Bush's Parting Gift to Israel

A new US-staffed radar base on Israeli soil may indicate that Israel is shifting from an American ally to an American protectorate.
Bush's Parting Gift to Israel

Almost unnoticed, Israel and the White House signed a deal over the summer to station an early-warning missile radar system, staffed with US military personnel, in Israel’s Negev desert. The media here described the Joint Tactical Ground Station, which brings Israel under the US protective umbrella against missile attack, as a “parting gift” from President Bush as he prepared to leave office.

The siting of what is likely to become America’s first permanent base on Israeli soil was apparently not easily agreed by local defense officials. Aware of the country’s vulnerability to missile strikes, they have been trying to develop their own defenses – so far without success – against the varying threats posed by Palestinian Qassam rockets, Hizbullah’s Katyushas, and Iran and Syria’s more sophisticated arsenal.

In finally accepting that it must rely on the US shield, Israel may have answered the Middle East’s biggest question of 2008: will it launch a go-it-alone strike against Iran’s presumed nuclear weapons program?

The local media reported that the early-warning station would limit Israel’s freedom to attack Iran since it would be the prime target for a retaliatory strike, endangering the lives of US personnel. Or as the Haaretz newspaper noted, Israeli officials viewed the radar system “as a signal of Washington’s opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program”.

Although ostensibly the warm relations between Israel and the US are unchanged, in reality recent events are forcing a reluctant Israel to submit to the increasingly smothering embrace of Washington.

Tel Aviv has long seen itself as a military ally of the US, largely sharing and assisting in the realization of Washington’s strategic objectives. But it has also prized a degree of independence, especially the right to pursue its own agenda in the Middle East.

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For some time, the key point of difference between the two has been over the benefits of “stability.” US planners have promoted regional calm as a way of maintaining American control over the flow of oil. In practice, this has meant keeping the Arab peoples, and Arab nationalism, in check by bolstering reliable dictators.

In contrast, Israel has preferred instability, believing that weak and fractious neighbours can be more easily manipulated. A series of invasions of Lebanon to accentuate ethnic divisions there and the fueling of civil war in the occupied Palestinian territories have been the template for Israel’s wider regional vision.

The implicit tension in the Israeli-US alliance surfaced with the ascendance under President George W. Bush of the neocons, who argued that Washington’s agenda should be synonymous with Israel’s. The US occupation and dismemberment of Iraq was the apotheosis of the White House’s application of the Israeli doctrine.

The neocons’ partial fall from grace began with Israel’s failure to crush Hizbullah in Lebanon more than two years ago. All the evidence suggests that both Israel and the neocons regarded Hizbullah’s defeat as the necessary prelude to a US attack on Tehran. Israel’s loss of nerve during the month-long war – attributed by critics like the former defense minister, Moshe Arens, to the general softening and feminisation of Israeli society – proved the country’s once-celebrated martial talents were on the decline.

In the war’s immediate wake, there was much discussion in Israel about how such a high-profile failure might damage the country’s standing in the eyes of its US sponsor. Penance arrived in the form of the exculpations of the Winograd post-mortem – and with it the inevitable undoing of Ehud Olmert as prime minister. Washington’s stables, meanwhile, were cleaned out less ostentatiously.

But where does this leave Israel? Certainly not friendless in Washington, as cheerleaders like AIPAC and the fawning of US presidential candidates amply demonstrate. But the relationship is changing: it looks increasingly as though Israel is turning from US ally to protectorate.

The consequences are already visible in the buckling of Israel’s commitment to launch a unilateral attack on Iran. Months of bellicose talk have been mostly stilled. A few believe this is the quiet before the storm of a joint US and Israeli strike. More likely it is the sign of an Israeli-fueled war agenda running out of steam.

Washington, already overstretched in the Middle East and facing concerted opposition to its policies from China and Russia, seems resigned to living with an Iranian nuclear bomb. In the new climate that means Israel will have to accept that it is no longer the only bully on the Middle East block. Israel is on the verge of its very own regional Cold War.

As in the earlier Cold War, this one will be played out through alliances and proxies. But there the similarity ends. Iran is emerging as a regional superpower, quickly developing the financial and military clout to sponsor other actors in the region, most obviously Hamas and Hizbullah. Israel, on the other hand, is losing ground – quite literally, as the radar base reveals. It can no longer impose its own agenda or build alliances on its own terms. Its strength is becoming increasingly, and transparently, dependent on US approval.

