Sunday, 12 March 2017

On the Puppet Strings: Israel and the USA

One of the really nasty features of internet politics is the ease of which anti-Semitic jokes, slanders and conspiracy theories can spread across the world and cover themselves up in a veneer of respectability. Its pretty bad in general, if you make a habit of scrolling through comments on youtube videos you'll eventually see at least a dozen comments alleging all sorts of underhand Jewish plots against well anything really. The Jews are behind communism, except for when they're controlling the world through stock markets and global finance. They're motivated by secret religious teachings, or a pathological hatred of everything and everyone who isn't them. Except for pure and virginal white Christian girls, though apparently they'll move heaven and earth to get a hold of them. Oh and the Holocaust was a lie, except for the parts of the Holocaust that the Jews deliberately allowed to happen, is all three dimensional chess with these guys.

I've even seen people claim that the Jew is using "the blacks" as footsoldiers in its war against white civilisation.... somehow. I've recently seen several substitute the black population with the LGBT groups as a sinister Trojan horse against the white civilisation.... again somehow. They're usually sketchy on the details of how these brilliant plans work but one conspiracy where there's a lot of detail concerns the apparent power of the Israeli state to control the worlds only Superpower.
For example a piece on website A website that amongst other things hosts holocaust revisionism as a lengthy essay called Israel's International Conspiracy, about how the pro Israeli lobby through the use of local Jewish populations is strong enough to greatly distort their host nations governmental systems and even bring down American Presidents.

President George H. W. Bush (the good Bush) suffered a similar come to Jesus moment in 1991 when he went on national television to denounce the pressure tactics of the Israel lobby.
The Israeli government was demanding U.S. Treasury backed loans to construct illegal settlements. President Bush, who was running for reelection and far ahead in the opinion polls, suddenly was confronted by a well-funded and organized opposition raising doubts about him and his record. And President Bush was not reelected, presumably learning along the way that one does not trifle with the Israel Lobby, to be replaced by the enthusiastically Zionist Bill Clinton.
 This part of the essay is one of the few that has any kind of substantiation via that hyperlink, and I'll get to that later.

 A lot of people, many of whom wouldn't have any patience for the other thousand and one crackpot theories about Jewish people, have grossly misunderstood the international relationship between the United States and Israel. In short they've got it backwards, its not that Israel can bully and blackmail the United States into doing its bidding, its that the United States uses Israel from time to time and isn't threatened by Israel's pursuit of its own interests. And I can actually disprove this theory with just a few easy to find examples.


An AWAC (Airborne Warning and Control System) is one of those military planes with a great big radar dish on top of it. In the 1980's the Reagan administration was in talks with Saudi Arabia to sell the Saudi's a few spare AWACS for about $8 billion. The plan also included selling the Saudi kingdom other weapon systems including parts of F-15 fighter jets with the AWACS becoming the symbolic figurehead of the deal. The sale was extremely controversial, announced in 1981 it didn't go through until 1986. It was such a major even there's a wiki article on it and this is the first paragraph on it:

 The sale of AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia by the United States administration of President Ronald Reagan was a controversial part of what was then the largest foreign arms sale in US history. The sale saw objections from a majority of Americans, prominent US Senators, the State of Israel and the Israel lobby.[1]

Get that last part? The sale was bitterly opposed by the Israel government and its lobbying interests (the supremely powerful AIPAC) and yet Reagan spent nearly five years arguing and arm twisting in Congress to get the deal approved.

Here's a statement from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

The Foreign Ministry Spokesman said today that the American government's decision to sell additional parts for the F-15 planes is cause for the utmost concern and intensifies the danger to Israel. This sale, as with the handing over of other war material by the industrial nations, escalates the arms race in the area to dangerous proportions liable to endanger the strategic balance in the Middle East.
As is known, these and other considerations were brought to the attention of the American administration by Foreign Minister Shamir during his last visit in Washington. The Foreign Ministry Spokesman also reiterated Israel's view that the area's problems cannot be solved by an unrestrained arms race, but rather through negotiations, with all the nations of the area joining the Camp David process and the active support of this process by all the nations outside the area.
The Spokesman also stressed the fact that Saudi Arabia is not a "moderate" nation with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but is counted among the leaders of the advocates of war against Israel, and provides aid to the PLO and to all those nations and elements actively fighting against Israel.

Now Reagan's lobbying for the AWACS deal did focus heavily on rather vague claims that arming Saudi Arabia would be good for security in the region and Israel specifically.

