THE ROVING EYE
Obama squeezed between Israel and Iran
By Pepe Escobar
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual show in Washington would hardly be out of place in a Quentin Tarantino movie; picture a giant hall crammed with 7,500 very powerful people regimented by a very powerful lobby - plus half of the United States Senate and more than a third of the congress - basically calling in unison for Palestinian and Iranian blood.
The AIPAC 2010 show predictably was yet one more "bomb Iran" special; but it was also a call to arms against the Barack Obama administration, as far as the turbo-charging of the illegal colonization of East Jerusalem is concerned.
The administration has reacted to the quarrel with a masterpiece of schizophrenic kabuki (classical Japanese dance-drama) theater. Corporate media insisted there was a deep "crisis" between the unshakeable allies. Nonsense. One just has to look at the facts.
Only 10 days after scolding Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for 43 minutes over the phone, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton showed up at AIPAC spinning the usual platitudes. At least she talked about a "change of facts on the ground" in Palestine and stressed the current status quo is untenable. Netanyahu for his part apparently told Clinton in private (and later Obama as well) that Israel would take "confidence-building measures" in the West Bank, but would continue anyway to build settlements like there's no tomorrow.
When Clinton switched to Iran demonization mode, she was met with universal rapture. The Obama administration will "not accept a nuclear-armed Iran"; is working on sanctions "that will bite"; and the leadership in Iran must know there are "real consequences" for not coming clean with their nuclear program. The demonization seemed to turn Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei into a paradigm of wisdom. Khamenei remarked this week, "If they are extending a metal hand inside a velvet glove, we won't accept it."
Israel rules, Washington follows
AIPAC arm-twisted members of the US Congress to sign a letter to the White House calling for the US to bypass the United Nations Security Council and unilaterally sanction Iran. And AIPAC also urged lawmakers to pass with no comments the annual US$3 billion US aid to Israel. This means the new made-in-USA F-35 fighter jets Israel buys will be basically financed by US taxpayers.
No surprises here. This is a congress that backed Israel's assault in Gaza in late 2008 and condemned the Goldstone Report on Israeli atrocities in that conflict by a vote of 334 to 36. After all, the Democratic party depends heavily on very wealthy Jewish - and Zionist - donors for a chunk of its budget.
Just one day after Israel's Interior Minister Eli Yishai announced the building of 1,600 exclusively Jewish apartments in East Jerusalem (part of a planned, non-negotiable 50,000 which will block it from becoming the capital of a Palestinian state and prevent Palestinian residents of the city from traveling to the West Bank), publicly humiliated US Vice President Joe Biden went to Tel Aviv University and told his audience he is ... a Zionist.
He added, "Throughout my career, Israel has not only remained close to my heart but it has been the center of my work as a United States Senator and now as vice president of the United States."
Of course it does not matter that General David "I'm positioning myself for 2012" Petraeus, chief of US Central Command, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that the Israeli-Arab conflict "foments anti-American sentiment due to a perception of US favoritism for Israel". Even though "perception" may be the understatement of the millennium, as a potential Republican presidential candidate Petraeus knows he will be in deep trouble with the Republican hardcore Christians and with the Christian-Zionist fringe.
When Obama, as a presidential candidate, addressed AIPAC on June 3, 2008, he said, "We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran ... I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power. Everything and I mean everything." Obama even pulled a Netanyahu avant la lettre and declared, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
At AIPAC this week, Netanyahu said the Israelis were already building in Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and will continue to do so. Even without referring to Israel's religious supremacist and colonialist approach to Jerusalem for these past few decades, historian and Middle East expert Juan Cole at his blog "Informed Comment" demolished Bibi's claim. For instance, "Adherents of Judaism did not found Jerusalem. It existed for perhaps 2,700 years before anything we might recognize as Judaism arose. Jewish rule may have been no longer than 170 years or so."
Cole points out that Muslims, Egyptians, Romans, Iranians and Greeks have the greatest claim on the city.
All in all, it's no wonder Stephen Green, in Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations with Militant Israel, a book published in 1984, had already noted how "since 1953, Israel, and friends of Israel in America, have determined the broad outlines of US policy in the region. It has been left to American presidents to implement that policy, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and to deal with tactical issues."
Former Moldovan bouncer turned Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is basically a spokesman for Zionist settlers and a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union. He can tell the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel that "Iran is threatening the whole world" and still get away with it. No wonder multitudes across the developing world - and not only Muslim lands - increasingly deplore Zionism policies of occupation/colonization, targeted assassinations, Lebensraum (living space) and degrading Palestinians.
But crisis? What crisis? Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies could not have put it better. "Someone seems to have told the Obama administration that a series of polite requests equals pressure. It doesn't. Real pressure looks like this: 'Please stop settlements.' Answer: 'No.' 'Then, you know that [the] $30 billion that [former president George W] Bush arranged for you from US tax money, and we agreed to pay - you can kiss that goodbye.' That's what pressure looks like."
It won't happen. This "crisis" between Tel Aviv and Washington is a non-event. On the other hand, no one knows exactly whatever hardball Obama and Netanyahu played behind closed doors for three-and-a-half hours in Washington. Did Netanyahu "spit into Obama's eye", according to Israeli Labor Party member Eitan Cabel? Or was this was just more kabuki designed to obscure a not-so-silent drive towards an attack on Iran - where once again fresh American blood will be spilled to placate a non-existent "existential threat" to Israel?
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.