“Israel: No policy change after Obama speech” – Steve Gutkin

Map-of-israel "..taking down outposts while pressing ahead with so-called "natural growth" construction in the settlements — is not likely to go over well in Washington.

U.S. officials have made it clear they want all settlement activity to stop, without exception.

Most likely, Netanyahu will be forced to choose between going along with Obama's Mideast vision, and risk a crisis in his rightist governing coalition, or rejecting it, and risk alienating Israel's most important ally.

"Benjamin Netanyahu will have to come to a decision soon. It's either 'yes' to Obama or 'no' to Obama," wrote columnist Ben Caspit in the Israeli daily Maariv on Friday.

So far there is little indication Netanyahu will answer "yes."

"With all due respect to President Obama, and there is respect, and to the deep friendship between Israel and the United States, no foreign leader of another country will set policy in Judea and Samaria," lawmaker Ofir Akonis of Netanyahu's Likud Party told Army Radio. Judea and Samaria are the Hebrew terms used for the West Bank."  Steve Gutkin


It sounds like some group has overplayed its hand. A contest of wills between the Obama Administration and the Natanyahu government is now inevitable.  pl


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25 Responses to “Israel: No policy change after Obama speech” – Steve Gutkin

  1. R Whitman says:

    If Israel refuses to comply with the US policy on the settlements what will the US do? Will we recognize and do business with Hamas in retaliation or will there be some other public rebuke? I cannot imagine something like this going unanswered and I do not see Obama compromising on the settlement policy. He would loose credibility with the Muslims he just spoke to.

  2. Walter R. Moore says:

    Will we really take our money off the table if push comes to shove? The billions of dollars we send to Israel every year have been politically untouchable for many years. Seems to me that pushing Israel without threatening to cut off aid will always be empty gestures.

  3. Medicine Man says:

    Col Lang,
    The comments thread of that article you linked to is just eye popping. There really are people in the US who are just apoplectic about Obama and are completely incapable of any nuanced thinking regarding Israel.
    Alarming but not surprising, sadly.

  4. Charles I says:

    Your link leads to the tried and true SOP.
    Ignore the issues and reality, including herds of elephants, smear the messenger – “Jew Hater”! – they called him in the article. I must get a t-shirt.
    Feed hysteria, hatemonger, imagining its a cover for bait and switch, or that elephants can be disappeared indefinitely.
    Create a plethora of “independent” groups supposedly representing a broad spectrum of “thought”. Scream ,whine and spit loudly until your interlocutors shut up.
    Obviously Israel has no intention of anything but more of the same. How about Congress?

  5. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    Where does this leave George Mitchell?

  6. Andy says:

    I think there is little chance Bibi will accede to US demands on settlements – to do so would be political suicide for him. The real question, ISTM, is what will the administration do when he says “no” outright, or implements some meaningless and temporary half-measures.

  7. maui bob says:

    This is exciting. Obama is taking a big chance in hoping that Americans are intelligent enough to see Israel’s true colors. I suspect he feels empowered by his ability to get elected, but nonetheless, I’ve got to hand it to him, he’s got the nuts!

  8. curious says:

    I am trying to figure out overal Obama best strategy option. I don’t think Israel will not budge, and doing screaming contest against rightwing zionist will damage domestic electorate.
    So my guess Obama’s best strategy is. Move around Israel. Use Israel paranoia to the max.
    1. Make deal with Syria. Possibly fully normalize trade relationship. (that means, Israel will be instantly in weaker long term economic and military position.) Breaking US-Syria relationship was major neocon achievement.
    2. Lebanon. (This is new. But If US changes policy in Lebanon, returning to pre-reagan relationship. Israel will also be in much weaker position. They have to put massive resource defending northern border.)
    3. Jordan. Is US selling huge amount of advance military gear to jordan. Israel will have to think twice ignoring Jordan.
    4. Egypt. Back to carter era relationship? Neocon tried so hard to cut Egypt huge US military aid so they can have weaker egypt. (more F-16, more submarine, bigger relationship to Hamas/gaza)
    5. Finally Iran. Israel biggest fear. Even looking at iran direction give Israel a chill. I find that hilarious. How can they run that type of foreign policy and still sleep at night.
    But overall, I hope Obama doesn’t create “work around Israel” framework. Because the region policy will fall apart fast if situation in Israel changes.
    But. “We don’t want to work with us, then we work with everybody else” definitely work.
    Even subtly changing US trade, aid and immigration policy toward israel will send massive chill to Israel. A client state cannot exist without its main relationship. (avigor Lieberman already tries desperately warming up to russia.)
    Wild card: Israel going to war again. Post election Iran. Lebanon. Major eruption between Israel-Palestine. Knowing Bibi, he is definitely going to pull “double or nothing” bet.
    aipac and congress are going to brew something nasty for sure. Better watch out.