THE PRESIDENT. This morning Congress was notified of our intention to sell AWACS aircraft and F-15 enhancement items to Saudi Arabia. I have proposed this sale because it significantly enhances our own vital national security interests in the Middle East. By building confidence in the United States as a reliable security partner, the sale will greatly improve the chances of our working constructively with Saudi Arabia and other states of the Middle East toward our common goal-- a just and lasting peace. It poses no threat to Israel, now or in the future. Indeed, by contributing to the security and stability of the regions, it serves Israel's long-range interests.
Further, this sale will significantly improve the capability of Saudi Arabia and the United States to defend the oil fields on which the security of the free world depends.
As President, it's my duty to define and defend our broad national security objectives. The Congress, of course, plays an important role in this process. And while we must always take into account the vital interests of our allies, American security interests must remain our internal responsibility. It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy. An objective assessment of U.S. national interest must favor the proposed sale. And I say this as one who holds strongly the view that both a secure state of Israel and a stable Mideast peace are essential to our national interests.

[My bolding]

I think this statement is largely honest in its intentions, the United States was more concerned with protecting oil fields on the Arabian peninsula then the strategic defence of Israel so the Reagan administration was willing to fight for five years to make sure the plan went ahead over Israeli objections.


 In 2015 the United States government and the Islamic Republic of Iran came to an agreement on Iran's nuclear power developments. The deal was welcomed by some as the ongoing development of Iran's nuclear capabilities and hostility between the two governments kept tensions very high. Quite a few feared a potential war could result.

One group that wasn't happy about this however was the Israeli defence lobby. After the signing of the deal they released an incredibly hostile statement comparing President Obama to Chamberlain and the Islamic Republic to Nazi Germany.

"The Israeli defense establishment believes that agreements have value only if they are based on reality. They have no value if the facts on the ground are opposite to the ones the agreement is based on," said the statement. "The Munich Agreements didn't prevent World War II and the Holocaust because their fundamental assumption - that Nazi Germany can be partner to any agreement - was false, and because world leaders at the time ignored clear statements made by Hitler and other Nazi leaders."
 Meanwhile Prime Minister Netanyahu a well known opponent of Iran and friend of the Israeli military establishment, publicly distanced himself from the critics in Defence Agency and tried to reassure the US of Israel's loyalty.

"The Israeli position on the Iran deal remains the same, but the prime minister staunchly believes that Israel has no ally more important than the U.S.,"
read more:

 Jonathan Pollard

 Jonathan Pollard is a former intelligence analyst for the United States government. In 1987 he was sentenced to life in prison for violating the Espionage Act. In 1998 the Israel government admitted that they had been paying Pollard to leak intelligence to them.

Israel paid Pollard in cash, jewels, and expensive travel for his espionage, which his first wife Anne abetted.

Despite smuggling secrets for pay and trying to get similar deals with other nations,  Jonathan Pollard became a celebrity political prisoner in Israel. The government gave him citizenship in 1995, and several prime ministers have lobbied hard for his release. Which finally bore fruit in 2015 in the aftermath of the US Iran deal.

 Now I have seen a few people argue that his release is proof of the power of the Israeli lobby but I'm not convinced. The quotation about being paid in jewels is from a very sympathetic and article about Pollard and just above the bit I quoted was a list of other American intelligence agents who were found guilty of leaking secrets to other nations and they got much lighter sentences.

For example, Navy Lt. Cmd. Michael Schwartz (not Jewish), who passed classified documents to the Saudis from 1992 to 1994 was simply discharged from the military, but never prosecuted, and served no jail time. Others who sold or disclosed documents to friendly countries such as Great Britain, Egypt, the Philippines or South Africa, generally received terms from two to four years and were released early. True, these espionage incidents were vastly less damaging than Pollard’s crime, and often did not involve compensation.
Indeed the article is so pro Pollard it argues that his much more serious punishment was motivated by anti-Semitism, an allegation it doesn't really back up aside from coincidence. Indeed he was sentenced to life imprisonment because he plead guilty. And he was in prison from 1987-2015 with several Presidents, (Reagan, George Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama's first term) rebuffing repeated attempts to reach a deal for his release by the Israeli government and the pro Israel lobbying groups. 

The Good Bush(!)

