Despite differences, US showers Israel’s new right-wing government with arms and favors

US Politics
on 32 Comments

Only a few weeks into Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government, the intense strain of trying to square its members’ zealotry with Israel’s need to improve its international standing is already starkly evident.

The conundrum was laid out clearly by Tzipi Hotovely, a young political ally of Netanyahu’s recently appointed to oversee the foreign ministry on his behalf.

She called together the country’s chief diplomats last week to cite rabbinical justifications for taking Palestinian land. Her broader message was that Israeli embassies abroad needed to stop worrying about being “smart” and concentrate instead on being “right”. Urging the country’s envoys into a headlong confrontation with the world community, she told them the “basic truth” was: “All the land is ours.”

Netanyahu is too experienced a politician to take Hotovely’s advice fully to heart himself. Having briefly spoken his mind to ensure he won the recent general election, he has now walked back a comment much criticised by the White House that he would never permit a Palestinian state.

Damage control was also the reason he quickly cancelled defence minister Moshe Yaalon’s plan to create separate buses for Jewish settlers and Palestinian labourers as they return to the occupied territories at the end of a day in Israel.

Unlike most in his cabinet, Netanyahu understood that, denied by his military of even the flimsiest security pretext, the historical antecedents of bus segregation were too uncomfortable, especially for Israel’s patron, the United States.

The graver danger for Netanyahu is that, stuck with a cabinet of the like-minded – of ultranationalists, settlers and religious extremists – he lacks a solitary fig leaf to soften his image with the international community.

In his two previous governments, he relied on such sops: Ehud Barak, his defence minister, followed by Tzipi Livni as justice minister became the sympathetic address in the Israeli cabinet craved by Washington and Europe. Both spoke grandly about Palestinian statehood, even while they did nothing to achieve it.

With no veteran of the peace-process to hand, the west now faces an Israeli foreign ministry led jointly by Hotovely and Dore Gold, appointed director-general this week. Gold, a long-time hawkish adviser to the prime minister, is deeply opposed to Palestinian statehood, and even floated two years ago the idea of annexing the West Bank.

The minister in charge of talks with the Palestinians – hypothetical though such a role is at the moment – is Silvan Shalom, another Netanyahu intimate who publicly rejects the idea of two states and supports aggressive settlement building.

Other key ministries affecting Palestinian life are similarly burdened with righteous – and outspoken – extremists.

Shortly before announcing his bus segregation plan, Yaalon suggested that Israel, in dealing with Iran, might ultimately follow the example set at the end of the Second World War by the US, as it dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Yaalon’s deputy, Eli Ben Dahan, a leading settler rabbi, refers to Palestinians as “sub-human”.

Ayelet Shaked, who spoke in genocidal terms against Palestinians in Gaza last summer, calling them “snakes”, now oversees Israel’s justice system, the sole – and already feeble – form of redress for Palestinians struggling against the occupation’s worst excesses.

Other ministers are no less dogmatic in their fanatical opposition both to Israel signing an agreement with the Palestinians and to the US signing one with Iran. The self-evident absurdity of diplomacy in these circumstances may be one reason why Tony Blair, the already deeply ineffective Middle East peace envoy, threw in the towel this week.

Similarly, Barack Obama is certain to find the new Israeli government an even bigger headache than Netanyahu’s previous two.

While the US tries to reach a deal on Iran’s nuclear programme and revive peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel – however futile such a process may be – Israeli ministers will be in a contest to see who can make most mischief.

Netanyahu, already an unloved figure at the White House, will now find no one across the Israeli cabinet table helping him to apply the brakes.

The irony is that, just as the White House gears up for another 18 months of humiliation and sabotage from Netanyahu and his government, Obama is showering Israel with gifts, as part of its long-standing “security” doctrine.

Last week, it was reported, the US agreed to provide Israel with $2 billion worth of arms, including bunker-buster bombs and thousands of missiles, to replenish stockpiles depleted by Israel’s sustained attack on Gaza last summer that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians.

The news broke just as United Nations officials reported that unexploded ordnance was still claiming lives in Gaza nearly a year later.

According to the Israeli media, the US is also preparing to “compensate” Israel with other goodies, including possibly more fighter planes, if Netanyahu agrees to restrain his criticisms over an expected deal with Iran in June.

And Washington averted last week a threat to Israel’s large, undeclared nuclear arsenal by blocking the efforts of Arab states to convene a conference to make the Middle East free of nuclear weapons by next year.