  9. david says:

    I think the thing to watch would be Livni and Barak. If they smell blood in the water, they will make Obama’s job a lot easier, i.e. nothing so drastic it could doom the whole enterprise.
    As an aside and I am not intending any dual loyalty accusation, which I dislike, but I would not be surprised if Emanuel considers himself to be ‘prime minister of Israel.’ His political coalition is much larger and has more money, i.e. the Colonel’s commentary about canines and their sizes. Oh, and he reportedly detests Bibi.

  10. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    The questions continue to percolate.
    Assuming that it is in everyone’s best interest to resolve the Israel/Palestine issue and that this is the rationale for George Mitchell’s efforts, might not the ultimate solution to the I/P problem be the offering to the Israelis by the Arab world as led by the Saudis of the carrot of full recognition for Israel in exchange for a fully sovereign Palestinian state?
    History, beginning in 1977 with Sadat and the Camp David accords, suggests that this approach is doable.
    Regardless, would the carrot be big enough? Are the Saudis ready to do something like this? Do they have enough religious and economic clout to make it work?

  11. kao_hsien_chih says:

    I think Andy has it exactly right: the whole thing isn’t a US-Israeli affair, it’s really a pair of domestic affairs. With regards Israel, there is no way Netanyahu will yield–unless he’s keen on committing political suicide and we know he’s anything but. With regards United States, it’s the question of whether the administration can afford, in terms of domestic politics, to put any “real” pressure on Israel. I am inclined to believe that the latter is more likely than ever before–although the probability is still low. Skepticism about US-Israeli relation is stronger than ever among the US electorate and what Israel does to its neighbors and, to its own Palestinian citizens and “non-citizen” subjects in occupied territories is more widely known. Still, pro-Israeli groups remain far more vigilant, active, and determined than any Israel-skeptics in US, however…
    The interesting evolution to come out of this is how Israel’s foreign policy evolves from this point on. Will they angle for potential alternatives to American friendship, say vis-a-vis Russia, China, or India? (they are doing plenty of that already) How will that affect US-Israeli relationship? Will American zionists (both Jews and Christian fundamentalists) remain wedded to Israel even when Israel is turning away from the US? Can they survive playing that kind of game?

  12. William R. Cumming says:

    Okay let’ see what OBAMA has decided to decide so to speak!
    First the economy!
    Second, Iraq!
    Third, AF-PAK!
    Fourth, N.Korea!
    Fifth, Iran!
    Sixth, Health Care Reform!
    Seventh, Cyber Security Review implementation!
    Eighth,PSD-1 Review Implementation!
    Ninth,Resolution of deficit long-term!
    Eighth! K-12 issues!
    Tenth, Regulatory Reform!
    11th! Improving foreign relations generally. Cuba? Venzuela?
    My guess is that nothing changes based on US actions between now and 2012. Totally dependent on the decisions of leaders of other countries. We still are dreaming that we control our own fate. AND OF COURSSE THE POST SUBJECT HERE-SPECIFICALLY ISRAEL AND ITS FOREIGN SETTLEMENT POLICY!
    Probably have missed many! My guess is none of the above get done! Hoping he surprises me! Hey! The plate is full. I don’t think the country generally has the leadership and competence available to it to do the above. Time will tell.

  13. JohnH says:

    If Bibi does not agree to a halt on settlements, my guess is that Obama will just keep the spotlight shining on the issue. It will deny Israel the moral high ground in its dispute. Without US complicity with Israeli behavior, there is nothing standing the way of Israel’s becoming a pariah state. No country anywhere in the world will step in to defend Israeli behavior. Dark days in Jerusalem.

  14. confusedponderer says:

    The comment section of that article is remarkable. As for the posters in that article, stuff like that was to be seen before Rabin was assassinated. This or this or this is from during the election campaign. The flavour is slightly different, the style is not.
    If the rightists continue that anti-Obama frenzy for a while, some Jewish or Christian right wing kook, willing to do Israel’s and/or God’s work, might just try to kill Obama. The secret service must be alarmed by the sort of sentiment expressed in the comments.
    That said, I hope Obama will survive, physically and politically, and succeed in changing Israeli behaviour. Given the current trends, demographic and political, Israel is hanging itself if given enough rope and left to itself. That need not be.

