I missed this last week. Andrew Shapiro, assistant sec'y of state, spoke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an arm of the Israel lobby, and said that Israel serves our strategic interest in the Middle East, and not a word about settlements or the occupation.
Shapiro frankly echoes the new talking point of the Washington Institute: Israel provides "strategic benefits" to the U.S.-- a very different idea than David Petraeus's point of a year back, the conflict is empowering Al Qaeda and Iran.
Excerpts. Shapiro doubles down on the occupation:
the changes that are impacting the region are prompting us to redouble our commitment to Israel’s security. This is why this Administration is not only sustaining and building upon practices established by prior administrations, but we are also undertaking new initiatives to make our security relationship more intimate than ever before. In this light, we are taking steps to help Israel better defend itself from the threat of rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas. This is a very real daily concern for ordinary Israelis living in border towns such as Sderot, who know that a rocket fired from Gaza may come crashing down at any moment...
Notice that Shapiro picks up the Obama speech to AIPAC from last May and describes it as a "vision" but says nothing about its core assertion, the 1967 lines, the assertion that became so controversial at time.
Nonetheless, the United States remains committed to the pursuit of an enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. In his May remarks, the President outlined a comprehensive vision for peace between the parties, including goals and principles for negotiations. In doing so, he laid a firm foundation for future negotiations. His vision carefully weighs and balances difficult tradeoffs that the parties will need to make, which we believe are necessary to reach our common goal: two states for two peoples - Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
Here's the strategic benefit rap:
Our support for Israel’s security helps preserve peace and stability in the region. If Israel were weaker, its enemies would be bolder. This would make broader conflict more likely, which would be catastrophic to American interests in the region. It is the very strength of Israel’s military which deters potential aggressors and helps foster peace and stability. Ensuring Israel’s military strength and its superiority in the region, is therefore critical to regional stability and as a result is fundamentally a core interest of the United States.
The United States and Israel also see eye to eye on host of strategic questions. Indeed, a new Washington Institute report by Robert Blackwill and Walter Slocombe articulates the strategic benefits of the relationship for the United States. The authors argue that “the commonality of interest has long been the dominant theme of the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship.” Israel is a vital ally and serves as a cornerstone of our regional security commitments. From confronting Iranian aggression, to working together to combat transnational terrorist networks, to stopping nuclear proliferation and supporting democratic change and economic development in the region – it is clear that both our strategic outlook, as well as our national interests are strongly in sync.
The United States also experiences a number of tangible benefits from our close partnership with Israel. For instance, joint exercises allow us to learn from Israel’s experience in urban warfare and counterterrorism. Israeli technology is proving critical to improving our Homeland Security and protecting our troops...
We provide assistance because it benefits our security....