Friday, April 9, 2010

US Double Dealing with Israel

US double dealing with Israel.

While VP Joe Biden visited Israel a few weeks ago to promote indirect negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, the Israeli government announced a plan to build new housing for Jews in East Jerusalem. Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of the state they are still hoping for. By making this announcement just when VP Biden was there to encourage new negotiations, the Israeli government made it abundantly clear that Israel will not give up any part of Jerusalem, and that Israel is not really interested in an independent Palestinian state.

The United States government took the timing of this announcement, as much as the announcement itself, as a slap in the face. Both the President and the Secretary of State used very harsh language to criticize both Israel's timing of the announcement and the plan for Jewish housing in East Jerusalem itself. But President Netanyahu of Israel, when he was visiting Washington last week, was quite intransigent. Israel, he said, will not give up any part of Jerusalem.

The criticism of Israel by the US was harsher than usual. Netanyahu's language less conciliatory than usual. All that seemed surprising and perhaps an indication that relations between the United States and Israel were about to change.

But now it turns out that all this harsh criticism and stiff necked intransigence was just for public consumption. The relations between the two governments are completely unchanged. While the political leaders of the two countries acted out their drama of threats and obstinate resistance, the Pentagon negotiated the sale of fighter planes to Israel. Correction: the Pentagon negotiated to give the fighter planes to Israel. The American defense establishment will give Israel the money to buy advanced fighter planes from American companies. To sweeten the deal for the Israelis, the planes will incorporate all sorts of systems designed and manufactured by Israeli industries.

While publicly sparring with each other, both the Americans and Israelis knew that they were the best buddies. They were just pretending to have a disagreement. The disagreement was given a big play in the press. The sale of the airplanes was not mentioned in any mass media. A cursory search on Google and did not bring it up either.

Who was this charade for?

It is difficult to resist the temptation to see this as one more example of the two Americas and their two foreign policies. There is the America that goes around the world encouraging democracy and individual liberty; the America that stands for good nutrition, for health care, for education for all and for indoor plumbing. That America is real. In the Mideast it keeps pushing for some kind of justice for the Palestinians.

But once again the other America proves stronger. That America has two motivations: One is to insure stability of governments in order to safeguard American investments. For that reason that other America supported, among many others, the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti and the brutal dictatorship of Mobutu in the Congo. A second motivation is the principle that “the enemies of my enemies are my friends.” It was that America that, in the 1930s, supported the Nazis in Germany because they were anti-communists. (IBM provided the punch card system to quickly make lists of all Jewish Germans. The CEO of IBM, Watson, was friendly with Hitler. During the 1930s both Ford and General Motors produced trucks for the new German army that Hitler was building.) And now we are following the same policy with Israel. The enemies of Iran are our friends. Israel must be supported at all costs – especially costs to the Palestinians – in order to have an ally in possible conflicts with Iran. We do not care what is happening to Israel as it slides into a more and more militarized state in which civil liberties, even for Jews, are valued less and less by the government.

Unfortunately, we have not learned from history. The policies of this second America breed the bin Ladens of this world.