  15. cletracsteve says:

    William Cumming:
    I agree the plate is full, but I can think of many things requiring little coordination among the branches of the U.S. Gov.
    1: Do not veto the next Israel-critical UN Resolution
    2: Do not restock US armaments stored in Israel, even pull some such as cluster bombs.
    3: Do not provide implicit military support for an Iran attack.
    4: Throttle payments of the 3 billion plus foreign aid
    5: Acknowledge the Gaza government of Hamas
    6: ……
    These all can be done by one man’s orders.
    These may have unintended consequences, but what recent diplomatic action in the M.E. has resulted in its intended action anyway. The agreed to premise of the past threads is the status-quo must change. Since negotiating does not work here, let’s play brinksmanship. Just have faith that Yes we can.

  16. Jose says:

    Haaretz is reporting that the E.U. is going to use its trade policy to enforce the settlement issue.
    If true, Obama and/or HRC are coordinating enforcement of the delicate issue.
    Can’t provide links from my iPhone, sorry.

  17. Carlos says:

    Say NO to Barak Hussein Obama, we dont need America, we have G-d in our side.

  18. A. Allen says:

    To the list of actions within Obama’s purview I would add re-classifying AIPAC as an agent of a foreign power. Those in Congress beholden to the Lobby would be forced to run for cover.

  19. johnf says:

    >I think there is little chance Bibi will accede to US demands on settlements – to do so would be political suicide for him.
    There’s always the possibility of re-arranging his coalition – dropping Lieberman and the settlers and going for Livni.

  20. Mary says:

    Robert Wexler gave an interview on 06/04 to Greg Sargent at the Post which I thought was interesting: Here are parts of Greg’s post:
    “In an interview with me, Dem Rep Robert Wexler, a leading voice in Congress on Israeli-Arab affairs, made a fascinating point, arguing that one of the most important lines in Obama’s Cairo speech was this one:
    “America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.”
    Wexler told me he thinks that Obama’s promise to “say in public what we say in private” to all parties was “one of the critical lines in the speech, even though casual observers may gloss over it.”
    Wexler explained that this one line concealed far more significance for his audience than many would appreciate. He said Obama was reassuring Arabs that America would no longer give wink-wink-nudge-nudge private support for Israeli military actions, a vow that will have great resonance in the Arab world.
    He was saying that “it is no longer acceptable to say in private, `Go Israelis, take on Hezbollah,’ or `Go Israelis, take on Iran,’” Wexler said. “He has called out all of the parties, including ourselves, to step up to the plate as adults and make difficult political decisions.”
    After a few hours, he called back and said he misunderstood the question and that it would be the Arab states which would no longer wink and nod. (Greg didn’t really buy it.)
    I still think it might be true.
    Also, Hillary just publicly denied that Israel ever had a secret back door deal allowing natural growth under the Roadmap in the settlements no matter that Elliott Abrams said they did. Thus Israel is publicly burned as a fabricator for making up a phony deal. And, they are now publicly in breach of their roadmap requirement to conditions on freeze settlements since 2003. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/05/AR2009060503490.html
    All of this is to say that there could be a whole lot of cases where we don’t cover up Israel’s misdeeds any longer.

  21. Rider says:

    So what can Obama do if Netanyahu digs in his heels? Haaretz is reporting the US may propose immediate negotiations on setting Israel’s West Bank borders.

