Thursday, April 19, 2007

Who Is In Charge Here?

I am about to broach a subject that has always been a contentious one, yet one I can no longer ignore. The question I have to ask is who is in charge of our foreign policy?

At the risk of ruffling the feathers of the Israeli lobbyist and their American minions and being painted with the anti-Semitic brush which by the way seems to be getting larger and larger, I can’t help but wonder who decides how our foreign policy decisions are made and implemented. Do not get me wrong I am for continued support to the state of Israel and its viability as an ally. However, at some point our foreign policy has to be ours. There are times when our goals and Israel’s goals are not the same. Even with the closest of married couples there are times when their interest diverge.

For years we have reports of Israel protesting and vetoing our foreign policy initiatives in the Middle East giving the other players in the region the impression that our brokering is one sided and heavy handed.

“…Instead, the thrust of US policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the ‘Israel Lobby’. Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US interests and those of the other country – in this case, Israel – are essentially identical.”[1]

The question we must ask is, “Are the US interest and the Israeli interest identical?” Let’s look at some empirical data that may help in finding the answer to this very important question.

“Since the October War in 1973, Washington has provided Israel with a level of support dwarfing that given to any other state. It has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, and is the largest recipient in total since World War Two, to the tune of well over $140 billion (in 2004 dollars). Israel receives about $3 billion in direct assistance each year, roughly one-fifth of the foreign aid budget, and worth about $500 a year for every Israeli. This largesse is especially striking since Israel is now a wealthy industrial state with a per capita income roughly equal to that of South Korea or Spain.”[2]

So we are subsidizing each individual Israeli to the tune of $500 a year. The problem with this is that there are other states that are having a lot worse time right now than Israel and could use that money. Remember, there is only so much foreign aid dollars to spread around. There are countries that are a lot more impoverished that could use some of that money. Could we agree that Israel could begin to take on a larger share of its own defense and economy?

Let’s take a look at what all this money is buying, surely it is buying us unfailing support from our ally.

“A final reason to question Israel’s strategic value is that it does not behave like a loyal ally. Israeli officials frequently ignore US requests and renege on promises (including pledges to stop building settlements and to refrain from ‘targeted assassinations’ of Palestinian leaders). Israel has provided sensitive military technology to potential rivals like China, in what the State Department inspector-general called ‘a systematic and growing pattern of unauthorized transfers’. According to the General Accounting Office, Israel also ‘conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the US of any ally’. In addition to the case of Jonathan Pollard, who gave Israel large quantities of classified material in the early 1980s (which it reportedly passed on to the Soviet Union in return for more exit visas for Soviet Jews), a new controversy erupted in 2004 when it was revealed that a key Pentagon official called Larry Franklin had passed classified information to an Israeli diplomat. Israel is hardly the only country that spies on the US, but its willingness to spy on its principal patron casts further doubt on its strategic value.”[3]

Here is an example of how they undermine our goals: Ms Pelosi went to Syria with the assurance that Israel sought peace with Syria and yet when she arrived to pursue that stated goal we get the double talk.

“Shortly afterward, however, Mr. Olmert’s office issued a clarification of his message, insisting that, “although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the axis of evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East.”

To begin serious peace negotiations, the Israeli statement said, Syria must end its support of terrorism and its sponsorship of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations; refrain from providing weapons to Hezbollah and bringing about the destabilizing of Lebanon; stop its support of terrorism in Iraq; and relinquish the strategic ties it is building with the government in Iran.”

Loyalty is a two-way street and it appears that “our ally” is only loyal when it fits in with their strategic goals, not when it meets ours. In our efforts to return our country to the position of global leader, we should begin to look at all of our strategic alliances, not just the one with Israel. We should look at our relationships with dictators, despots, and other assorted characters we now find ourselves in bed with. Either we want to promote democracy or we don’t. Either we will apply our foreign policy evenly or we will not. We as a nation must decide this and then stick to it. Gone are the days of the cold war acceptance of any and all partners. The days of your enemy is my friend and vice versa. There are many opportunities around the world where we could lead the way towards freedom and tolerance, but these opportunities require something that recently has been in short supply, diplomacy and engagement. Are we peacemakers or not? This is the question that will determine the “soul” of America.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God….

[1] John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's essay 'The Israel Lobby'

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

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