The most immediate and tangible effects will be felt by the Palestinians, though their plight is not likely to let up any time soon. Just as before, Israel needs a long-term solution to the Palestinian problem, but cannot concede on the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Now, however, it no longer has the luxury of biding its time as it dispossesses the Palestinians. It needs to find a solution before an Iranian bomb – and an ever-more confident Hamas and Hizbullah – force a settlement on Palestine not to its liking.

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Israel is therefore engaging in a frenzy of West Bank settlement building – up six times on a year ago – not seen since Oslo. It only appears paradoxical that, just as Israel’s leadership is intoning the end of a Greater Israel, the most influential and optimistic supporters of a two-state solution on both sides – including Sari Nusseibeh and Shlomo Ben Ami – have been reading the last rites of Palestinian statehood.

This disillusionment, it might be expected, would provoke a new resolution towards a one-state solution among Israeli and Palestinian peace activists. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the Palestinian leadership’s growing threats that it might adopt a one-state campaign are little more than that: blackmail designed to galvanize Israeli public opinion behind two states.

Instead of a fledgling state, however, Israel is creating a series of holding pens for the Palestinians – or “warehouses,” as the Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper has referred to them – on the last vestiges of the occupied territories. For Halper, warehousing means containing the Palestinians at minimal economic and political cost to Israel as it steals more territory.

But is the warehousing of the Palestinians intended by Israel to be the equivalent of storing unwanted books? Or, to continue this disturbing metaphor, are the Palestinians being warehoused so that at a later date they can be given away – or, worse still, pulped?

The answer again suggests Israel’s growing dependence on the US. Washington has for some time been strong-arming the Sunni Arab world, especially loyal regimes like Egypt and Jordan, against Shia Iran. With its back to the wall, Israel appears willing to use this leverage to its own advantage.

Its leaders are increasingly thinking of “peace” terms that, passing over the heads of the Palestinians, will be directed at their neighbours in Jordan and Egypt. A regional solution requires a further entrenchment of the physical and political divisions between the two “halves” of the occupied territories, with control over the Palestinian parts of the West Bank handed to Jordan and Gaza to Egypt.

It is a sign of the terminal loss of faith in their leaders and Israeli good faith that the latest poll of Palestinians shows 42 percent want their government-in-waiting, the Palestinian Authority, dismantled. More than a quarter are ready to abandon the dream of independent nationhood, preferring instead the establishment of a joint state with Jordan.

Palestine’s fate, it seems, rests on the resolve of the Arab world. It is not a reassuring prospect.

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_Jonathan Cook is a journalist living in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book is, Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).

50 comments on the article “Bush's Parting Gift to Israel”

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I am so wise

Who writes this stuff? For decades, the United States and Israel have cooperated in the developing protection against missiles for Israel. The US funded the Arrow missile system, the US sent troops and Patriot missiles to Israel in 1991. This base is just a continuation of that policy. Also, the US established a war reserve stock in Israel years ago The Israelis have accepted a need for US succor a long time ago and this is in line with it.

I am so wise

Who writes this stuff? For decades, the United States and Israel have cooperated in the developing protection against missiles for Israel. The US funded the Arrow missile system, the US sent troops and Patriot missiles to Israel in 1991. This base is just a continuation of that policy. Also, the US established a war reserve stock in Israel years ago The Israelis have accepted a need for US succor a long time ago and this is in line with it.