  22. J says:

    Today June 8 2009 is the 42nd Anniversary of the infamous unprovoked Israeli attack on an unarmed U.S. military ship the USS LIBERTY.
    Eyewitness to an Act of War…A US Air Force Intelligence Officer Speaks with American Free Press About the USS Liberty
    Published June 6, 2007
    The outrage in his voice was made all the more striking by his New England accent and Yankee assertiveness that long ago brought about the American Revolution. ‘I couldn’t believe it…One minute, nothing, and then the next minute they were attacking our ship in broad daylight…We had no warning that it was coming, and then ‘boom,’ there it was, and our guys were being slaughtered.’
    Like hundreds of other individuals who have particular stories to tell concerning their actions and whereabouts on June 8th 1967 when the USS Liberty was attacked by the air and naval forces of Israel, Capt. Richard Block’s testimony is noteworthy, but in some respects much more important than others. At that time, he was in command of the 6931st Security Group of the USAF Security Services stationed on the island of Crete where his job was to act as the eyes and ears of the US intelligence community. What he and the others under his command heard that day obliterates the lie that has been foisted upon the people of the United States for the last 40 years that the attack was all the result of ‘mistaken identity’ and proves beyond any reasonable doubt that it was a deliberate and premeditated act of war.
    ‘We were getting the translations in real-time’ he said, speaking of the air-to-air and air-to-ground communications taking place between the pilots and C&C (command and control) on the ground in Israel. ‘They knew it was an American ship. We heard it with our own ears, several times. The story they have told for the last 40 yrs about the Liberty being mistaken for another ship is complete bull****.’
    Like others who were material witnesses to the act of war that took place that day, Capt. Block was told in crystal clear terms that he was to keep his mouth shut concerning what he saw and heard. Shortly thereafter, individuals unknown to him showed up at his post, gathered up any documentation dealing with the Israeli intercepts and hauled them away to be destroyed. And lest anyone fall victim to the typical business that Israel’s defenders employ when attempting to cover up her crimes–namely that one man’s testimony is ‘insufficient’ evidence in refuting what has been the standard explanation for the last 40 years–keep in mind that he is not alone.
    Two other individuals contacted by American Free Press for this story have related circumstances identical to those of Capt. Block, although (for obvious reasons) they insist upon remaining anonymous. According to their statements, they too heard the radio chatter between the Israeli pilots and those on the ground who were giving the orders to attack, and there was no doubt Israel knew unequivocally that it was an American ship and that it was her aim to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors, as dead men tell no tales. One individual interviewed for this piece told American Free Press that ‘bets were made’ amongst the men in his listening post as to which city in Israel was going to get ‘nuked first’ once the President was made aware of what took place.
    As far as Capt. Block (who has remained silent these last 3 decades) the event prompting him to speak out was (as in the case of Capt. Ward Boston, chief legal council for the Navy’s Board of Inquiry) the publication of Jay Ahron Cristol’s book ‘The Liberty Incident’ which exculpated Israel of any wrongdoing. When Capt. Block was made aware of the contents in Cristol’s book and heard that the author was going to be at a book signing in a nearby town, he paid him a personal visit to speak his mind. In front of approximately 120 people there that day to hear Cristol run his mouth (including the upper-crust of the town’s intelligentsia and politicians) Capt. Block got up and said that the book was a pack of lies. ‘I was there the day that the Liberty was attacked, and you weren’t’ he told a shocked Cristol, whose drooling support for the Jewish state is well-known. ‘I got the raw milk of the intelligence and all you got was the processed cheese.’
    Much to his surprise, nothing ill came of Capt. Block’s confrontation with Cristol. Capt. Block has his theories as to why, namely that right now what the ‘powers that be’ want (during a time when American support for Israel is crucial for her existence) is that no attention be drawn to the events of June 8, 1967. ‘In my opinion’ he told AFP ‘what they want is for all of us to just die off so that the whole Liberty thing will become forgotten history’.
    For Capt. Block though, silence is no longer an acceptable option. ‘What I want is justice for those guys. What was done to them was an outrage. Personally I think it was divine providence the ship didn’t sink. I am not interested in any notoriety, just justice…justice for our men and for our flag. The bottom line is that this was an act of war perpetrated against the United States and the American people need to know about it.’
    Many theories have been offered over the years concerning Israel’s motives for attacking the USS Liberty that day. Some say it was to cover-up her war crimes in the Sinai desert when she murdered over 250 Egyptian soldiers who had surrendered peaceably. Some say that it was because she was planning to take the Golan Heights in Syria and did not want the news of this impending attack to get out. When asked about what he thought Israel’s motives were, Capt. Block’s answer was simple–That Israel wanted to drag the United States into the war against the Arab countries so that the blood of America’s Christians would be spilled rather than that that of Israel’s Jews.
    In interviewing other survivors of the USS Liberty, AFP has learned that some 15 years after the attack, an Israeli pilot approached some of the servicemen (as well as former Congressman Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey) and revealed to them that as the lead pilot in the attack that day he recognized the Liberty as American and informed his headquarters. Nevertheless, he was told to ignore the American flag and continue his attack. As a result of his refusal to do so he was immediately arrested after returning to base. Backing up his damning statements are those of former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dwight Porter who has also stated publicly that the Israeli pilot’s radio transmission was heard by US monitors in the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon.
    The attack on the USS Liberty by the air and naval forces of Israel that resulted in the deaths of 34 of America’s young men was as much an act of war against the United States as was the sneak attack on Pearl harbor by the Japanese in 1941. The only difference between the two was that the Japanese did not have the machinery in place at that time to cover it up and lie about it as Israel has for the last 40 years. Rather than justice, what the American people have been given since that time is lies and further involvement in the tangled affairs of a gangster nation founded on duplicity, genocide and a mad thirst for world domination. As a reward for the murder of 34 sailors aboard the Liberty, Israel–rather than being given a declaration of war by the US Congress–has instead been given (by some accounts) over a trillion dollars with which to further endanger the liberty and security of the American people.
    ‘Better late than never,’ as the old saying goes, and with that in mind, being that the Congress of the United States refuses to execute its duty with respect to protecting and defending the people and interests of the United States, it is high time then that the American people themselves declare that a state of war exists between them and the Jewish state and take all steps necessary in prosecuting this war to a just conclusion. Anything short of this is national suicide, as events taking place today prove on a regular basis.
    2007 by Mark Glenn
    Correspondent–American Free Press

