The establishment sees the (day)light

Two scholars at top think tanks on either side of the Atlantic Ocean just came out with a new book: The Sixth Crisis: Iran, Israel, America, and the Rumors of War.  
 
I haven’t read the book yet, but I did see the two think tankers – Steve Simon of the Council on Foreign Relations and Dana Allin of the International Institute for Strategic Studies – speak on Monday at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in D.C.
 
There was much to be reported in the talk (indeed, you can read a more full report at LobeLog), but there was a particular discussion that will be of interest to Mondoweiss readers: the divergence of U.S. and Israeli interests in the region and, specifically, in Jerusalem. 
 
Allin and Simon put the lie to the staunchly (and often right-leaning) mantra that there should be “no daylight” between the Washington and Tel Aviv. Well, morning has broken.
 
As if you didn’t know, there is a full-fledged solar flare bursting between Israel and the U.S. on settlements. Allin thinks that West Bank settlements are “profoundly contrary to Israel’s interests” (which makes one assume that Israel’s insistence on building is a matter of ideology, not interest).
 
But the real rift in interests is the status of East Jerusalem, as evidenced by Netanyahu’s repeated attempts to exclude it from a second construction freeze. Allin put it bluntly, in a way you might wish more establishment commentators would.
 
“The most Jewish possible Jerusalem is in Israel’s interest,” he said. It’s cynical to take it too far, he added, but Israel wants to get Jerusalem as Jewish as possible without quashing a deal. “This could be seen as an area where American interests and Israel’s intersests diverge.” 
 
Indeed, it could be seen as an instance of not only divergent interests, but a plainly spoken example of Israel’s policy in East Jerusalem — at best, mild ethnic cleansing — coming from an establishment analyst speaking at a Congressionally-funded think tank, no less.

 
On Iran, Steve Simon said that both the U.S. and Iran have ample reasons to kick the nuclear issue down the road — the U.S. is tangled up in two wars in the region (four, if you count Pakistan and Yemen), and Iran’s program is moving slowly enough anyway that doing something rash and ratcheting up tensions could severely harm the Islamic Republic. 
 
But, said Simon, “the Israelis are highly incentivised to see [the Iranian nuclear program] end, and they have to think about this militarily.”
 
“There are a number of rifts between the U.S. and Israel at the moment” — East Jerusalem, anyone? — “that could intensify the Israeli desire to go,” Simon later added.
 
So Israel is itching to go to war with Iran. Allin said the U.S. going to war “would be a mistake, not just bad or tragic, but a mistake in the sense that it would be worse than not going to war.” This applies to Israel, too — a “disaster in the making,” Brooking Institution’s Bruce Riedel called the notion of Israel launching a war. 
 
And Israel is determined to keep making Jerusalem more and more Jewish — that is, settling East Jerusalem at the expense of Palestinian residents — despite the fact that that this runs against U.S. interests because oflinkage. As Allin said on Monday: “It is a delusion to deny that there are things Israel can do and has been doing that makes the U.S.’s challenges in the Middle East more difficult… The building of settlements in the Occupied Territories is near the top of the list.”
 
And this is our best friend in the region, we are told again and again. A country whose interests are supposed to dovetail perfectly with ours. 
 
“The respective issues of Israel and Palestine and what to do about the Iranian nuclear question raise questions about what are the reciprocal obligations of allies,” Allin astutely observed in the packed briefing room at the Wilson Center.
 
The question is being raised — even by the establishment. Now all that needs to be done is to find an answer. 
 
(This post draws on material from a much longer and mostly Iran-specific post at LobeLog, where Ali blogs daily about U.S. foreign policy toward Iran. You can follow his work on Twitter @LobeLog.)
Posted in Israel/Palestine | Tagged , ,

{ 16 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. annie says:

    from ali @ lobe

    He quoted Mark Heller, an Israeli researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, who told the New York Times over the weekend that linkage is “a total illusion.” But Allin said Heller’s construction was setting up a “straw man.” Allin responded that if Heller wants to talk about “illusions,” it is also appropriate to speak of “delusions”:

    It is a delusion to deny that there are things Israel can do and has been doing that makes the US ‘s challenges in the Middle East more difficult… The building of settlements in the Occupied Territories is near the top of the list.

    i’m shocked!

