What Obama should tell Netanyahu this Week (But won’t)

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Far right Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is arriving in Washington, D.C., Monday, and will apparently ask the US to almost double its $3 bn. a year in aid to $5 bn.

Netanyahu has been a constant thorn in the US side and has done absolutely nothing for his supposed ally despite all the crises in the Middle East. The theory that Israel is a strategic asset for America in the region has never been more obviously bankrupt than now. If the major US policy goal is defeat of ISIL, Iran is the best US partner.

Obama launched two attempts to kickstart peace talks between Israel and Palestine, the first spearheaded by George Mitchell and the second by Secretary of State John Kerry. Netanyahu torpedoed them both. He stepped back from a settlement freeze right in the middle of the first round of talks in 2010. He and his cabinet went out of their way to humiliate Kerry during the last round. Netanyahu is very attached to all the Palestinian territory he has stolen and he does not intend to give any of it back (he has pledged no Palestinian state). But the Palestine officials can’t be seen to sign away the future of Palestinian children entirely, and so they had no proposal from the Israeli side that they could take back to their public.

Then there was Netanyahu’s long and viciously fought campaign to undermine Obama’s Iran negotiations, and, indeed, to countermand the president of the United States on US foreign policy. This was the most astonishing interference by another country in American politics since Britain launched the War of 1812 and burned down the White House.

Obama has very little to say about the money given by the US Congress to Israel, since budget is a legislative prerogative. So there is actually little he could do to get Netanyahu to stop acting like a bull in a China shop. In the old days of the 1950s, when the US had loaned a lot of money to allies like France and Israel, President Eisenhower simply threatened to call in the loans if they did not behave (he did not approve of their aggressive war on Egypt in 1956 and made them withdraw). But the US is no longer a creditor nation.

Obama faces another restraint, of domestic politics. Jewish Americans are unusually public-spirited and give a lot more to political campaigns than other Americans, and as head of the Democratic Party, Obama does not want to chase these mega-donors, who generally deeply support Israel, into the arms of the Republican Party. These things are no longer transparent, but one suspects that Hillary Clinton is deeply dependent for campaign funds on Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban.

But there is one simple thing that Obama could do, and it would set a very useful precedent. He could stop vetoing all UN Security Council resolutions condemning Israel’s violations of international law in Gaza and the West Bank. Just let the resolution through, and let the UNSC set sanctions if it likes.

Most Jewish Americans don’t like the colonial project of stealing the Palestinian West Bank and throwing its residents out of their homes. Those who vote for the Democratic Party and give money to it won’t abandon the party over a non-veto of Netanyahu’s crimes.

By simply informing Netanyahu of how it is going to be, and following through with instructions to US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, Obama can make the point that the US president is not helpless and can’t be humiliated the way Netanyahu has humiliated Obama without a cost. Even better, Obama could just let the world community sanction Netanyahu for his violation of the basic human rights of Palestinians under Israeli military rule. These sanctions would then give even the expansionist and grasping Netanyahu cabinet reason to rethink its West Bank and Gaza policies.

Obama has failed at diplomacy, largely because the president no longer has any real leverage over the Israeli right wing.

Israel under Netanyahu needs some tough love from friends, since it is behaving in a highly self-destructive manner that also harms the US. Obama has nothing to lose by applying this tough love now, and this step would give him a legacy in Mideast peacemaking.


Related video:

CCTV: “Netanyahu heads to US to push for military aid package”

23 Responses

  1. Money-in-politics is a corrosive establishment influence on the occupation. Unfortunately, asymmetrical grass root movements are the current opposition.

  2. “Britain launched the War of 1812 and burned down the White House”

    What?!? It was President Madison who launched that war of aggression against the UK. If you’ll recall, the UK was fighting a guy named Napoleon at the time when the USA decided that taking Canada would be a ‘mere matter of marching’.

    The fact that your White House got torched was YOUR fault.


  3. Obama can actually nobble Israel military aid fairly easily.

    Congress does hold the purse strings, but the Pentagon must OK all requests for foreign purchases of military equipment before those requests go before Congress.

    Congress gave you $5billion to spend in the USA, Minister Ya’alon? Fine, step right into the shop….

    That money will buy you a mountain of khaki-camouflaged military-grade condoms, and untold warehouses filled up to the rafters with army boots.

    Oh? You wanted Things That Go Bang?

    Agreed, you certainly will need some distress flares soon enough, and we’re happy to sell you all that you could possibly need.

    But fighter jets? No.

    You’ll complain to Congress? Tough, my Commander In Chief is someone else…..

  4. ” Just let the resolution through, and let the UNSC set sanctions if it likes.”

    Not that it will ever happen, but note that Congress can’t override a Chapter VII Security Council Resolution that places sanctions on military aid to a rogue state.

    Article 25 of the UN Charter clearly says that all member states agree to abide by a “decision” of the Security Council.

    So if the UNSC “decides” that all states must suspend all military aid to – oh, just sayin’ – a state such as Israel then all member states of the UN are under a treaty obligation to suspend such aid.


    Because the USA has already agreed to abide by such a decision when it signed the Charter, and according to the Constitution that signature on that treaty makes that stipulation The Law Of The Land.

    Note that this doesn’t interfere with Congress’ legislative power under the Constitution – far from it, Congress can can still vote that allocation of money each and every year.