  23. J says:

    USS LIBERTY: Navy Vet Who Foiled Israeli Attack Honored
    Ray McGovern *
    Sunday, 07 June 2009 18:59
    What’s the difference between murder and massacre?
    The answer is Terry Halbardier, whose bravery and ingenuity as a 23-year-old Navy seaman spelled the difference between the murder of 34 of the USS Liberty crew and the intended massacre of all 294.
    The date was June 8, 1967; for the families of the 34 murdered and for the Liberty’s survivors and their families, it is a “date which will live in infamy” – like the date of an earlier surprise attack on the U.S. Navy.
    The infamy is twofold: (1) the Liberty, a virtually defenseless intelligence collection platform prominently flying an American flag in international waters, came under deliberate attack by Israeli aircraft and three 60-ton Israeli torpedo boats off the coast of the Sinai on a cloudless June afternoon during the six-day Israeli-Arab war; and (2) President Lyndon Johnson called back carrier aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty lest Israel be embarrassed – the start of an unconscionable cover-up, including top Navy brass, that persists to this day.
    Given all they have been through, the Liberty survivors and other veterans – who joined Halbardier to celebrate his belated receipt of the Silver Star – can be forgiven for having doubted that this day would ever come. In the award ceremony at the Visalia, Calif., office of Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican congressman pinned the Silver Star next to the Purple Heart that Halbardier found in his home mailbox three years ago
    Nunes said, “The government has kept this quiet I think for too long, and I felt as my constituent he [Halbardier] needed to get recognized for the services he made to his country.”
    Nunes got that right. Despite the many indignities the Liberty crew has been subjected to, the mood in Visalia was pronouncedly a joyous one of Better (42 Years) Late Than Never. And, it did take some time to sink in: Wow, a gutsy congressman not afraid to let the truth hang out on this delicate issue.
    Treatment Accorded the Skipper
    As we gathered in Congressman Nunes’ office, I could not get out of my head the contrast between this simple, uncomplicated event and the rigmarole that senior Navy officers went through to pin a richly deserved Medal of Honor on another hero of that day, the Liberty’s skipper, Capt. William McGonagle.
    Although badly wounded by Israeli fire on June 8, 1967, McGonagle was able to keep the bombed, torpedoed, napalmed Liberty afloat and limping toward Malta, where what was left of the bodies of the 34 crewmen killed and the 174 wounded could be attended to.
    Do the math: yes, killed and wounded amounted to more than two-thirds of the Liberty crew of 294.
    I remembered what a naval officer involved in McGonagle’s award ceremony told one of the Liberty crew: “The government is pretty jumpy about Israel … the State Department even asked the Israeli ambassador if his government had any objections to McGonagle getting the medal.”
    When McGonagle received his award, the White House (the normal venue for a Medal of Honor award) was all booked up, it seems, and President Johnson (who would have been the usual presenter) was unavailable. So it fell to the secretary of the navy to sneak off to the Washington Navy Yard on the banks of the acrid Anacostia River, where he presented McGonagle with the Medal of Honor and a citation that described the attack but not the identity of the attackers.
    Please don’t misunderstand. The Liberty crew is not big on ceremony. They are VERY-not-big on politicians who wink when Navy comrades are killed and wounded at sea.
    Getting the Truth Out
    The Liberty survivors are big on getting the truth out about what actually happened that otherwise beautiful day in June 1967. Last Wednesday’s award of the Silver Star to Terry Halbardier marked a significant step in the direction of truth-telling. Is it too much to hope that the example set by Nunes may embolden other lawmakers to right the wrongs done to their Liberty-veteran constituents – and thus to chip away at what’s left of the cover-up?
    Halbardier said he accepted his Silver Star on behalf of the entire 294-man crew. He and fellow survivor Don Pageler expressed particular satisfaction at the wording of the citation, which stated explicitly – with none of the usual fudging – the identity of the attackers: “The USS Liberty was attacked by Israeli aircraft and motor torpedo boats in the East Mediterranean Sea….” In the past, official citations, like Capt. McGonagle’s, had avoided mentioning Israel by name when alluding to the attack.
    I think former U.S. ambassador Edward Peck put it best in condemning this kind of approach as “obsequious, unctuous subservience to the peripheral interests of a foreign nation at the cost of the lives and morale of our own service members and their families.” Strong words for a diplomat. But right on target.