The lesson drawn by Netanyahu should be clear. Obama may signal verbally his disquiet with the current Israeli government, but he is not about to exact any real price from Israel, even as it shifts ever further to the fanatical right.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

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32 Responses

  1. italian ex-pat
    May 29, 2015, 1:53 pm

    I should stop reading the news re: US support of Israel’s government – especially the NEW government. Not good for my blood pressure.

    • Doubtom
      May 30, 2015, 10:59 am

      There’s a plan for Netan’yahoo to visit Obama and crap on his desk, as a sign of who’s in charge of the United States.

  2. Boomer
    May 29, 2015, 2:04 pm

    As an American who was raised to be proud of this country, this is sad and disturbing news. As I matured, I learned that we have often departed from our stated values; certainly this is an egregious example. We continue to defend and enable the indefensible. Despite years of evidence to the contrary, I had some hopes that Obama–at this point in his career–might act like a man of integrity, consistent with the fine-sounding words he often recites. Evidently not.

    • Krauss
      May 29, 2015, 4:57 pm

      History will be harsh on Obama. A person of his background, as obsessed about race as he is, going to Selma, making grand speeches etc, and then he doubles down on Apartheid.

      Doing the base minimum to support Israel in order to get his legislate agenda is venal, but at least it’s normal. But this is going beyond what is necessary and actively supporting Apartheid. Even saying Jewish apartheid reminds him of the civil rights struggle.

      As I said: history will be harsh on that political prostitute.

    • catalan
      May 29, 2015, 5:41 pm

      “As I said: history will be harsh on that political prostitute” Krauss
      I see it entirely different. I think he is one of the best, sanest, most humane, and intelligent presidents that the U.S. has had. I have no idea what historians will say about him and don’t care actually.

      • Bornajoo
        May 29, 2015, 6:01 pm

        “I see it entirely different. I think he is one of the best, sanest, most humane, and intelligent presidents that the U.S. has had. I have no idea what historians will say about him and don’t care actually.”

        Well if we are comparing him to other presidents in recent times; Bush senior, then Clinton, then Bush junior, then I suppose your statement is reasonable

        But he really has been such a huge dissapointment. Surely we have to aim higher than this? Is this as good as it’s ever going to get? You know, it might well be. I’m extremely worried about who’s next

        I’m firmly with Krauss on this one and I hope he gets the history he deserves

      • catalan
        May 29, 2015, 7:02 pm

        “But he really has been such a huge dissapointment. Surely we have to aim higher than this? – ” Bornajoo
        He has been disappointing to you because you are a one issue person. And “political prostitute” is such a sexist comment anyway. What is so wrong with being a “prostitute”? It should be a legal and respected profession in my opinion.
        But calling Barack Obama a “prostitute”?!? What service is he “selling”? He doesn’t need any money. On top of being financially secure for life by an extremely generous pension, he can make as many millions as he wants to just from speaking engagements. Then he can consult, do charity, all sorts of things. As long as he is healthy and wise, he is is set for life. If anything, he would be the one doing the buying, not the selling.

      • Bornajoo
        May 30, 2015, 2:24 am

        “He has been disappointing to you because you are a one issue person” (Catalan)

        Well to be told that by a deep thinking, highly intellectual person who actually knows me well would mean something

        But coming from you it means nothing

      • echinococcus
        May 29, 2015, 7:13 pm

        Catalan says , re Obama:

        I think he is one of the best, sanest, most humane, and intelligent presidents that the U.S. has had.

        This opinion by a Zionist propaganda agent is one more confirmation that Obama is one of the major criminals against humanity in US history, a war criminal, torturer; an accessory if not always a principal in the theft and genocide perpetrated by the Zionists.

      • catalan
        May 29, 2015, 8:12 pm

        “This opinion by a Zionist propaganda agent” coccus
        I am flattered by this opinion. This sounds so much more glorious than my regular job. I am like Peter Parker, evidently. Thanks, bud!

      • catalan
        May 29, 2015, 8:15 pm

        “Obama is one of the major criminals against humanity in US history” – Coccus
        Well I am glad that you make our difference of opinion so start. I admire and respect the man and see him as an example, even though I don’t hold identical views.
        You think he is a criminal. Great stuff. Now if we can see how many others on this site agree with you.

      • tree
        May 29, 2015, 8:58 pm

        And “political prostitute” is such a sexist comment anyway.

