the process of negotiating its largest military purchase ever: 25 F-35 fighters at a cost of $3.25 billion, paid to Lockheed-Martin who will start delivery in 2014. Interestingly, Israel has the ability to allocate funds coming from US taxpayers that will appear in US budgets that have yet to be passed or even drafted by Congress!
So, if the White House is not about to call on Congress to cut back on aid to Israel, the one lever over which it retains absolute control is the way the US casts votes in the UN Security Council. I’m not holding my breath waiting for any surprises there.
Perhaps more significant than anything happening (or not happening) in Washington, is the process unfolding around the globe through which Israel is inexorably losing its legitimacy.
When Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the US, warns about the delegitimization of Israel he is giving voice to a real fear among Israelis. That fear is given form when people such as the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner says Israel does not want peace:
“What really hurts me, and this shocks us, is that before there used to be a great peace movement in Israel. There was a left that made itself heard and a real desire for peace,” Kouchner said on France Inter radio.
“It seems to me, and I hope that I am completely wrong, that this desire has completely vanished, as though people no longer believe in it,” he added.
Israel clings to a tenuous claim to being a peace-loving nation. Once the world completely loses faith in that notion, the path to pariah status will be hard to avoid.