I think now is a good time to get back to that essay from the beginning. It laments how President Bush Snr, was defeated by the Israeli lobby over his opposition to loans for settlement expansions. It aside from a hyperlink to another article, it doesn't substantiate the point which is odd since really the crux of the argument relies on it. Anyway the article goes into a lot more detail about the incident but it has some problems.

The article The Bush Decision Point, written in 2014 goes into detail about the re-election campaign period for Bush Snr, particularly his fight with AIPAC other the issue of terms for loans to Israel. For example

In May 1991, both Bush and Baker publicly called the settlements an obstacle to peace. In response, under AIPAC’s prodding, Congress began pushing Bush to release the loan guarantees on Israel’s terms, meaning Israel could use the money to build wherever it wished. On September 6th, Bush asked Congress for a 120-day delay before considering the Israeli loan request. AIPAC pushed back, flooding Capitol Hill with lobbyists. On September 12th, Bush called a press conference and denounced both Israeli West Bank settlements and the Israel lobby. He told reporters he was “up against some powerful political forces” designed to thwart him., adding that “a thousand lobbyists” were working the Hill, while he was “one lonely guy” on the opposite side. This pushback was initially very effective: rapid polls showed a large national majority in favor of the President and against the Israeli request, and Congress agreed to a delay.
But the problem is that the article doesn't actually provide evidence that this was a crucial turning point in the campaign. Indeed the article does acknowledge several of the more well known controversies in the last year of the Bush Snr Presidency.

 He then goes on to portray the difficult political landscape Bush 41 faced that fall: resentment from the GOP base over the breaking of the “no new taxes pledge”; the economy in recession; a somewhat dysfunctional White House political operation; the “unexpected” defeat of Dick Thornburgh in Pennsylvania’s special Senate election. And then, as the election year commenced, Pat Buchanan’s primary challenge, the relative success of which encouraged Ross Perot to undertake his own independent candidacy.

The author expands on the special Senate Election which happened after the split between the President and AIPAC as evidence of the extent of the damage.

As Goldberg notes, the important off-year election was the Pennsylvania Senate contest, where moderate Republican and close Bush ally Richard Thornburgh held a 44 point lead over Harris Wofford in mid-September. Within 10 days, money began pouring into Wofford’s inert campaign and the Democrat began to rise in the polls. In the final weeks Wofford was raising money at twice Thornburgh’s pace. After he lost by 10 points, Thornburgh told Bush he was the “canary in the coal mine.”

But there's no evidence that this money was raised by the Israeli lobby. I've looked and I can't find any evidence of this myself, I did however find that Wofford the Democratic candidate had already started to gain on Thornburgh and that Woffords campaign was used as a test bed for the Presidential campaign. Wofford had spoken out about the need for health care reform and attacked Thornburgh for his closeness to the President and the poor performance of the economy.

 Mr. Wofford, who was appointed to the Senate in May, was initially given almost no hope of winning the election. But in a trial run for themes that are certain to be important next year, he concentrated on the need for national health insurance and the problems with the economy and offered general pledges to help the middle class. In the last month he climbed in the polls by an average of almost a percentage point a day, and today he leapt ahead.
 So I'm not really convinced.

A bit later on the author admits how tenuous this linking of the fight with the Israel lobby is to the downfall of Bush Snr.

The president performed poorly in heavily Jewish precincts, but not enough to be decisive in any state. It would be too speculative to connect the settlement controversy to the transformation of Bush’s public image from the masterful diplomat who had put together an anti-Saddam coalition in 1991 to the out out of touch preppy of a year later.
 [Bolding my own]

Which is good to see, though now I'm questioning why the author felt the need to write this up since even they admit there's no smoking gun.

I will however address Bush's poor if indecisive performance amongst America's Jewish voters I would add this, according to the voting records at the Jewish Virtual Library, Bush Snr did indeed do worse amongst the Jewish population in 1992 (11%) then he did in 1988 (35%) but in both elections the majority voted for the Democratic candidate. 64% Voted for Dukakis in 1988 and he lost. So it appears that Jewish voters aren't actually very decisive, so while I'm sure the rift didn't help Bush Snr here, I very much doubt it played a very important role in the grand scheme of things. Especially given that the period is dominated with "read my lips, no new taxes" and Ross Perot nicking 20% of the vote (two thirds Republicans).

So in conclusion I don't think the idea that Israel is controlling the White House holds much water. On the contrary I think we've seen quite a few occasions were the two have diverged and when a period of negotiation and national level bickering fail to bridge the gap the United States will favour its own interests over that of Tel Aviv.

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