The effect of President Obama standing up to Benjamin Netanyahu, for once, earlier this week, over a new settlement, has been swift. The New York Times has now stood behind the president in a sharp editorial against the Netanyahu government for its intransigence. Like Obama’s stand, the Times’s vituperation comes way too late to help create a Palestinian state; but it is remarkable for a casual assertion about the power of the Israel lobby: Presidents don’t want to tell Israel what to do because George H.W. Bush lost his bid for reelection in 1992 in part because of his opposition to Israeli settlements.
Here’s what the Times said.
This latest [Israeli] decision was especially insulting, coming just a few weeks after the United States and Israel concluded a defense agreement guaranteeing Israel $38 billion in military aid over 10 years. If the new settlement was known earlier, it might have affected those negotiations. Theoretically, the aid gives the United States leverage over Israel, but various administrations have been loath to exercise it; the first President George Bush withheld $400 million in loan guarantees from Israel in 1990 over the settlement issue. The move was later assumed to have been one factor in his re-election defeat.
This is surely news to Times readers. Michael Desch told readers of the journal Securities Studies this news in 2006:
“Many believe that George H.W. Bush’s defeat in 1992 was the result of Jewish-American opposition fueled by his hard line against Israeli settlements under the [Yitzhak] Shamir government.”
Desch’s footnotes indicated that Bush himself believed this to be the case.
Remember that Bill Clinton ran to Bush’s right on the settlements in 1992 and raised money on that basis. (Just as his wife began by running to Trump’s right on the issue.)
Three years ago NYT columnist Tom Friedman described the power of the lobby to Mehdi Hasan of Al Jazeera. Didn’t write this in his column, but said it in England:
Let’s go inside American politics for a second. What happened, and as you know, President Bush the first stood outside the White House one day and said I’m one lonely man standing up against the Israel lobby. What happened as a result of that, Mehdi, is that Republicans post Bush I, and manifested most in his son Bush 2, took a strategic decision, they will never be out pro-Israel’d again. That they believe cost them electorally a lot.
So that pulled the American spectrum to the right. and it created an arms race with the Democrats, over who could be more pro Israel.
While we’re going down memory lane, in the late 1990s, Bill Kristol bragged, the neocons purged “the Arabists” from the Republican Party, all the realists who didn’t want to invade Iraq. And Netanyahu urged us to invade Iraq. And even Reform Jews supported the Iraq War. Etc. Soon the Times will let it be known that the Israel lobby helped start the Iraq war.
The Times editorial says that Obama should lay down some parameters on a two-state solution before he leaves office. Though that will do nothing, even the newspaper kinda admits.
Mr. Netanyahu obviously doesn’t care what Washington thinks, so it will be up to President Obama to find another way to preserve that option before he leaves office….
The most plausible pressure would come from Mr. Obama’s leading the Security Council to put its authority behind a resolution to support a two-state solution and offer the outlines of what that could be. That may seem like a bureaucratic response unlikely to change anything, but it is the kind of political pressure Mr. Netanyahu abhors and has been working assiduously to prevent.
P.S. This is why engaged people support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, because it would change Israel’s behavior.
In another sign that the Obama diss of the Israelis has had an effect, the Washington Post puts a harsh headline on William Booth’s story about Israel’s latest lame hasbara: “A satirical ‘history of the Jewish people’ released by the Israeli government offends just about everyone.” So even the Post is annoyed by a video that portrays Palestinians as foreigners to the land.
Here is the video. William Booth pulled his punches. This is sophomoric racist hasbara that says that the house of Israel belongs to the Jews and has for 3000 years, and ends with Palestinians showing up to claim the house.