When Republican Presidential contender Senator Ted Cruz announced his intention to run before a packed audience at Liberty University in Lynchburg Virginia, the one line in his speech that drew the most applause was “Instead of a president who boycotts Prime Minister Netanyahu, imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel.” I do not know if those who were cheering were really aware of what Cruz was saying, but the preposition “with” committing President Cruz to some kind of ad hoc equal partnership with a foreign government was both unseemly and ultimately un-American. A President of the United States should be prepared and expected to advance only American interests.
There is no ambiguity in Cruz. As keynote speaker for a conference held last September by the newly formed In Defense of Christians group, he demonstrated that even in front of Middle Eastern Christians it was necessary to play the Israel card, bringing Jewish “persecution” into the discussion before walking off stage. Just before exiting, he said, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Good night, and God bless.”
A day after Cruz and Liberty it was Jeb Bush’s turn. He repudiated James Baker, his father’s secretary of state, after Baker had mildly criticized Netanyahu’s rejection of a possible Palestinian state, with Bush’s press spokesman asserting “Governor Bush’s support for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu is unwavering.” In a follow-up op-ed last Wednesday, Bush cemented his credentials as a worthy heir to his brother George in terms of intellectual vacuity by opposing nuclear negotiations with Iran before asserting “The Obama administration treats announcements of new apartment buildings in Jerusalem like acts of aggression.” Jeb is apparently unaware that there are half a million settlers on the West Bank on stolen Palestinian land.
Every Republican presidential wannabe makes an obligatory trip to Israel to kiss Netanyahu’s ring. And the neoconservative claque is meanwhile crowing about Bibi, calling him the “leader of the free world.” One blogger quipped “Has it got to the point that the GOP should cut through all the red tape and simply nominate Benjamin Netanyahu as their 2016 candidate?”
The most recent GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney went so far as to pledge himself to take Israel’s advice before doing anything in the Middle East. Cruz, like Romney, has made very clear his willingness to be guided by Israel and it appears that Bush 3 will do more of the same. As will every other leading Republican, including Rand Paul who recently defended critics who claimed that he was applauding too slowly during the Netanyahu speech, saying “I gave the prime minister 50 standing ovations, I co-sponsored bringing him here.”
Marco Rubio another presidential aspirant, has already declared that if he is elected president, he would be willing to defy America’s European allies if necessary to revoke any deal with Iran he might inherit. Rubio’s foreign policy advisers feature Dan Senor, Elliot Abrams, Robert Kagan and Eric Edelman.
Selling out to Israeli interests has become de rigueur for Republican politicians and presidential hopefuls as well as for a heck of a lot of Democrats as well. Former Bill Clinton U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson recently commented that Israel is “our anchor in the Mideast. Our beachfront is Israel. They’re our strongest ally” while Senator Chuck Schumer, who is poised to become Senate Minority Leader, has declared “One of my roles, very important in the United States senate, is to be a shomer – to be the shomer Yisrael (guardian for Israel). And I will continue to be that with every bone in my body …”
The description of Israel as a close ally is not true, of course. Though Israel is persistently referred to as America’s greatest friend by the chattering class it is not legally or practically an ally at all and never has been. And then there is the recent revelation that Israel not only spied on Americans officials negotiating with Iran but also used the information obtained with members of Congress to undercut the talks. It is quite possible that Netanyahu was getting his intelligence from someone inside the United States delegation, raising a perhaps more troubling issue about the loyalty of some senior officials. It also suggests that at least some Congressmen received briefings from the Israeli government that included classified information obtained from the U.S. negotiating team and did nothing about it.
That revelation of spying came on top of Benjamin Netanyahu’s apparent strategic decision to deal only with American leaders whom he likes and who like him in return. His 2012 endorsement of Romney preceded an unrelenting two year campaign excoriating the Obama Administration for its “weakness” regarding Iran. There have been two speeches by Netanyahu before Congress piling on more of the same but the coup de grace came when a desperate Netanyahu seeking reelection explicitly rejected the U.S. backed negotiations seeking to create a peaceful settlement for the Israel-Palestine problem. And then Netanyahu, confident that he can get away with anything without consequence, threw into the hopper a racist rant encouraging right wing support at the polls in Israel by creating fears over Israeli Arabs who might want to vote.
Senator John McCain inevitably accused President Obama of having a tantrum and told him “to get over it” after the White House expressed some concern regarding the extreme right wing Israeli election result. And now that the elections are over, it is reported that Israeli intelligence Israeli intelligence officers who exposed some of Netanyahu’s lies will be purged after the new government is formed. The GOP majority in Congress meanwhile has already rewarded Bibi for his enlightened statesmanship by giving him 50 ovations, thanking him for making the American Secretary of State and President look ridiculous. Forty-seven Senators subsequently signed a letter to the Iranian leadership warning that they would repudiate any nuclear agreement entered into by President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner will be traveling to Israel this week, presumably to personally thank Netanyahu for his understanding and continued support.