    • The building of settlements in the Occupied Territories is near the top of the list.

      Above Settlements on the list would be killing Americans on ships in international waters.

      Just below that is launching vicious wars against Gazans, using proscribed weapons.

      Below that is the persistent and hateful propaganda war against Iran and against Islam that many who are Israel advocates in the USofA are involved in.

      THEN the settlements.

  2. annie says:

    needless to say this jumped out at me, after i read it a few times i understood more clearly what he meant

    “There are differing threat perceptions at work,” acknowledged Simon. “At the end of the day, Iran is simply not as threatening to the U.S. as Israel.

    i consider israel more of a threat to us too.

    • RE: “i consider israel more of a threat to us too.” – annie
      MY REPLY: NATO had better get that missile defense system up and running to protect Europe from the psychopaths in Israel.
      FROM WIKIPEDIA: Martin Levi van Creveld (born 5 March 1946) is an Israeli military historian and theorist…
      …In a September 2003 interview in Elsevier (Dutch weekly) on Israel and the dangers it faces from Iran, the Palestinians and world opinion van Creveld stated:
      “We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force…. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.”[4]…
      4. ^ Quoted in The Observer Guardian, The War Game, a controversial view of the current crisis in the Middle East, 21 September 2003; the original interview appeared in the Dutch weekly magazine: Elsevier, 2002, no. 17, p. 52-53 (April 27th, 2002).
      SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org
      The Observer Guardian, The War Game – link to guardian.co.uk

      • P.S. EXCERPT FROM THE OBSERVER GUARDIAN, 09/21/03:

        …Without a ‘just, comprehensive and lasting’ peace which only America can bring to pass, Israel will remain at least as likely a candidate as Iran, and a far more enduring one, for the role of ‘nuclear-crazy’ state.
        Iran can never be threatened in its very existence. Israel can. Indeed, such a threat could even grow out of the current intifada. That, at least, is the pessimistic opinion of Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. ‘If it went on much longer,’ he said, ‘the Israeli government [would] lose control of the people. In campaigns like this, the anti-terror forces lose, because they don’t win, and the rebels win by not losing. I regard a total Israeli defeat as unavoidable. That will mean the collapse of the Israeli state and society. We’ll destroy ourselves.’
        In this situation, he went on, more and more Israelis were coming to regard the ‘transfer’ of the Palestinians as the only salvation; resort to it was growing ‘more probable’ with each passing day. Sharon ‘wants to escalate the conflict and knows that nothing else will succeed’.
        But would the world permit such ethnic cleansing? ‘That depends on who does it and how quickly it happens. We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.’ SOURCE – link to guardian.co.uk

  3. RoHa says:

    “are highly incentivised to ”

    Where do they learn to write this appalling gobbledygook?

  4. With respect, Mr. Gharib, based upon the notes to the book and your Lobelog narrative, there’s very little that’s impressive about these thinkers or their thesis.
    One can divide foreign policy camps into two groups: the Bacevich camp and the Long War camp. The Bacevich is sparsely populated and sparsely represented among opinion leaders and policy makers. Flynt and Hillary Leverett are likely in the Bacevich camp. Their analysis is objective, rational, and manages to isolate emotional attachment to Israel in favor of advocacy for American interests.
    The Long War camp almost universally begins its argument with several unspoken assumptions taken as absolutes, and builds strategy — a plan of action — on assumptions rather than on conclusions based on logical assessment of facts. You quote Allin and Simon:

    ” “The U.S. will whether or not it succeeds in building a nuclear weapon,” Allin said.”

