Israel’s Lawyer Returns – Phil Giraldi

, editor of the Washington Post's editorial page, is particularly shameless about promoting both an imperial foreign policy and the Israeli connection.  In today's edition on page A6, billed as analysis, appears a Glenn Kessler piece called “Experts question whether US has a real Israel strategy."  The article is illustrated by a color photo of Palestinian youths throwing stones.  Glenn’s Kessler’s assembled experts turn out to be Daniel Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller, Elliot Abrams, and Martin Indyk.  That the Post believes that only Jews can rightfully comment on the US relationship with Israel should be disturbing to the 98% of the population that is not Jewish but which is nevertheless called on to financially support Tel Aviv, but what really caught my attention was a small bit towards the beginning of the piece.  Kessler reports that “…Yitzhak  Molcho, a low key private lawyer in Israel who negotiated the settlement freeze with Mitchell,  worked closely behind the scenes on the Israeli response with Dennis Ross, a senior official on the National Security Council.”

First of all, the “settlement freeze” should rightly be called the “unsuccessful settlement freeze” as the Israelis never complied with the US demands.  And second, there is the disturbing reemergence of Ross.  At Camp David in 2000 when Bill Clinton brought together Yassir Arafat and Ehud Barak, Ross was a chief negotiator.  He reportedly briefed the Israelis in advance on all US negotiating positions to obtain their approval, giving Israel a de facto veto over anything it objected to.  For that yeoman’s work Ross was dubbed “Israel’s lawyer” by his colleagues.  Now it would appear that Ross is doing the same thing for Obama.  If Kessler is correct, the description of Ross’s role suggests that he is concerned with an acceptable Israeli response, not in convincing Israel that it must change its behavior to support US interests in the region.   Which raises the question “Who is he working for and to what end?” 

A few days ago I predicted that the crisis with Netanyahu would quickly be patched over with Obama conceding on every point and we would be back to business as usual with Israel controlling the lopsided bilateral relationship.  While it is possible that the tone of the narrative has somewhat shifted, the return to the status quo ante has largely come to pass and just in time for the annual AIPAC Conference where Hillary Clinton will no doubt speak soothingly, followed by a long conga line of congressmen who will deliver their own obeisances.  I would like to think that international frustration with Israeli intransigence will finally reach a boiling point, possibly dragging Washington along kicking and screaming to actually pressure Israel in some real way to change course.  We shall see, but I wouldn’t be optimistic.  And before that happens American soldiers might well be drawn willy-nilly into a war with Iran, a war not of our choosing and one that can only have bad consequences.

Phil Giraldi


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33 Responses to Israel’s Lawyer Returns – Phil Giraldi

  1. par4 says:

    War with Iran could well be catastrophic for us,but what could possibly deter our govt. from doing it.Surely not American opinion,that doesn’t matter anymore. Shanghai Coop Org.?

  2. Lysander says:

    There is simply far too much focus on a settlement freeze. Even if achieved, it will only result in the resumption of a fake peace process. All this talk is only important if it is a prelude to the much more serious questions the US will need to ask itself;
    I America’s commitment to ensure Israel’s eternal dominance, regardless of its behavior, becoming too costly? Is there a reasonable return on our investment? Isn’t it odd that anyone aspiring to political office must constantly sing the praises of a foreign country?
    If the discussion remains solely on settlements we can file this under same old same old.
    After all, Bush demanded a settlement freeze too.

  3. zanzibar says:

    Despite the recent contretemps it seems the reality is status quo. Both our political parties and our corporate media are firmly in the camp of what’s good for the Likudniks is good for America as far as foreign policy is concerned.
    At this juncture it is clear that there is no political will to develop policies that are in the interest of the middle and working classes whether it is in the realm of economics or foreign policy. I suppose we can’t blame our politicians since there is no public pressure of any kind for policies that further our national interest. On the other hand the squeaky wheels are the moneyed interests with their dollar flows that have purchased both our political parties lock stock and barrel.

  4. Fred says:

    A picture is worth a thousand words. The obvious questions are why is the strongest army in the Middle East afraid of teenagers with rocks and why are those teenagers risking death to throw rocks at the Israeli Army?

