Working in the US to expose Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians we correctly highlight the moral arguments, human rights and international law framing, which are valid ways to address the issues but at the policy makers level the strategy centers on US national interest. I take issue with the existing national interest and how it is framed around militarism, control of fossil fuel sources and environmental destruction, and unrestrained neoliberal capitalist expansion at the expense of the poor and middle class at home and abroad.
Yet, what Palestine’s advocates face is a sophisticated American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) agenda that over the years has been able to weave Israel’s interest into the fabric of America’s national interest. AIPAC’s weaving, which has been so masterful once coupled with their lobbying efforts directed at Congress, Senate and Executive branches, has made the national interests of Israel and US indistinguishable.
I maintain that US and Israeli interests are not identical and more critically Israel’s policies are negatively impacting US national interests in five key strategic areas: access to Arab and Muslim markets, funneling weapons technology to US strategic enemies and competitors, nuclear proliferation, spying and undermining national secrets, and diminishing the standing of the US around the globe.
In writing this article, I am attempting to unravel the work of AIPAC’s and pro-Israel think tanks without addressing the particulars or offering a critique of existing US national interest so as to deal with the policies from a realpolitik vantage point. Another article will be forthcoming that will examine US national interest with a focus on an idealist perspective offering changes and recommendation on its basis.
The business community in the US is global and present in every corner around the globe; therefore it is exposed to the internal dynamics of every region including the Arab and Muslim world. As Israel’s intransigence deepens with its refusal to recognize an independent Palestinian State on the basis of 1967 borders, the constant expansion of settlements in the Occupied Territories and frequent unleashing of massive violent attacks on the Palestinian population; the US business community will be saddled with the residual effects of coupling US and Israeli national interests. Examining the list of companies included in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement we find that the overwhelming majority of these are US owned or based companies.
US companies are paying a high price for Zionist settler colonialism and increasingly becoming a target in a conflict of which they did not choose to take sides or if they did, it was because they were pressured or induced to it. The costs at this point in time are becoming too high. From a purely realist perspective, supporting Israel and investing in it because the local Congressmen/women or Senators sweeten the deal with incentives has its limits if the opportunity cost is far greater than what was initially contemplated. In a highly competitive market that works on narrow margins, an investment in Israel is at this point a liability for US and European based companies since it impacts access to broader global market positioning. We have to say that when it comes to economic competitiveness and access to markets, US-Israeli relations as they stand pose a major liability to America’s brand across Arab and Muslims markets but also in other parts of the world.
The second area of concern is military technology and Israel’s role in stealing US designs, working to produce their own versions of the same weapons and then entering the global market to compete and take market shares from American companies. I am not for the military-industrial complex, but one must understand the current dynamics in the global market. Recent arms deal in India point to Israel’s attempt at forging military commercial relations and contracts at the expense of US companies.
More pernicious in this area is Israel’s role in selling/passing US long-range missile technology to China thus undermining a critical aspect of America’s national security agenda in East Asia. America’s relations with China and how best to manage this critical aspect of global power dynamics sits at the heart of US strategic thinking and the entanglement with China across many parts of the world. Israel’s attempt to forge stronger relations with China by means of selling missile and military technology to it is actively undermining a critical strategic pillar in US foreign policy. One has to understand that Israel is seeking multiple options to counter its isolation even if this comes at the expense of long-established US national and strategic interests. Again in this area, Israel is a strategic liability to US national interest and if it was not for the effective domestic lobby many Israeli companies and individuals would be subject to sanctions and prosecution.
The third critical area is nuclear proliferation and Israel’s role in undermining the Non Proliferation Treaty. Let’s be clear first that Israel is a nuclear power and the whole world knows it except the political leadership in Washington DC as AIPAC has equipped them with Israeli made blinders. It is no secret that Israel stole the uranium from the US to build and produce its own nuclear bombs and all indications are that the country has hundreds of nuclear warheads. Jeff Stein in a May 6, 2014, Newsweek article, quotes Paul Pillar, the CIA’s former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, stating “old habits are hard to break: Zionists were dispatching spies to America before there even was an Israel, to gather money and materials for the cause and later the fledgling state.” Key components for Israel’s nuclear bombs were clandestinely obtained here. “They’ve found creative and inventive ways,” Pillar said, to get what they want.
While a nuclear Israel is a problem in itself, the added crisis was in assisting two states in their efforts at developing nuclear weapons; South Africa in late 70s and possibly India in the most recent past. In the case of Apartheid South Africa, Israel worked to assist in the development of a nuclear program for the racist government and tested a bomb in the Indian Ocean in 1979. Indeed, the nuclear test was detected by the CIA and reported to President Carter who chose not to act on it considering the political crisis he was dealing with in Iran at the time.
Fast-forward to the Indian nuclear program where Israel was possibly instrumental in assisting in the development and testing of these bombs and bringing another country into the nuclear club. One can argue that Israel would not have been able to arrest or stop the Indian nuclear program, but evidence is lacking that points to an Israeli resistance offering the technical and training help needed to bring it to a successful completion. Also, one can assert that Israel’s help and support for India was taken within the existing periphery strategy, which views Pakistan as a possible outer layer of support for the Palestinians. Thus intensifying the rivalry between India and Pakistan serves Israeli strategic national interest regardless of impact on nuclear proliferation or more conflict between the two historical neighbors that have fought a number of wars in the past. In this context, one can also see that Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is a major factor contributing to small states both in the region and outside to work towards a similar weapon. One has to conclude that Israel’s role has been detrimental to the effectiveness and viability of NPT and as such it runs contrary to US strategic and national interest on this front.