Trevor Caron

חסידות I do not like to generalize about Israel, becuase many expressions of Jewish life have become anti global like "issues" and Trying to understand them is like being harassed by someone saying "hey partner, do you know where you going to go when you die?" "Have you found Jesus in your life, lord of all living thing's?" So I'll leave this one to a "non mother licker." Israel's military occupation is] in gross violation of international law and has been from the outset. And that much, at least, is fully recognized, even by the United States, which has overwhelming and, as I said, unilateral responsibility for these crimes. So George Bush No. 1, when he was the U.N. ambassador, back in 1971, he officially reiterated Washington's condemnation of Israel's actions in the occupied territories. He happened to be referring specifically to occupied Jerusalem. In his words, actions in violation of the provisions of international law governing the obligations of an occupying power, namely Israel. He criticized Israel's failure "to acknowledge its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as its actions which are contrary to the letter and spirit of this Convention." [...] However, by that time, late 1971, a divergence was developing, between official policy and practice. The fact of the matter is that by then, by late 1971, the United States was already providing the means to implement the violations that Ambassador Bush deplored. [...] on December 5th [2001], there had been an important international conference, called in Switzerland, on the 4th Geneva Convention. Switzerland is the state that's responsible for monitoring and controlling the implementation of them. The European Union all attended, even Britain, which is virtually a U.S. attack dog these days. They attended. A hundred and fourteen countries all together, the parties to the Geneva Convention. They had an official declaration, which condemned the settlements in the occupied territories as illegal, urged Israel to end its breaches of the Geneva Convention, some "grave breaches," including willful killing, torture, unlawful deportation, unlawful depriving of the rights of fair and regular trial, extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, that's a serious term, that means serious war crimes. The United States is one of the high contracting parties to the Geneva Convention, therefore it is obligated, by its domestic law and highest commitments, to prosecute the perpetrators of grave breaches of the conventions. That includes its own leaders. Until the United States prosecutes its own leaders, it is guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, that means war crimes. And it's worth remembering the context. It is not any old convention. These are the conventions established to criminalize the practices of the Nazis, right after the Second World War. What was the U.S. reaction to the meeting in Geneva? The U.S. boycotted the meeting [..] and that has the usual consequence, it means the meeting is null and void, silence in the media. "Chomsky"

Trevor Caron

חסידות I do not like to generalize about Israel, becuase many expressions of Jewish life have become anti global like "issues" and Trying to understand them is like being harassed by someone saying "hey partner, do you know where you going to go when you die?" "Have you found Jesus in your life, lord of all living thing's?" So I'll leave this one to a "non mother licker." Israel's military occupation is] in gross violation of international law and has been from the outset. And that much, at least, is fully recognized, even by the United States, which has overwhelming and, as I said, unilateral responsibility for these crimes. So George Bush No. 1, when he was the U.N. ambassador, back in 1971, he officially reiterated Washington's condemnation of Israel's actions in the occupied territories. He happened to be referring specifically to occupied Jerusalem. In his words, actions in violation of the provisions of international law governing the obligations of an occupying power, namely Israel. He criticized Israel's failure "to acknowledge its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as its actions which are contrary to the letter and spirit of this Convention." [...] However, by that time, late 1971, a divergence was developing, between official policy and practice. The fact of the matter is that by then, by late 1971, the United States was already providing the means to implement the violations that Ambassador Bush deplored. [...] on December 5th [2001], there had been an important international conference, called in Switzerland, on the 4th Geneva Convention. Switzerland is the state that's responsible for monitoring and controlling the implementation of them. The European Union all attended, even Britain, which is virtually a U.S. attack dog these days. They attended. A hundred and fourteen countries all together, the parties to the Geneva Convention. They had an official declaration, which condemned the settlements in the occupied territories as illegal, urged Israel to end its breaches of the Geneva Convention, some "grave breaches," including willful killing, torture, unlawful deportation, unlawful depriving of the rights of fair and regular trial, extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, that's a serious term, that means serious war crimes. The United States is one of the high contracting parties to the Geneva Convention, therefore it is obligated, by its domestic law and highest commitments, to prosecute the perpetrators of grave breaches of the conventions. That includes its own leaders. Until the United States prosecutes its own leaders, it is guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, that means war crimes. And it's worth remembering the context. It is not any old convention. These are the conventions established to criminalize the practices of the Nazis, right after the Second World War. What was the U.S. reaction to the meeting in Geneva? The U.S. boycotted the meeting [..] and that has the usual consequence, it means the meeting is null and void, silence in the media. "Chomsky"

