Time To Put Conditions On Aid

Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday that he doesn’t believe it is helpful for the Israeli government to keep bringing up the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, He has concluded that all that demand does is make achieving a deal less likely.

I guess that kind of mental acuity is what made him Secretary of State. For future reference, Secretary, all Israeli demands not directly related to security are designed to make a deal impossible. Given that the United States is as zealous about defending Israel’s physical security as Israel itself is and demonstrates it continuously, it is safe to say that all demands that Israel puts to the United States are designed for no other reason except to kill negotiations.

At some point, the United States will understand that and stop placating the Israeli government and instead use our $3.5 billion a year in aid to Israel as leverage to achieve a deal. The federal government attaches strings even to the assistance it provides the 50 states. It is time to link aid to Israel to its good faith efforts to get out of the West Bank and end the blockade of Gaza. The Obama administration can start by just slowing down the delivery of aid, quietly, with no public announcement. Anything else the U.S. does is just begging. If the U.S. wants to end the occupation and achieve two secure and fully sovereign states for two peoples, it can make it happen That, however, is a big IF.

Book Club

I just read The Battle For Justice In Palestine by Ali Abunimah, the father of the BDS movement. Here’s the review I wrote in Amazon:

I give the book four stars for its honesty (certainly not for its turgid writing). And certainly not because I agree with it. I absolutely do not.

But the book is valuable and I recommend purchasing it because it definitively demonstrates that the goal of the BDS (the movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction Israel) is to eliminate the State of Israel, utterly and completely.

No, the author (one of the pioneers of the BDS movement) does not favor driving Israel into the sea. He is not, by any means, advocating genocide.

His goal, honestly stated, is the dismantling of the State of Israel, all its laws and institutions, and replacing it with a Palestinian state in which Jews would have minority rights.

Abunimah makes this point clearly in both chapter 2 and chapter 7 which are the book’s key chapters. For him, there is no such thing as an Israeli. There are only “Israeli Jews.” This is the precise distinction rightwing Jews make against the creation of a Palestinian state. They say that there are no “Palestinians,” just “Palestinian Arabs” who have no national rights. And shouldn’t either. Abunimah uses the same formulation about Israelis.

Of course, it is hard to imagine any Jew (let alone Israeli) accepting the offer Abunimah proffers:that after paying reparations to Palestinians for both stealing their land and all the crimes against them, “Israeli Jews” will be permitted to live in Tel Aviv, Nablus or anywhere else in Palestine with full minority rights, like under the Ottomans.

That’s it. That is Abunimah’ goal and the goal of the BDS movement he represents: the eradication of Israel as a state and Israeli as a nationality. From his point of view, this makes sense: he recognizes no Jewish connection to Palestine at all. For him, Palestine is as unconnected to Jews as Uganda would have been if Zionists had chosen it as the Jewish homeland. But, he concedes, Jews live there so they can stay but, as he spells out, with no national rights.

Fortunately, Abunimah’s vision will never happen. Jews will never be stateless again. That is why the only fair resolution of the conflict is two states for two peoples: Israel within the ’67 lines and Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Only a fool thinks the State of Israel is going to disappear. And only someone who wishes Jews ill would want it to. Abunimah’s book, like everything he writes, indicates a deep loathing for any Jew who does not believe, as he does so fervently, that Israel has no right to exist.

I have written before that I consider Ali Abunimah to be anti-semitic (although he does like Jews who agree with him that Israel should be dismantled). Reading the book confirms my view. At the same time, I need to say that I do not consider the BDS movement itself to be anti-semitic. There are all kinds of people under its umbrella, including some who care about the survival of Israel. However, I believe that right now the BDS movement has become a safe harbor for anti-semites.

Check out the Mondoweiss site which is serving as BDS central on the web. Although Phil Weiss, who runs the site, is the very antithesis of a hater, many of the people who post on the site simply despise Jews. The BDS movement attracts them. For the record, few of the Mondoweiss anti-semites are Muslims. Most are the old fashioned “gentile” kind who never could stand Jews. Israel is their pretext.


AIPAC would have been infinitely better off if the snowstorm that blanked Washington, D.C. at the beginning of March had forced their annual “policy conference” to be cancelled.

That didn’t happen. Instead it took place and accomplished nothing for the powerful lobby except to demonstrate how much it has declined in the past year.

And that is thanks to President Barack Obama who both entered negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program over AIPAC’s strong opposition and, when AIPAC tried to scupper negotiations by getting Congress to enact new sanctions on Iran, said that he would veto them.

Not only that, he issued his veto threat in his State Of The Union message to Congress. Even worse for AIPAC, he did so by invoking “our national security.” Once Obama did that, it lost because it cannot defeat a president who states directly that an AIPAC initiative puts someone else’s security above that of the United States.

By the next day Democrats were taking their names off the Iran sanctions bill being promoted by AIPAC. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came out in opposition and, by the end of the week, AIPAC itself announced that it was no longer pushing for its passage. This was the worst defeat AIPAC had ever experienced, a defeat that suggested that its clout was something of an illusion. (This can be overstated. AIPAC remains powerful because legislators depend on the campaign contributions it sends their way. They will still roll over for AIPAC just not when a president takes them on directly.)

AIPAC’s surrender on sanctions made its March conference all the more important for rebuilding its image of invincibility. But the opposite happened.

The whole conference was a subdued affair and, unlike previous years, it was mostly ignored by the media. Yes, the usual numbers of House and Senate members were in attendance, not to mention 14,000 AIPAC members.

But the old oomph was gone. Even though virtually everyone in attendance was furious at President Obama, they were clearly under instructions not to make their antipathy known. The two speakers representing the White House, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury, Jacob Lew, were both received politely, even when they praised their administration’s to negotiate with Iran and mediate between Israelis and Palestinians.

Although the audience preferred keynote speakers Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez who breathed fire on the subject of Iran, no Obama-bashing was heard from the dais. Clearly, AIPAC does not want to antagonize this president any further. They fault him for insufficient toughness with the Iranians and Russians but no one at AIPAC views him as weak on AIPAC.

The final two indications that AIPAC knows that it is losing came when it sent its members up to Capitol Hill to ask legislators to sign a letter supporting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demands on Iran. No bill. A letter! Small beer indeed.

And then there was the Prime Minister’s speech. He said nothing he hadn’t said before. He praised both the President and Secretary of State. And he devoted a full 25% of his speech (this was the part that got the audience cheering) to denounce the campus BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel which was as if Lyndon Johnson gave a major foreign policy speech in 1967 and blamed his Vietnam problems on the Students For a Democratic Society (SDS).

In short, AIPAC’s annus horribilis continues with no signs of a change in its fortunes anytime soon. Even if the Republicans take the Senate in November, it still will have Obama to contend with. Beyond that, there is little likelihood that the next president will be a Republican which means that AIPAC’s glory days may be behind them. This is good news both for the United States and Israel too which badly needs a real friend in the White House, one who will actually say “no” to the Israeli right’s endlessly bellicose plans. In Obama, they have one.

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