    But there is no groundwork prepared:
    WHY will the US “have to build and rely on a regime of contaiment aginst Iran?” Is the US so devoid of policy imagination that the concept of engaging honestly with Iran is beyond its intellectual reach?

    What has Iran done to the US that requires that US must act AGAINST Iran? Was a casus belli established? How has the US “regime of containment AGAINST Iran” worked out for the US so far?

    In the foreign policy legacy, literature, and experience of the US, what other means of relating to another state have been recommended to American leaders and what other methods have been tried and succeeded, or tried and failed? Allow me to bullet-point some answers:

    re: legacy: Phil quoted George Washington’s Farewell Address recently:

    Nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.

    Read the rest. Washington equates “habitual hatred or habitual fondness” with slavery. Americans rejected slavery over a hundred years ago.

    re: Experience. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett continue to urge the US foreign policy establishment to consider Nixon’s China engagement, not its counter-Washingtonian actions and, anti-American values actions of starving and invading Iraq; waging war in Viet Nam; economically crippling USSR; sanctioning Cuba.

    Agreed, Mr. Gharib, that daylight between Israel and US is a sight for sore eyes.

    Frankly though, I’ve had just about all I can stomach of Israeli “think tankers” opining on US foreign policy. Israelis have made a hash of their own foreign relations with most of its neighbors, and Israel advocates who influence US policy have made a hash of US policy. Americans are quite capable of enunciating their own values, and formulating their own goals and means, in service of their own interests and based on their own legacy: Washington, not ben Gurion, is in the American pantheon. So don’t take this the wrong way, Israel, but it’s time for you to butt out of US foreign affairs.

    • edit: should read:

      —-You quote Allin and Simon:

      ” “The U.S. will have to build and rely on a regime of contaiment aginst Iran whether or not it succeeds in building a nuclear weapon,” Allin said.”

      But there is no groundwork prepared:
      WHY will the US “have to build and rely on a regime of contaiment aginst Iran?”

    • Patrick says:

      “Is the US so devoid of policy imagination that the concept of engaging honestly with Iran is beyond its intellectual reach?”

      In a word, yes. Ideological, hamstrung by domestic politics, vindictive and incompetent – that’s how I would characterize US foreign policy.

  5. yourstruly says:

    “We have the capability of taking the world down with us. And I can assure you that this will happen before Israel goes down.”

    Isn’t this doomsday scenario is a perfect match for the IDF’s swearing in ceremony on top Masada in which, upon completing basic training, every recruit pledges that “Masada will not fall again.” How to we prevent the unthinkable that the settler-state is so eager to unleash upon planet earth? First of all, so as to isolate the settler state, it’s special relationship with the U.S.A. has to be broken. Towards this goal we must find ways to discredit Israel’s supporters for their Israel uber America stance, at the same time explaining to the American people how Israel-firsters are harmful to all living beings. And we back up our criticism of these traitors by only supporting candidates in the 2012 elections who pledge to support changes in our government’s policies vis a vis the Mideast conflict. Simultaneously, of course, we intensify BDS, BDS, BDS!

  6. Forgive me; as an outsider, I see the US/Israeli relationship like two snakes fucking (link to blog.nus.edu.sg). No daylight between.
    As Netanyahoo has simply observed, the US has no real interest in Jerusalem, and can easily be pushed. The ’90-day moratorium’ and the bribes Obama has offered (even if the F-35s won’t be ready for another 10 years), are both fakes, designed to get Abu Mazen to sign something, giving away the farm – for God’s sake.
    Netanyahoo has been studying the US foreclosures debate, and has realised he can use the same fraudulent methods on the Occupied Territories.

  7. Sin Nombre says:

    I wouldn’t deny that it’s a zephyr of fresh air that the views of Simon and Allin are being aired as they are, but it is just a zephyr.

    Look for instance at the fact that the ADL and the National Jewish Democratic Council just sent an unblushing letter to all our congressmen and women urging the support the START treaty because … it would be good for Israel. (In maintaining a united front between the U.S. and Russia against Iran.)

