US Secretary of State John Kerry was shuttling between Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday, shoring up support for his efforts to
Kerry with Saudi King Abdullah (photo courtesy of State Department)
find some kind of framework for negotiations that Israel and the Palestinian Authority could both sign on to. But back in Israel, the difficulties Kerry faces became even more apparent.
First, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that, while he believed the deal Kerry envisions is the best Israel is likely to get, he would not support any peace deal that did not involve transferring Arab towns in Israel to the Palestinian Authority. In other words, Lieberman is insisting on a condition he has long held that forces the expulsion from Israel of some significant number of its Arab citizens. That is something that even the United States will find difficult to endorse, although most in Congress probably would have no problem with it (as long as AIPAC pushes them in that direction). The PA is not going to accept that condition, so Lieberman is basically putting a poison pill inside conciliatory language.
By the end of the day, Yuval Steinitz, a far right wing member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud coalition and Minister of Intelligence, Strategic Affairs and International Relations, stated that Israel could not accept anything less than a sole Israeli military presence for an indefinite period in the Jordan Valley, a clear non-starter. Steinitz made this statement despite the insistence of the former head of the Mossad that the Jordan Valley was not a vital security concern or Israel, so one has to wonder about the motivation for Israel’s insistence on this point. Continue reading →
One of the greatest and most repulsive of tactics employed by repressive regimes and bigoted ideologues is the co-opting of the
Mandela’s image on a bad held by a San Francisco protester against Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009. [Photo courtesy of Steve Rhodes, published under a Creative Commons license]
legacies of great figures in the fight for justice and freedom. It never fails to happen, and it is never anything less than morally reprehensible. Not surprisingly, there has been plenty of it since Nelson Mandela’s passing, and equally unsurprising, Israel has been among the leaders in this practice.
Now, let me be clear, Israel is not unique in this regard. Indeed, the lunatic right wing in the United States which has been so influential in destroying US politics and the US economy, which has led the US into disastrous wars that have wreaked havoc on the globe but which, thankfully, is at least losing the social battles in the United States has raised this practice almost to an art form. Consider the recent statement of GOP congressional candidate from Illinois, Ian Bayne, comparing the anti-LGBT, racist and …well, the list of bigotries is too long, statements of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson to the actions of none other than Rosa Parks:
“In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians…What Parks did was courageous. What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.” Continue reading →
The new Israeli government features a security braintrust that might be a bit more reasonable on Iran, but is likely to be even more hawkish both in the immediate region
Netanyahu has a new and untested cabinet
and within the country itself. Gone are voices from the Israeli right who favored a more reasoned and diplomatic approach to their right-wing agenda. They have been replaced by figures who want more direct action and refuse even the pretense of a two-state solution.
On Iran, the retirement of Ehud Barak removes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leading supporter in his effort for a strike on Iran sooner rather than later, whether that be carried out by Israel or, preferably, the United States. He is replaced by Moshe “Bogey” Ya’alon. Bogey is also an Iran hawk, but is not in favor of Israel launching an attack other than as a last resort. He is far more content than Barak to allow the United States to take the lead and wants Israel to act only if it becomes apparent that the US will not. That puts him pretty well in line with the Israeli military and intelligence leadership in practice, though he sees Iran as more of a threat than they do.
In fact, no one in the current or even the outgoing inner circle came close to matching Barak’s eagerness for military action against Iran. Only Netanyahu himself could match him, and he remains daunted by the lack of support for his position in Israel. The ongoing hawkishness in the US Congress and President Barack Obama’s repeated statements holding firm to a military option and refusing a policy of containment also blunt Netanyahu’s resolve. It would seem that, at least for the time being, the calls for war on Iran will be fueled more in the United States than in Israel.
Ya’alon is a former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, but he did not have a distinguished term of service there, was not well-liked and returns without a great deal of good will among the military and intelligence services’ leadership. In fact, colleagues in Israel tell me there is a good deal of consternation in those services regarding Bogey’s appointment. But for now, they will wait and see how he acts. For a deeper look at Ya’alon, see my recent piece on him here. Continue reading →
Over at Inter Press Service I report on Ehud Barak’s loose talk about the US’ intelligence assessment of Iran. The question I raise is when Barak says this rumored NIE update brings the US position “closer to ours,” what Israeli position is he referring to? The military and intel assessments of both the US and Israel have largely been in agreement all along. Only Bibi and Barak have been disagreeing…
In my piece this week at Souciant, I look at the rather ludicrous controversy around the Center for American Progress regarding a blogger’s use of the term “Israel-firster” to describe people whose view of US foreign policy is driven by their (or Netanyahu’s) view of Israel’s strategic interests. It’s a phony argument meant to extend the right-wing campaign against CAP, and it seems to have had some success. That is something that not only liberals, but anyone who believes in free and open political debate should take very seriously.