Belfast Telegraph

Obama's a wuss not to send Israeli meddlers packing

US President Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama

Eamonn McCann

US Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckerbee told CNN last Sunday that he was heading to Israel to raise campaign funds and to discuss the Iran nuclear deal with government officials.

"This isn't a departure from the campaign trail," a spokesman for the former Arkansas governor explained. "This is the trail."

In the perspective of most US Republicans, the politics of Israel and the US have become so closely interwoven it's impossible to see the join. Campaigning alongside a Tel Aviv government to thwart the policies of the American administration seems unremarkable.

In March Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu rubbished Obama's foreign policy in a 40-minute speech to Congress.

The White House hadn't been consulted about the invitation to him. Fifty-six Democrats - out of a total of 232 - stayed away. All 56 stressed that their objection was not to Netanyahu making a political pitch from the congressional podium, but to the breach of protocol with regard to the invitation.

The attendance gave Netanyahu 26 standing ovations as he called for abandonment of the talks then taking place in Geneva and the imposition of tougher sanctions on Iran instead.

Outside the chamber Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer explained to journalists that Israel had been arguing to Obama against the deal for a long time and was now taking its case directly to the Senators and members of Congress "who will ultimately decide the fate of this deal".

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It is a measure of the extent to which the integrity of US politics has become corroded by involvement in the Middle East that we have to turn to old warhorse Pat Buchanan for straight talk from a serious conservative.

A former White House director of communications and adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, Buchanan commented: "One can only imagine what President Eisenhower would have done had he seen Bibi at the rostrum of the US House of Representatives, ripping apart his Middle East policy. Or had Ike learned that an Israeli ambassador was working the halls of Congress to kill an arms deal he and (Secretary of State) John Foster Dulles had just negotiated.

"When Harry Truman felt that Gen Douglas MacArthur had been insubordinate in resisting Presidential restrictions on his actions in Korea, Truman fired the general and astounded the nation. Yet this President and (current Secretary of State) John Kerry have been wimpishly seeking for weeks to placate Netanyahu. And Bibi is no Douglas MacArthur. Time to stop acting like wusses.

"The President should declare Dermer persona non grata and send him packing, then tell the Israeli government we will discuss a new arms package when you have a Prime Minister who understands that no nation interferes in the internal affairs of the United States. None."

Huckerbee defends the Israel-before-all approach by insisting on a moral duty to anathematise an Iranian State driven by genocidal hatred of Jews.

On this basis, anything less than 100% uncritical support for Israel amounts to anti-Semitism.

Obama "would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven".

But if Iran is characterised by murderous hatred of Jews, how come thousands of Jews still live there?

Life for the 15,000-to-20,000-strong community cannot be entirely comfortable. They will be aware of the anti-Semitic ranting of some Iranian leaders in recent times. They have to be careful not to seem too sympathetic to Israel. A number of Iranian Jews are currently in prison on dubious charges of spying for Israel.

But they stay, despite Israeli calls on them to "come home". There is no evidence that the Iranian government is out to kill them. There are 50 functioning synagogues in Iran, as well as many Jewish schools and kosher butchers. The government recently erected a monument to Jewish Iranians killed in the Iran-Iraq war. When former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust, the leader of Iranian Jews publicly denounced him.

Small things. But enough to dispose of any notion that Iran today is the equivalent of Germany in the 1930s.

The nuclear deal with Iran has to be endorsed by the Senate by September 17. Obama's opponents will require a two-thirds majority to sink it. That is, Obama needs to have 34 of the 100 Senators on-side.

The lobbying for each vote over the next four weeks will be intense.

How the figures finally stack up will depend in large on the extent to which the rule of rationality can be restored to US policy on Israel.

Belfast Telegraph


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