  5. Wasn’t Kessler somehow involved in the AIPAC case? A “go to” guy in the media for AIPAC?
    Hasn’t the Meyer family rag always been Zionist? Eugene Meyer’s association with Lazard bankers placed him well into the Anglo-Zionist network.
    For a useful first hand account of Clinton’s Camp David see Akram Hanieh “The Camp David Papers”.
    There is also a book by Clayton Swisher on same which is said to be realistic.
    The glitzy AIPAC extravaganza will be followed up in late July by Hagee’s Washington DC Christian Zionist fest which targets Congress.
    Congress goes out in August for recess and then…war with Iran?

  6. So is Dennis Ross an Ollie North–freelancing or doing just what his bosses want?

  7. WRC,
    Well yes, Ross is doing what his bosses at the Jewish Agency want. Fine by the White House it seems. Apparently, when in Israel Biden kept repeating Ross’ name to reassure everyone. Is Ross writing Biden and Hillary’s speeches? Contributing to them? Vetting them?
    Per the “moneyed interests” I found Stephen Birmingham’s, Our Crowd The Great Jewish Families of New York rather useful per the banking families and their intermarriages and relationships. There is also today, however, a “new crowd” which is in need of documentation and analysis. Paperback at
    Here is Biden’s speech to AIPAC last year.
    “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here today to tell you something you already know, and I assure you this — President Barack Obama shares that same commitment. (Applause.) His support is rooted in his personal connection to the Zionist idea to which he spoke about last year at this conference.”

  8. Adam L Silverman says:

    If you’ve not seen this, then please give it a look. Apparently, very quietly and behind the scenes, the Obama Administration has been holding up military aid to Israel. Including the all important bunker busters they would need to go after Iran’s nuclear sites.
    As for war with Iran; based on GEN Petraeus’ recent remarks, let alone VP Biden’s, about putting US soldiers or interests at risk, I’d wager that it wouldn’t get very far. Remember to get to Iran at this point Israel will have to overfly or come close to overflying Turkey and Iraq. Turkey, while they may not be able to effectively stop it, will try to and they’ll make an appeal to a NATO ally, that being the US, to deal with it. Right now Iraq’s air is kept clear by the US. I don’t think the Israelis really want to risk having to fly through US air responses from Balad or the carrier groups offshore. They may be obstinate, but they’re not stupid!

  9. curious says:

    I don’t understand how conventional bunker buster suppose to work. I mean, is not like country like iran can’t simply throw money to defeat it. What’s the point of being oil rich country if they can’t use oil to create exotic material? Homogeneous concrete? what is this? 1942? They couldn’t possibly be that stupid. They will build something elaborate. Heck, if the building survive, iran should go into bunker business recoup the cost. Use the surviving bunker as best advertisement eva. Who can resist that?
    Imaginary construction, the layers of defense:
    a) false / moveable underground room. containing minimum metal and empty spaces.
    b) put it in steep mountain range.
    c) anti ballistic missile. gravity bomb is slllllooooooooowwww… they say they can track missile.
    d) typical anti aircraft gun. Shoot anything that look like big fat falling 2000lbs bomb .
    e) ERA/active armor on top of the building. Divide the top of building into small segment. Only activate a single segment where the penetration likely to occur. uhhhh… there goes the bunker “buster” part.
    f) several feet of iron ores to absorbed the era detonation and fragments. dip the ore in thick liquid mud mix with resin so the iron doesn’t simply transmit the blast to structure below but dispersing it.
    g) next, instead of homogeneous thick regular reinforced concrete, it’s layer of high molecular weight plastic/kevlar mesh, reinforced concrete, metal sheet.
    h) then come the usual underground concrete structure.
    The only way to penetrate the set up above is to reactivate that metal rod bombardment from space program. … but then everybody will go bankrupt trying to win this race.