        No, what’s sexist is thinking that only females can be prostitutes and claiming that calling a man a prostitute is sexist. It isn’t.

        He has been disappointing to you because you are a one issue person.

        Again, small thinking on your part. He is a disappointment on many domestic issues, and his embrace of drone warfare and international assassination makes him a huge disappointment in foreign affairs, regardless of his bought and paid for views on Israel. He’s done nothing of great significance with regards to the major problems in our country today.

        Obama craves the acceptance of the elite as well as the money. I’d be totally surprised if he goes the route of Jimmy Carter as an ex-president, and I don’t mean just on Israel.

      • catalan
        May 29, 2015, 9:43 pm

        Tree,
        Not sure how Obama’s views are “bought and “paid for”. He is not a greedy person. Look at his investment portfolio, it is public. It’s all treasuries yielding two percent a year. For that matter, I don’t think he is that interested in power after office either. Now, the fact is that the extreme left and right dislike him immensely, but to me that’s a sign of a job well done. Actual governing work is about compromise.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 29, 2015, 9:59 pm

        – not greedy
        – all treasuries yielding two percent a year
        – not interested in power after office

        have you completely exhausted your imagination for reasons he (or any politician) may have needed money catalan. because it seems to me you’re skipping the most likely and obvious reason. nice divert though.

      • oldgeezer
        May 30, 2015, 12:52 am

        @catalan

        Accounting may be your point of brilliance but I find it hard to even believe that as you lack logical thought

        “Now, the fact is that the extreme left and right dislike him immensely, but to me that’s a sign of a job well done. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/05/differences-israels-government#comment-147146

        It is equally due to an individual who always does the wrong thing with many variations, combinations in between

        “, but to me that’s a sign of a job well done.”

        Yes superficial analysis appeals to those who can’t be arsed to actually think

      • echinococcus
        May 30, 2015, 2:17 am

        I admire and respect the man and see him as an example, even though I don’t hold identical views. You think he is a criminal.

        I think you’re an at least potential criminal, too, only in a more modest capacity. Given that most of his activity as a criminal against humanity is related more or less closely to action on behalf of Zionists, of course you will “admire and respect the man and see him as an example”.

        No need to object to the label “propaganda agent”, otherwise why would you be doing obvious propaganda on a site that has a mission to oppose Zionism and (at least as a side effect) support Palestinian liberation? I mean, do you really think everyone is retarded?

      • RoHa
        May 30, 2015, 6:21 am

        One does not have to concentrate on a single issue. I can think of several issues on which Obama has disappointed both Americans and the rest of us.

        1. Israel/Palestine, of course.
        2. General policy towards Arab world, and especially propping up ISIS.
        3. The absurd “assassination” of Osama bin Laden.
        4. War in Afghanistan.
        5. He has not closed the Guantanamo concentration camp.
        6. He has engineered a neo-Nazi coup in Ukraine.
        7. He has brought NATO to the brink of war with Russia.
        8. His attempt at creating a national health service for the U.S. Is a flop.
        9. He has not only drunk deep of the Man-Made Global Warming Kool Aid, he is vomiting it over everyone.
        10 He has left the bankers and money shufflers unhanged.
        11. He is pushing “trade treaties” that will leave us all at the mercy of the big corporations.

        I’m sure others can add to this list.

        This is not to say he is an exceptionally bad President. Just not noticeably better than the others.

      • catalan
        May 30, 2015, 8:44 am

        “Accounting may be your point of brilliance” Oldgeezer
        I was being ironic. I have some skills that allow me to do OK, that’s all. Brilliance is overrated anyway. People often forget the purpose of life which is to be happy.
        As to Obama, I think you are judging him in absolute terms (kind of like Israel by the way). Would Hillary do better? Romney? Jeb? Biden? Well we may find out soon.

      • Giles
        May 30, 2015, 10:42 am

        This opinion by a Zionist propaganda agent” coccus I am flattered by this opinion. This sounds so much more glorious than my regular job

        What’s a coccus?

        I looked it up:

        1. (Microbiology) any spherical or nearly spherical bacterium, such as a staphylococcus. Compare bacillus1, spirillum1

        2. (Botany) the part of a fruit that contains one seed and separates from the whole fruit at maturity

        3. (Animals) any of the scale insects of the genus Coccus.

        Not sure WTF this is doing in your sentence.