    Were it not for Halbardier’s bravery, ingenuity, and technical expertise, the USS Liberty would surely have sunk, taking down much – if not all – of the crew. Israeli commando helicopters were ready to take care of any personnel still that survived the sinking.
    The first thing the Israeli aircraft bombed and strafed were the Liberty’s communications antennae and other equipment. They succeeded in destroying all the antennae that were functional. One antenna on the port side, though, had been out of commission and had escaped damage.
    On Deck – Just a Guy From Texas
    In receiving the Silver Star, Halbardier made light of his heroism, claiming that he was just a guy from Texas who could do a whole lot with simple stuff like baling wire. (In the infantry we called this kind of thing a “field expedient.”) In any case, with his can-do attitude and his technical training, he figured he might be able to get that particular antenna working again. But first he would have to repair a cable that had been destroyed on deck and then connect the antenna to a transmitter.
    The deck was still being strafed, but Halbardier grabbed a reel of cable, ran out onto the deck, and attached new cable to the antenna so a radioman could get an SOS out to the 6th fleet in the Mediterranean.
    Voilà. “Mayday” went out; almost immediately the Israeli aircraft and torpedo ships broke off the attack and went back to base; the Israeli government sent a quick apology to Washington for its unfortunate “mistake;” and President Johnson issued orders to everyone to make believe the Israelis were telling the truth – or at least to remain silent.
    To their discredit, top Navy brass went along, and the Liberty survivors were threatened with court-martial and prison if they so much as mentioned to their wives what had actually happened. They were enjoined as well from discussing it with one another. As Liberty crewman Don Pageler put it, “We all headed out after that, and we didn’t talk to each other.”
    The circumstances were ready-made for serious post-traumatic stress disorder.
    The stories shared by Liberty survivors after the award ceremony, including descriptions of the macabre but necessary effort to reassemble torpedoed body parts, and the plague of survivor’s guilt, were as heart-rending as any I have heard. They are stories that should be shared more widely for those muzzled far too long – those who, even 42 years later, might be helped by being in contact with other Liberty survivors, and being able to talk about it.
    These were the deep emotional scars to supplement the ones all over Halbardier’s body, some of which he uncovered when asked by the local press gathered there in Visalia. Typically, Halbardier made light of the shrapnel that had to be plucked out of his flesh, emphasizing that he was lucky compared to some of the other crew.
    No Mistake
    Despite Israeli protestations, the accumulated evidence, including intercepted voice communications, is such that no serious observer believes Israel’s “Oops” excuse of a terrible mistake.
    The following exchanges are excerpts of testimony from U.S. military and diplomatic officials given to Alison Weir, founder of “If Americans Knew” and author of American Media Miss the Boat:
    Israeli pilot to ground control: “This is an American ship. Do you still want us to attack?”
    Ground control: “Yes, follow orders.”
    Pilot: “But sir, it’s an American ship – I can see the flag!”
    Ground control: “Never mind; hit it!”
    Haviland Smith, a CIA officer stationed in Beirut during the Six-Day War, says he was told that the transcripts were “deep-sixed,” because the U.S. government did not want to embarrass Israel.
    Tapes Also Destroyed
    Equally telling is the fact that the National Security Agency (NSA) destroyed voice tapes seen by many intelligence analysts showing that the Israelis knew exactly what they were doing.
    I asked a former CIA colleague, who was also an analyst at that time, what he remembered of those circumstances. Here is his e-mail reply:
    “The chief of the analysts studying the Arab-Israeli region at the time told me about the intercepted messages and said very flatly and firmly that the pilots reported seeing the American flag and repeated their requests of confirmation of the attack order. Whole platoons of Americans saw those intercepts. If NSA now says they do not exist, then someone ordered them destroyed.”
    One need hardly add at this point that the destruction of evidence without investigation is an open invitation to repetition in the future.
    Think interrogation videotapes, for example.
    As for the legal side: the late Capt. Ward Boston, unburdened himself on his accomplice role as the Navy lawyer appointed as senior counsel to Adm. Isaac Kidd, who led a one-week (!) investigation and then followed orders to pronounce the attack on the Liberty a case of “mistaken identity.”