    Well folks, how many observations can you find upbraiding the ADL or the NJDC for effectively saying that in U.S. treaties ought be weighed simply by whether they are good for Israel or not, and to hell with whether they are good for the U.S. or not?

    When a country can be openly lobbied to only secondarily (at best) consider its own interests in making treaties, and the perverseness of same essentially goes unmentioned in the mainstream press (if not utterly unreported), there’s a long long way to go.

    (Note: To his credit it was Mr. Gharib himself at lobelog.com who picked up this bit of treaty news from politico.com.)

  8. pabelmont says:

    On nukes: Israel has made a point of acting like “the boss has gone crazy”. The insane-seeming over-the-top wars against Lebanon and murderous assault against Gaza (both powerless, or assumed to be powerless, of course, and therefore easy to act insanely against. But still. sending a message. As the USA did when (without much need) it used A-bombs against two Japanese cities — in order to threaten the USSR.)

    Yes, Israel frightens me, I think of all the cargo ships which have entered the USA un-inspected before 9/11 and after, and imagine (this is all imagination, of course) Israeli agents offloading nuclear bombs and taking them into major USA cities, say NYC where I live, and bringing them with those wonderful tall cranes into air-conditioning installations on the roofs of very tall buildings — where a nuclear blast would be particularly effective. Not pretty. A pretty good threat, no? One in Washington, too. (What are friends for? such good friends.)

    If, as a writer said, Israel is prepared to take the world with it if it goes, the question for the analysts and strategists is, what will trigger the Israeli perception that the time has come to pull all those triggers? And, of course, no-one knows, but we do see guys like Lieberman in the government and that is not re-assuring.
    Then all the USA kow-towing to Israel makes more sense.

  9. lysias says:

    Well, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the incoming Republic chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee appears to want to give Israel whatever it wants in terms of foreign affairs: FT: Republican seeks tougher line on foreign policy (by Daniel Dombey, Nov. 21 — FT requires that the reporter’s name be given):

    The Republican member of Congress due to take the top foreign policy post in the new GOP-controlled House of Representatives says she will hold up aid to the Palestinians and push for a tougher US stance on Iran.

    But Ms Ros-Lehtinen said that to receive more aid the PA had first to drop its conditions for negotiations, recognise Israel as a democratic Jewish state, crack down more on terrorism and comply with US law on corruption. So far this year the US has provided the PA with almost $600m, aid Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, says is crucial in helping “build toward a future Palestinian state”. By contrast Washington gives Israel about $3bn a year in military assistance and has just offered 20 F-35 fighter jets if Israel agrees to freeze settlement activity for a further 90 days.

    Ms Ros-Lehtinen added it was a “mistake” for Mr Berman, the outgoing committee chairman, to have allowed $100m in aid to the Lebanese army to proceed last week after having halted it for three months because of concerns about possible Hizbollah influence.

    She also expressed doubts about the administration’s plan to sell $60bn of weapons to Saudi Arabia – which has just gone through Congress – and said she would do her best to stop any concessions to Iran.

    This may be Cuban-American Ros-Lehtinen’s response to the apology Netanyahu gave her two weeks ago: Netanyahu apologizes to U.S. lawmaker for praising Fidel Castro : Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen demanded retraction of comments published in The Atlantic Monthly.:

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to a Republican congresswoman two weeks ago for having praised Fidel Castro after the former Cuban leader made positive remarks about Israel.

    In a September interview with The Atlantic reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, Castro defended Israel and Jews and criticized Iran, leading to praise from Netanyahu and a friendly letter from President Shimon Peres.

    On hearing about Netanyahu’s praise for Castro’s remarks, Ros-Lehtinen contacted several Israeli officials asking them to urge the prime minister to retract his comments. On his visit to the U.S. two weeks ago, the prime minister called the lawmaker by phone and apologized.