When Walt and Mearsheimer published their book on the Israel lobby in 2007, I thought, they’ve scratched the surface, we don’t know the half of it. Well here you go, friends. The Wall Street Journal reports today that even as Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were trying to brake Israel during the slaughter in Gaza, Israel relied on its “allies” in “Congress and elsewhere in the administration” to dip into American weapons stocks to refill its guns, without Obama’s approval.
And those tank shells were used on a UN school on July 30, killing 20 Palestinian civilians. The US is a partner to this war crime, a Palestinian says in the WSJ article.
It’s a shocking report about Israel’s autonomy inside the US government, in defiance even of the president.
Adam Entous at the Wall Street Journal reports that the Obama administration has responded with quiet anger to the encroachment. His first three paragraphs:
White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval.
Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it…
In addition, current and former American officials say, U.S.-Israel ties have been hurt by leaks that they believe were meant to undercut the administration’s standing by mischaracterizing its position and delay a cease-fire. The battles have driven U.S.-Israeli relations to the lowest point since President Barack Obama took office…
Will the Obama administration ever go public with this estimation of what Israel is, “reckless and untrustworthy”? We can just hope.
Today, many administration officials say the Gaza conflict—the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years—has persuaded them that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy.
Israeli officials, in turn, describe the Obama administration as weak and naive, and are doing as much as they can to bypass the White House in favor of allies in Congress and elsewhere in the administration.
Allies elsewhere in the administration? What’s that mean? The lobby’s moles? The piece explicitly references the power of the Israel lobby:
American officials say they believe they have been able to exert at least some influence over Mr. Netanyahu during the Gaza conflict. But they admit their influence has been weakened as he has used his sway in Washington, from the Pentagon and Congress to lobby groups, to defuse U.S. diplomatic pressure on his government over the past month.
So the tail really can wag the dog. Now let’s argue about how much.
Here’s the nuts and bolts of that weapons transfer. Even as Israel was negotiating with the White House and Congress over the means of getting replacement parts/supplies for its Iron Dome rocket-defense–
Unknown to many policy makers, Israel was moving on separate tracks to replenish supplies of lethal munitions being used in Gaza and to expedite approval of the Iron Dome funds on Capitol Hill.
On July 20, Israel’s defense ministry asked the U.S. military for a range of munitions, including 120-mm mortar shells and 40-mm illuminating rounds, which were already kept stored at a pre-positioned weapons stockpile in Israel.
The request was approved through military channels three days later but not made public. Under the terms of the deal, the Israelis used U.S. financing to pay for $3 million in tank rounds. No presidential approval or signoff by the secretary of state was required or sought, according to officials.
The watershed moment came in the early morning in Gaza July 30. An Israeli shell struck a United Nations school in Jabaliya that sheltered about 3,000 people. Later that day, it was reported in the U.S. that the 120-mm and 40-mm rounds had been released to the Israeli military.
“We were blindsided,” one U.S. diplomat said.
The Wall Street Journal says what we all know, but that the liberal Israel lobby groups Peace Now and J Street are unable to say, the Israeli attacks on civilian settings were indiscriminate.
White House and State Department officials had already become increasingly disturbed by what they saw as heavy-handed battlefield tactics that they believed risked a humanitarian catastrophe capable of harming regional stability and Israel’s interests.
They were especially concerned that Israel was using artillery, instead of more precision-guided munitions, in densely populated areas. The realization that munitions transfers had been made without their knowledge came as a shock…
Here’s the Palestinian angle:
The Palestinians, in particular, were angry, according to U.S. diplomats.
“The U.S. is a partner in this crime,” Jibril Rajoub, a leader in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Western-backed Fatah party, said of the decision to provide arms to Israel during the conflict.
And it’s a crisis for the Israel lobby. Or you’d think it would be:
The last straw for many U.S. diplomats came on Aug. 2 when they say Israeli officials leaked to the media that Mr. Netanyahu had told the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, that the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again” about how to deal with Hamas.
The White House and State Department have sought to regain greater control over U.S.-Israeli policy. They decided to require White House and State Department approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say.
So is the special relationship at an end? What will the Obama administration do to make that happen, and to educate the American public about the influence of a passionate faction over US policymaking?