    Boston signed a formal declaration on Jan. 8, 2004, in which he said he was “outraged at the efforts of the apologists for Israel in this country to claim that this attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity.’” Boston continued:
    “The evidence was clear. Both Adm. Kidd and I believed with certainty that this attack … was a deliberate effort to sink an American ship and murder its entire crew. … Not only did the Israelis attack the ship with napalm, gunfire, and missiles, Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned three lifeboats that had been launched in an attempt by the crew to save the most seriously wounded – a war crime.
    “I know from personal conversations I had with Adm. Kidd that President Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered him to conclude that the attack was a case of ‘mistaken identity’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”
    Col. W. Patrick Lang, USA (ret.), who was the Defense Intelligence Agency’s top analyst for the Middle East for eight years, recounted the Israeli air attacks as follows:
    “The flight leader spoke to his base to report that he had the ship in view, that it was the same ship he had been briefed on, and that it was clearly marked with the U.S. flag.
    “The flight commander was reluctant. That was very clear. He didn’t want to do this. He asked them a couple of times, ‘Do you really want me to do this?’ I’ve remembered it ever since. It was very striking. I’ve been harboring this memory for all these years.”
    Lang, of course, is not alone. So too Terry Halbardier, who told those assembled last Wednesday, “I think about it [the attack on the Liberty] every day.”
    Why Sink the Ship?
    What we know for sure is, as the independent commission headed by former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Thomas Moorer put it, the attack “was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew.”
    What we do not know for sure is why the Israelis wanted that done. Has no one dared ask the Israelis?
    One view is that the Israelis did not want the United States to find out they were massing troops to seize the Golan Heights from Syria and wanted to deprive the U.S. of the opportunity to argue against such a move.
    James Bamford offers an alternative view in his excellent book Body of Secrets. Bamford adduces evidence, including reporting from an Israeli journalist eyewitness and an Israeli military historian, of wholesale killing of Egyptian prisoners of war at the coastal town of El Arish in the Sinai. The Liberty was patrolling directly opposite El Arish in international waters but within easy range to pick up intelligence on what was going on there. And the Israelis were well aware of that.
    But the important thing here is not to confuse what we know (the deliberate nature of the Israeli attack) with the ultimate purpose behind it, which remains open to speculation.
    Also worth noting is the conventional wisdom prevalent in our Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) that Egypt forced Israel into war in June 1967. An excellent, authoritative source has debunked that – none other than former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin! In an unguarded moment in 1982, when he was prime minister, he admitted publicly:
    “In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that [Egyptian President] Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
    Thus, the Israeli attack admittedly amounted to starting a war of aggression, and the occupied West Bank territories and the Golan Heights – gained by the Israelis in the 1967 war – remain occupied to this day.
    The post-WWII tribunal at Nuremberg distinguished a “war of aggression” from other war crimes, terming it the “supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains the accumulated evil of the whole.”
    Perhaps the attempt to sink the Liberty and finish off all survivors qualifies as one of those accumulated evils.
    Terry Halbardier summed it up this way on Wednesday: “There’s lots of theories, but let’s just say they didn’t want us listening in to what they wanted to do.”
    Getting Away With Murder
    In sum, on June 8, 1967, the Israeli government learned that it could get away with murder, literally, and the crime would be covered up, so strong is the influence of the Israel Lobby in our Congress – and indeed, in the White House. And those USS Liberty veterans who survived well enough to call for an independent investigation have been hit with charges of, you guessed it, anti-Semitism.
    Does all this have relevance today? Of course.
    Benjamin Netanyahu, the new Israeli prime minister, has now had an up-close-and-personal chance to take the measure of our new president and has already thumbed his nose at Barack Obama’s plea for a halt in illegal construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
    The Israelis seem convinced they remain in the catbird’s seat, largely because of the Israel Lobby’s influence with U.S. lawmakers and opinion makers – not to mention the entrée the Israelis enjoy to the chief executive himself by having one of their staunchest allies, Rahm Emanuel, in position as White House chief of staff.