Anonymous

It's no suprise that the majority of Europe, and the world for that matter, looks at Israel as the biggest threat to world peace, not an isolationist country like Iran, who has not attacked or out-right invaded another nation in 3 centuries (the Iraq war was in fact started by an Iraqi invasion into Iran, financed, supported and armed by the U.S.) Let's not forget of the hypocrisy of the situation: for all the rhetoric of nuclear weapons in the middle-east spiraling out of control because of Iran's peaceful civilian nuclear energy program, it seems strange no one notices the fact that ISRAEL is the only country in the middle-east presently with a nuclear arsenal. No one person, agency, government or IAEA official can come close to proving the existance of any Iranian weapons program, and this is based on the fact that for years, since 1998, Iran has openly allowed the UN and the IAEA to inspect Iran -- many times unnanounced and random visits. Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferiation treaty while Israel refused to sign it. Iran opens up to the world and the IAEA weapons inspectors, Israel has never allowed such a thing. Iran promotes the idea for the absolute need for nuclear energy, seeing how the world's energy sources are running out, and congratulates and supports those who work in the Iranian nuclear field. Israel has put Mordechai Vanunu into 10+ years solitary confinement just for showing the world Israel has the bomb. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Vanunu The world is quite ignorant to historical facts. What a shame.

Anonymous

It's no suprise that the majority of Europe, and the world for that matter, looks at Israel as the biggest threat to world peace, not an isolationist country like Iran, who has not attacked or out-right invaded another nation in 3 centuries (the Iraq war was in fact started by an Iraqi invasion into Iran, financed, supported and armed by the U.S.) Let's not forget of the hypocrisy of the situation: for all the rhetoric of nuclear weapons in the middle-east spiraling out of control because of Iran's peaceful civilian nuclear energy program, it seems strange no one notices the fact that ISRAEL is the only country in the middle-east presently with a nuclear arsenal. No one person, agency, government or IAEA official can come close to proving the existance of any Iranian weapons program, and this is based on the fact that for years, since 1998, Iran has openly allowed the UN and the IAEA to inspect Iran -- many times unnanounced and random visits. Iran is a signatory to the non-proliferiation treaty while Israel refused to sign it. Iran opens up to the world and the IAEA weapons inspectors, Israel has never allowed such a thing. Iran promotes the idea for the absolute need for nuclear energy, seeing how the world's energy sources are running out, and congratulates and supports those who work in the Iranian nuclear field. Israel has put Mordechai Vanunu into 10+ years solitary confinement just for showing the world Israel has the bomb. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Vanunu The world is quite ignorant to historical facts. What a shame.

kono

LET'S INSPECT ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR FACILITY AT DIMONA The secret to a nuclear free middle east and eventually a nuclear free world is to get rid of the double standards. if we can hold Israel's feet to the fire like we're holding Iran's feet to the fire then we may get somewhere.

kono

LET'S INSPECT ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR FACILITY AT DIMONA The secret to a nuclear free middle east and eventually a nuclear free world is to get rid of the double standards. if we can hold Israel's feet to the fire like we're holding Iran's feet to the fire then we may get somewhere.

David Lynch

Ok so go back to 1948 - it was wrong to push a lot of Palestinians off their land to form Israel. In Adbusters read you constantly whining about this. Why aren't you whining about Canada pushing Native Americans off their land - or the countless numbers of other peoples who live on land they took from someone else? I guess the answer is clear - you just don't like Jews and you don't like Israel, and you sure make it clear you hate America. I'm glad I never subscribed to your rag. I have a number of issues that a friend gave me, and at first I found them interesting, but noted after reading a few that you have a lot of gripes but no solutions that don't involve vandalism that you call "Culture Jamming". Very ineffective. If you would take a good look in the mirror you'd see part of the problem is people like you who find shadowy conspiracies everywhere and offer no hope.

David Lynch

Ok so go back to 1948 - it was wrong to push a lot of Palestinians off their land to form Israel. In Adbusters read you constantly whining about this. Why aren't you whining about Canada pushing Native Americans off their land - or the countless numbers of other peoples who live on land they took from someone else? I guess the answer is clear - you just don't like Jews and you don't like Israel, and you sure make it clear you hate America. I'm glad I never subscribed to your rag. I have a number of issues that a friend gave me, and at first I found them interesting, but noted after reading a few that you have a lot of gripes but no solutions that don't involve vandalism that you call "Culture Jamming". Very ineffective. If you would take a good look in the mirror you'd see part of the problem is people like you who find shadowy conspiracies everywhere and offer no hope.

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