    But the disbursement of said moneys would have to be suspended for as long as such a resolution is in place, meaning, for as long as the Security Council was “seized of the matter”.

  5. President Obama should denounce the whole thing once and for all. He knows how to talk. He should have faith in the American public over the billionaires. That would be Obama’s legacy and the salvation of the USA.

  6. “since Britain launched the War of 1812 ”
    Isn’t that a bit like saying “since Iraq launched the War of 2003”?
    A leopard never changes its spots.

  7. I am ever so grateful it is not my job to sit down with the biggest asshole in the world who has come demanding even more billions than usual. If it was me, his airplane would be diverted to anywhere but here.

  8. “Since Britain launched the War of 1812” ?!! In the first battle of that War, Queenston Heights, the British repulsed an American attack on Canada.

  9. This post combines rare moral and political courage. Coming from a highly visible man in the academic wing of the American establishment, and one of the leading experts in the field, it is going to be read widely in the relevant circles, European, American and Israeli. Its timing could not be better. It strikes a blow for the American people as a whole because it sets forth the only clear solution available to us.

    We are in your debt, Dr. Cole. Thank you.

  10. Obama should not be shaken down into paying a $2 billion penalty for signing the judicious nuclear deal with Iran. Under Bibi, Israel doesn’t even deserve the $3 billion Camp David money for it is no longer a strategic ally (but a millstone) and we no longer need to bribe it not to attack Egypt.

  11. Speaking of frenemies, I challenge anyone with half a brain and who isn’t crippled by the brainwashing of religion or some other hateful beliefs, to explain how it is that mysteriously all these many months and years ISIS has been able to transport and sell billions in oil and little ole Uncle Sam’s cruise missiles and drones and fighter jets and trillion dollar naval fleets couldn’t stop them.

  12. Any of those things could get him impeached if not lynched, let us fantasize how would trump negotiate and deal with bibi

  13. While Obama does have restrictions, the biggest one is his own inability to simply publicly humiliate Bibi.

    Obama could easily point out what a liar Bibi is and why the USA should not ever trust Israel. Sure congress would go crazy, but Obama has already put up with their racism for 7 years, so he should be well used to their ire.

    Instead of humiliating Bibi, the pictures I saw today was Obama laughing at one of Bibi’s jokes.

    • “While Obama does have restrictions, the biggest one is his own inability to simply publicly humiliate Bibi.”

      President Obama is a gentleman and a statesman. Over time his memory will be revered. There is good reason to expect that these admirable qualities will be seen to have prevailed.

      Biography, ‘the life and times” approach, is the highest form of the historical art. I hope we all live long enough to read the leading biographies, those which on their own merits will will stand the test of time.

      I expect those historians to find little or nothing from Obama calculated to gratuitously shame Mr. Netanyahu publicly. It is the office of the Israeli People to draw conclusions about their lost opportunities and resultant changes in American policy which must of necessity lead us back to our own interests.

      What, based on our interests and those of our traditional allies, are they likely to be? And what is likely to be in Israel’s interests whether she likes it or not? The first seems to me an admission that we are neither suited for nor successful in hegemonic roles on a global scale. We must wind it down and curb the Messianic impulse. From that point it is a matter of detail. As to the permanent crisis Zionist Israel has presented for us since the 1940s, thanks to President Obama it is now in its end game. That’s a good start.

  14. Remember when Bush 41 denied Israel the loan guarantees for 10 billion that were to be used to expand settlements in the West Bank. He later admitted that decision was the single most significant aspect to his defeat in the 1992 election against Bill Clinton.

    • That’s interesting. Didn’t he beat a retreat on that while still in office?

      Anyway what does it prove in retrospect? Of course there is a question of causation, but shouldn’t we have immediately jumped on campaign finance reform and begun enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act in simple self defence?

  15. I wonder if Obama had the good sense to count his fingers after shaking Netanyahu’s hand.

    After all, that foreigner shows every sign of stealing everything else.

  16. Israel receives money from the U.S. for defense purposes. However, any money Israel receives is essentially fungible, meaning it just mixes with Israel’s own tax revenue. Who are all the ultimate funders of AIPAC? We really do not know and have no way of knowing. It is very possible and likely that the state of Israel funds AIPAC through various backdoors and donors. AIPAC lobbies for more U.S. funding being sent to Israel. So the U.S. taxpayer is likely paying to lobby for itself to give more taxpayer dollars to Israel. A nice profitable circle of interest and money that Israel has had going for some time. U.S. taxpayers are being hoodwinked.

  17. Most of the three billion a year doesn’t leave the country. It is not commingled with Israeli funds. From a sequestered account the Pentagon pays for American weapons chosen by the Israelis subject to approval by the Pentagon and President. That part of it never passes into Israeli accounts. The rest if I recall correctly IS made available for deposit in Israeli accounts but is earmarked to purchase arms in Israel and on the open market.

    In the early days AIPAC’s predecessor was funded by the Israeli government covertly. That was broken up by John and Robert Kennedy. Today it seems to be funded by wealthy Zionist donors working anonymously through PAC’s. See IRmep for the history. This is a delicate situation as lobbying for a foreign country without registration, AIPAC’s specialty, is a felony under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Since the Kennedy era it has not been enforced because of political considerations involving the Lobby.

    The failure to enforce FARA is an American tragedy.

    I believe

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