    The recent Obama-Netanyahu encounter reminded me very much of the meeting in Vienna between another young American president and Nikita Khrushchev in early June 1961. The Soviets took the measure of President John Kennedy, and we got the Cuban missile crisis, bringing the world close to nuclear destruction.
    Netanyahu is currently whipping up frenzy and fear in the face of what he calls the “existential threat” posed by Iran – frenzy about the “danger” from Iran that could lead to military action of some kind. So confident is Netanyahu of the solidity of his position with movers and shakers in the U.S. that he may be sorely tempted to mount the kind of provocation that would be aimed at confronting Obama with an unwelcome choice between joining an Israeli attack on Iran or facing dire political consequences at home.
    And nothing is outlandish any more. Remember Seymour Hersh’s report about Cheney’s office conjuring up plots as to how best to trigger a war with Iran?
    “The one that interested me [SH] the most was why don’t we build – we in our shipyard – build four or five boats that look like Iranian PT boats. Put Navy SEALs on them with a lot of arms. And next time one of our boats goes to the Straits of Hormuz, start a shoot-up.”
    Mullen’s Message
    President Obama might want to think about delivering a pointed message via a senior U.S. military officer. It worked last time.
    In early July 2008, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen was sent to Israel to read the riot act to then-prime minister Ehud Olmert, who seemed to be itching to start hostilities with Iran while Bush and Cheney were still in office.
    We learned from the Israeli press that Mullen, to his credit, went so far as to warn the Israelis not to even think about another incident like the attack on the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 – that the Israelis should disabuse themselves of the notion that U.S. military support would be knee-jerk automatic if Israel somehow provoked open hostilities with Iran.
    This is the only occasion of which I am aware when a U.S. official of such seniority braced Israel about the Liberty incident. A gutsy move, especially with Cheney and Elliott Abrams then in the White House, two hawks who would bless – or even encourage – an Israeli provocation that would make it very difficult for Washington to avoid springing to the defense of its “ally.”
    The Israelis know that Mullen knows that the attack on the Liberty was deliberate. Mullen could have raised no more neuralgic an issue to take a shot across an Israeli bow than to cite the attack on the Liberty. The Jerusalem Post reported that Mullen cautioned that a Liberty-type incident must be avoided in any future military actions in the Middle East.
    Will Netanyahu give more weight to Mullen or to pro-Israel politicians like Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey? Lautenberg, who has visited Israel 80 times since 1968, spoke with the Jerusalem Post earlier this week and pledged full support for pretty much whatever Israel wants to do:
    “Israel didn’t ask us permission to drop bombs twice on Syrian nuclear facilities. I don’t hear America scolding Israel for what it did then. Hypothetically, if Israel were able to get rid of Iran’s nuclear bomb-making capability, I’m sure that America would not send Israel a chastising e-mail message. We have to give Israel the courtesy of [allowing it to] make its own decisions.”
    For good measure, Lautenberg said Israel “won’t return to the ‘67 borders. They are insufficient to permit Israel to function.”
    Let me ask again: Will Netanyahu give more weight to Mullen over Lautenberg and a pro-Israel U.S. secretary of state (Hillary Clinton) who spoke about “obliterating” Iran during last year’s campaign?
    In gauging President Obama’s clout with the Washington power-brokers, Netanyahu is likely to draw conclusions more from things like Obama’s inability, or reluctance, to turn off the feckless, counterproductive sabotage squads inside Iran, than from any warnings Netanyahu may have heard from the president to please not attack Iran.
    Seems we are pretty much back where we were a year ago, when it looked like Olmert might mount some kind of provocation involving Iran. Perhaps President Obama should send Adm. Mullen back to Israel.
    And perhaps this time Mullen should take Terry Halbardier with him.
    Netanyahu needs to be confronted without delay. And June 8, 2009 the 42nd Anniversary of the attempted sinking of the USS Liberty, could prove an interesting time to be in Tel Aviv.
    * Raymond McGovern is a retired CIA officer turned political activist. McGovern was a Federal employee under seven U.S. presidents over 27 years, presenting the morning intelligence briefings at the White House for many of them.
    – This article originally appeared at ConsortiumNews.com

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