The fourth and most critical area in directly undermining America’s national security and strategic position both in the past and present is the constant spying undertaken by a successive cadre of Israeli spies. In more than one case Israeli spies have managed to access highly sensitive military and policy strategic information and trade it with other states for short or long term benefits. One of the most critical cases centers on Jonathan Pollard, an analyst for the Navy’s Anti-terrorist Alert Center, who was arrested on Nov. 21, 1985, after stealing and delivering 800, highly classified documents and 1500 intelligence summary messages to his Israeli handlers. The stolen documents contained critical military intelligence and deployments around the world that at the time Israel exchanged with the Russians, exposing American personal and deployment in the field.
Not only that Jonathan Pollard was found guilty and is currently in jail but there exists a constant pressure coming from pro-Israel voices in the US like Alan Dershowitz , ADL Executive Director Abraham Foxman, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who call on the US government to release the convicted spy that undermined America’s security at a critical time period in the Cold War. Why is it acceptable to call for the release of a convicted spy! Abraham Foxman in an Orwellian twist claims that the continued imprisonment of Pollard is “vendetta” against the entire American Jewish community.”
In this case, Pollard’s spying took place over a 17 month period and involved document delivery every two weeks to Israeli handlers who operated out of an apartment in Washington DC. At the height of the operation due to the large volume of documents stolen, the Israelis team rented a second apartment and set it up only with a copy machine so they could make copies of documents while Pollard waited.
The list of Israeli spies and efforts at stealing US military, security and economic information constantly undermines America’s ability to conduct policies based on its own crafted national interest. Israel was identified as a top spy threat for the US by the released Snowden documents. The NSA identified Israel as a security threat in several areas, including “the threat of development of weapons of mass destruction” and “delivery methods (particularly ballistic and nuclear-capable cruise missiles).” The NSA also flagged Israel’s “WMD and missile proliferation activities” and “cruise missiles” as threats.” Furthermore, in the section headed “Foreign Intelligence, Counterintelligence; Denial & Deception Activities: Countering Foreign Intelligence Threats,” Israel was listed as a leading perpetrator of “espionage/intelligence collection operations and manipulation/influence operations…against U.S. government, military, science & technology and Intelligence Community” organs.
The last but not the least in importance is Israel’s role in diminishing US standing around the world. While an argument can be made that US policies on their own are leading to this diminishment, I maintain that America’s constant defense of Israel right or wrong via policies is leading to this increasing loss of stature and power. Without a doubt, the Iraq and Afghan wars have demolished America’s image and standing around the globe along with Abu Ghraib images, drones killing civilians, renditions, and Gitmo, so one can hardly point the finger at Israel for all that has happened.
However, we must be reminded that the Neo-Conservative movement urged for US invasion of Iraq as one way to safeguard and protect Israel from threats posed by Saddam Hussein. Some Neo-Cons argued for this strategy in the “Clear Break” paper a few years before the actual invasion and lobbied the Congress and Senate for an Iraq regime change policy. We all are in agreement that Iraq at the time did not constitute any threat to US national or strategic interests and even the oil market was not impacted by any threats from Saddam Hussein. Israel on the other hand did consider Saddam and Iraq a threat, and as such the Neo-Conservative movement rallied for a regime change and eventual invasion.
Whatever disaster is witnessed today in Iraq, the primary responsibility rests in America’s leadership and the Neo-Conservative movement who urged for regime change to protect Israel from a possible future threat. The US entanglement with boots on the ground and involvement in the Middle East has had a substantial impact on America’s ability to conduct its foreign policy based on diplomacy and persuasion. As a superpower the US has used its military forces many times in the past and my argument is not to obfuscate or down play America’s use of hard power to achieve its expressed aims.
What I maintain is that the US had many other options in the Middle East and resorting to military power and boots on the ground was done at the behest of Israel and its advocates in Washington DC. The same type of dynamics is being mobilized in relations to Iran and the purported threat it represents to US national interests. Let’s be clear again, Iran does not constitute a military or strategic threat to the US while an argument can be made that it does pose a threat to Israel in the long run.
Furthermore, the US is able to contain an Iranian threat even in the case the country becomes a nuclear power. I do maintain that Israel’s nuclear weapons’ are the primary motivating factor for the constant attempts at development of such weapons by other regional actors and it is not independent of it. I also maintain that actions against Saddam and currently Iran fit into Israeli strategic national interest that seek to maintain the ability to conduct unilateral actions against any state in the region, which is only possible if all are prevented from reaching a balance of power on the basis of nuclear or conventional weapons. A similar strategy is currently directed by Israel toward Turkey because of a possible change in the strategic relations between the two states. Due to its limited capacities, Israel depends on the US to constitute and protect its strategic landscape in the region through a variety of initiatives including maintaining a qualitative edge in military hardware, and at times direct intervention like the case in Iraq regarding current sanctions against Iran.
The March 2010, testimony by former CIA Director General David Petraeus directly speaks to this impact stating, “the conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.” Interestingly enough is that Petraeus’ view was shared by Mossad’s Chief Meir Dagan who said before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden.”
While AIPAC and pro-Israel groups continue to push the canard, Israel is the key and “trusted” strategic ally in the Middle East, however the evidence above points to a growing liability. The time has come for a clear and critical examination of this relationship and a move toward disentangling US national interest from Israel. The interests are not identical and the sooner we change the better it will be for American policy makers and US standing in the World.