        You Zionist dupes (who do service as unpaid propagandists as they have been conditioned to do) ain’t quite right in the head. It seems the Israel uber alles brainwashing spills over into all areas of what passes for your “thought process”

      • Mooser
        May 30, 2015, 12:39 pm

        “What is so wrong with being a “prostitute”? It should be a legal and respected profession in my opinion.”

        Maybe you should open your own Mustang or Chicken Ranch, “catalan”. You have the perfect qualification.

      • oldgeezer
        May 30, 2015, 12:50 pm

        @catalan

        I didn’t judge Obama. I merely commented on what you used as evidence for that judgement.

        Frankly I think that, while your judgement is a bit over the top when considering all presidents, I would agree more with your judgement than of those who would decry him. I do share their great disappointment but recognize that the it is very difficult to change the course of the ship of state. I think there is more he can do, could have done. There have been many areas where his actions have fallen far short of his words. But over the past 50-70 years he has been one of the better ones.

        I’m not going to let go of the brilliance thing. It’s too handy ;)

      • Boo
        May 30, 2015, 5:56 pm

        “I am like Peter Parker, evidently”

        I presume you’re talking about Newspaper Spider-Man.

        In that case (link): far be it from me to dispute you.

        Go ahead, pal, knock yourself out!

    • RoHa
      May 29, 2015, 8:05 pm

      “As an American who was raised to be proud of this country, ”

      By “this country” you mean “Israel”, I presume.

    • Doubtom
      May 30, 2015, 11:09 am

      All presidential candidates undergo a thorough mind cleansing once they get in the front office. Some undergo this cleansing well before they get to the front office, like Hillary Clinton, who once thought clearly about Israel’s activities and now can see no wrong in anything Israel does.
      How many remember the episode of Hillary, as the then president’s wife, daring to utter a few sentences criticizing Israel, only to be quickly shut up by those always invisible forces within our government apparatus? She has since “seen the light” which amounts to no one and I mean NO ONE, may aspire to the front office of these United states without being a champion of Israel and ALL that Israel does. This is what the “special relationship” really amounts to, that no one has ever adequately defined. It’s special indeed! It amounts to Israeli/Jewish control of our government.

  3. Bornajoo
    May 29, 2015, 5:07 pm

    “The lesson drawn by Netanyahu should be clear. Obama may signal verbally his disquiet with the current Israeli government, but he is not about to exact any real price from Israel, even as it shifts ever further to the fanatical right.”

    Yes I’m sure that Netanyahu would have loved to have someone less rabidly to the right pretending to be a peacemaker in order to keep the USA and the rest of the international mob happy. But instead his rabid pack of right wing dogs are running loose barking and spewing their true intentions all over the place. But wait! There are no sanctions or any real repercussions, and instead they just got an extra 2bn bag of military goodies

    And let’s face it, the only chance of any American blowback has to happen while Obama is still in power but I admit I was fooled and have now dropped any hope of that happening

    And what will realistically happen when Obama is gone? It can only get much worse because any republican president or ( the most likely winner) psycho-zio Hillary will give this rogue state more support, less criticism and the ability to act with even greater impunity

    But we always have to remember, theatre politics aside, that israel is an ally of the American Empire and regardless of how badly it behaves the USA will never really turn on one of The Family (they just pretend to from time to time)

  4. ivri
    May 30, 2015, 8:26 am

    Cook is playing naïve here. Throughout history relations between countries were defined by interests – so what else is new? It is impossible to cover the range of realms where the US and Israel are on the same page and cooperate productively. Even if clearly the US is the big brother here the smaller brother has already amply demonstrated that in is an efficient partner, e.g. the assistance it gets is used efficiently, and in the particular US culture that is appreciated and rewarded. What and who serves you best is always retained – yet the writer here is perennially “surprised” by that.

    • Doubtom
      May 30, 2015, 11:19 am

      Yes, the fact that there are too many ‘realms of interests” between Israel and the United States, is why we’re in need of a revolution to return our government to its people, where it rightfully belongs instead of in the hands of the few large corporations. Voting is a wasted exercise when the two major parties, who control all political processes, are firmly in the hands of the corporations. Israel is just part of the problem but a damn big one.

      • ivri
        May 30, 2015, 2:50 pm

        @Doubt
        I think you are mixing 2 different issues here. That the modern world is nowadays is run by multinational corporations is a serious subject for discussion – but the part of Israel in that is negligible.

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