And meanwhile Washington continues to reward Israel with more than $3 billion per year in direct assistance plus billions more in tax exempt “charitable contributions” from American citizens, some of which goes to build illegal settlements. It continues to provide Israel with political cover at the United Nations; supplies it with weapons, some of which have been used in contravention of American law; and it regularly defers to Israeli concerns about the political situation in the Middle East.
As a reward for Washington’s largesse, Israel’s many enemies have made the United States a terrorist target. And then there is what the White House and Justice Department (DOJ) do not do. Israel is the number one “friendly” country in terms of the level of espionage directed against the United States but the federal government chooses not prosecute the hundreds of Israelis and Americans caught spying. The DOJ has even blocked any inquiries by concerned citizens into the details of Israeli espionage using mechanisms like the Freedom of Information Act.
One might well come to the conclusion that the American people are not very well served by all of this nonsense. Israel has sometimes been called the “fifty-first state” but it is worse than that as it pays no taxes, is never held accountable for anything, damages U.S. interests and is a net beneficiary at all levels. And all of Netanyahu’s subterfuge has taken place against a backdrop of repeated U.S. pledges of support for Israel coupled with fulsome assertions by policy makers that America “has Israel’s back” if there is any conflict in the region, a virtual commitment that Washington will join in any war that Tel Aviv initiates.
As Israel has done and continues to do grave damage to the United States through its actions, it is past time for an amicable divorce, to enable the dog to again wag its tail, as it were. It is quite possible to wish Israel and the Israeli people well without having to become an accomplice in war crimes. As there is more than sufficient justification to change the existing injurious special relationship, I would propose a new Declaration of Independence, this time not directed at King George III but at King Bibi Netanyahu and his associates in government.
As a prologue to the injuries suffered by the United States, I cannot put it any better than did America’s Founders: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation:”
- Washington wishes Israel and all other countries in the Middle East well and hopes that they will prosper, but from now on Israel, having abused its privileged position, must be treated just like any other country, with the depth of the bilateral relationship dictated by actual American interests.
- American taxpayer contributions to Israel’s high tech first world economy are both unnecessary and unwarranted and will cease.
- Diplomatic protection of Israel at the United Nations and in other international bodies damages American interests and will only be considered when Israeli and U.S. interests coincide.
- Israeli has violated U.S. laws regarding the use of American provided military equipment for defensive purposes only. Future sales of equipment will be reviewed and American military equipment prepositioned in Israel will also be removed.
- Because it is a violation of Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution American intelligence agencies will no longer share raw data obtained illegally on American citizens with Israel.
- Because funding the occupation of the West Bank is illegal, any private donations to Israel will only be considered charitable when it can be demonstrated that the recipients are actually eligible for that tax status.
- As it is in Washington’s interest to do so, the United States will be free to negotiate with Iran, Syria and all other countries in the Middle East. The United States will specifically respect the national integrity and sovereignty of all nations in the region, i.e. there will be no more threats that a “military option” is on the table.
- As there is a clear conflict of interest, trips to Israel funded by private foundations and lobbies to acquaint Congressmen, military officers, and other elected officials with the Israeli point of view will be considered gifts and subject to appropriate regulation and taxation.
- Israeli lobbying groups to include AIPAC, WINEP and JINSA have done great damage to the interests of the United States and will be required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938.
- How Israel conducts its domestic governance is its own business, but the United States will oppose the continuation of legal and administrative infringements on the fundamental rights of ethnic and religious minorities in any and all countries, including those that regard themselves as democratic, to include Israel’s treatment of its Arab minority.
- As it is in the United States interest to do so, Washington will support in international fora the creation of a sovereign and functional Palestinian state to include full recognition by Washington, understanding that the persistence of the Palestinian problem has been both an incubator of and recruiting poster for terrorism worldwide.
- Stealing American high technology and government secrets has done grave damage. Israelis and Americans caught spying against the United States will be arrested, charged and prosecuted under applicable statutes. There will be no exceptions.
I am convinced that a new Declaration of Independence will be good both for the United States and for Israel. The U.S. can remove the issue of Israel from its fractious political discourse and will at last be free of a major distortion in its ability to conduct foreign and security policy based on America’s own interests. Israel, which is military dominant in its region, can begin to think seriously of how to coexist with its neighbors rather than bomb them into submission. A reset for both countries would be healthy as well as the right thing to do.