  10. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    Silverman wrote
    “They (presumably Likud Zionists) may be obstinate, but they’re not stupid!”
    Sid writes:
    Obstinate but not stupid?
    Hubris invariably leads to profoundly stupid acts. And humility is not Bibi’s strong point.
    Notions of racial superiority are what motivate Bibi’s brand of Zionism — a psychological profile that always ends in violence.
    And you have a Ph.d, right? So when has militant racism legitimated through the misappropriation of religious symbols not ended in violence?
    History has proven time and time again that it is only a question of how many innocent people will suffer before the myth of racial superiority is at long last extinguished. And one hopes in these historical circumstances, true Judaic values will triumph.
    But a major problem looms, as this is the first time in world history that ethnic nationalists have the bomb.
    Jericho III while reading Tehillim 149, no?
    Racists murdering the innocent in the name of God always use the most lethal weapon available before self destructing. Doesn’t matter if it is a group in Oakland, the Ozarks, or Dimona. What makes this scenario different?
    Obstinate but not stupid? Israel would never endanger US military personnel? Tell the USS Liberty vets the same thing and watch what happens.
    You cannot sugarcoat rabid ethnic nationalism with a veneer of academic gobbledygook. General Petreaus is exactly right: Israeli actions are endangering US Soldiers. So you either stand up for US Soldiers or you sell out. Which side are you on?
    And Israeli arrogance goes well beyond just endangering US troops. As Rabbi Teitelbaum teaches, the more profoundly stupid Israel acts — and its record of late is rather remarkable — the greater the likelihood of a rise of anti-Semitism. Teitelbaum warned the world decades ago that Zionism will trigger anti-Semitism because people will associate all Jews with Zionist atrocities.
    And while Teitelbaum made his plea, progressives were sweeping Israel’s acts of ethnic cleansing under the rug and of course, all the time, telling the rest of the world how racist we are.
    Perhaps the reason that Teitelbaum didn’t sell out is because he was a man who had great humility and sincere loyalty to the USA, apparently more sincere than some of those at the Pentagon, wearing a uniform and living off American taxpayer money.
    Teitelbaum is to humility what Bibi is to hubris. So who ya’ gonna’ trust when it comes to defining analytical assumptions to determine Israeli actions? Who has been right so far? And who has lied time and time again and, by doing so, has placed US Soldiers at peril?

  11. EL says:

    According to Haaretz today, Bibi has really pissed Merkel off badly. (

  12. J says:

    Look at AIPAC’s latest in the Congress trying to ratchet up their Iran sanctions nonsense.

    also AIPAC’s latest is an update to their Bayh-Risch letter from last year

    AIPAC doesn’t care about our U.S. or our fellow U.S. citizenry, just their hostile-to-the-U.S. little espionage postage stamp known as Israel.

  13. J says:

    Forgot to include the link regarding AIPAC’s latest. Here’s their letter to the Congress:

    Their AIPAC letter dovetails on AIPAC’s latest talking points memo. Their memo

    goes beyond the Senate letter by explicitly asserting that all differences between our U.S. and Israel should be worked out privately instead of in the public arena where our U.S. citizenry can see Israel’s anti-U.S. nefariousness at work.

  14. stickler says:

    Re: the bunker busters. Is that why they went to Diego Garcia? So that they would be suddenly unavailable for shipment to Tel Aviv?
    Brilliant, if true, and also if they aren’t suddenly used on Tabriz.

  15. Mary says:

    Angela Merkel just basically called Netanyahu a weasel for lying about their call. And the EU just postponed its association meeting with Israel. Kouchner just met with Mitchell to affirm France’s standing behind all aspects of the quartet’s recent statements. Could Israel’s entry to the OECD be delayed?
    By the way, Dennis Ross is trying to elbow George Mitchell out of the way. See Ross’s mouthpiece Laura Rozen here and Steve Clemons here.
    I would like to see the veto Israel has over our government appointments revoked. Obama could start by collect Ross’ scalp. His maneuvering against Mitchell at this delicate juncture is beyond the pale.

  16. Phil Giraldi says:

    Adam – I agree that the Obama Administration is trying to slow the rush to war, but it is not as if we are the only players in the game. Israel knows it cannot do serious damage to Iran’s nuclear program – it needs the US to do it for them. One way to draw Washington into a war is to attack Iran with the reasonable expectation that Iran will retaliate against both the US and Israel. The only option a US president has to stop such an attack is what you describe as “US air responses” but which really means shooting down the Israeli aircraft as they transit Iraq (either coming or going). Sorry, but I can’t see Obama or anyone else ordering that. So that means the Israelis are pretty much in control and can dictate what might or might not develop vis-a-vis a possible war with Iran. Washington might be able to preempt the process by warning the Israelis openly and publicly against such an action and putting teeth in the warning by threatening to withhold all aid, but I don’t see that happening either.

  17. Patrick Lang says:

    Someone suggested that the neocon Zionists have a veto over presidential appointments.
    Can that be? pl

  18. par4 says:

    Did anyone read the comments in Adam’s link?

  19. The beaver says:

    @ Kiracoge
    The Bilderberg’s Annual conference is another example of “little clique of powerful men who meet secretly and plan events that appear to ‘just happen’.”:
    “We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine, and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years … It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during these years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supernational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”
    Check on the “who’s and who” who have been attendees over the yrs ( only North Americans and Europeans) even though lately we have seen some guests from Turkey and some “token guests” like Zakaria or “anti-Ayatollahs Iranians”

  20. Lysander says:

    Col Lang, in answer to your question, I’m afraid it can;
    “American Jews eye Obama’s ‘anti-Israel’ appointees ”
    “Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community.
    In the case of Obama’s government in particular, every criticism against Israel made by a potential government appointee has become a catalyst for debate about whether appointing “another leftist” offers proof that Obama does not truly support Israel.
    A few months ago, boisterous protests by the American Jewish community helped foil the appointment of Chaz Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council, citing his “anti-Israel leaning.”
    The next attempt to appoint an intelligence aide, in this case, former Republican senator Chuck Hagel, also resulted in vast criticism over his not having a pro-Israel record.
    American Zionists are urging Obama to cancel Hagel’s appointment because of what they call a long and problematic record of hostility toward Israel.
    The president of the Zionist Organization of America, Morton A. Klein, described Hagel’s nomination as such: “Any American who is concerned about Iran’s drive to obtain nuclear weapons, maintaining the Israeli-U.S. relationship and supporting Israel in its legitimate fight to protect her citizens from terrorism should oppose this appointment.”
    Republican Jews have also protested Hagel’s appointment, citing an incident in 2004 when Hagel refused to sign a letter calling on then-president George Bush to speak about Iran’s nuclear program at the G8 summit that year.
    In August of 2006, Hagel refused to sign a letter requesting the UN declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.
    In a speech at the conference of self-declared “pro-peace, pro-Israel” lobby J Street, Hagel spoke about his views on the issue of Israel and the Middle East.
    “The United States’ support for Israel need not be – nor should it be – an either-or proposition that dictates our relationships with our Arab allies and friends. The U.S. has a long and special relationship with Israel, but it must not come at the expense of our Arab relationships,” Hagel said.
    The latest round of heated debate has been over the nomination of Hannah Rosenthal to head the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in the Obama administration.
    Rosenthal, who is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, served as a Health Department regional director under the Clinton administration, and held positions in different left-leaning Jewish organizations.
    Between 2000 and 2005, Rosenthal was the head of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; she was also the executive director of the Chicago Foundation for Women. In recent years, she has served on the advisory board of the J Street lobby.
    The president of Americans for Peace Now lauded Obama’s appointment of Rosenthal. Even Anti-Defamation League chairman Abraham Foxman came out in support of Rosenthal’s appointment.
    “This appointment signals the continued seriousness of America?s resolve to fight anti-Semitism,” Foxman said in a statement.
    Shortly after the announcement of Rosenthal’s nomination, conservative Jewish web sites began to attack her, some of them declaring that Obama appointed an anti-Israeli to fight anti-Semitism.
    Rumors brewed that she had accused Israel of systemically strengthening anti-Semitism. Bloggers argued that her appointment would cause Jews and Israelis to cast doubt on Obama and his relationship with Israel.
    In one of her articles, Rosenthal criticized conservative voices in the Jewish community who she accused of taking over the discourse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    “It’s a scary time, with people losing the ability to differentiate between a Jew, any Jew, and what’s going on in Israel,” Rosenthal said.
    In an interview with the new online Jewish magazine, Tablet, Rosenthal said that she loves Israel.
    “I have lived in Israel. I go back and visit every chance I can. I consider it part of my heart. And because I love it so much, I want to see it safe and secure and free and democratic and living safely,” Rosenthal said ”

  21. @Adam,
    Remember to get to Iran at this point Israel will have to overfly or come close to overflying Turkey and Iraq. Turkey, while they may not be able to effectively stop it, will try to and they’ll make an appeal to a NATO ally, that being the US, to deal with it. Right now Iraq’s air is kept clear by the US. I don’t think the Israelis really want to risk having to fly through US air responses from Balad or the carrier groups offshore.
    Why not a route through and over Saudi Arabia? Seems eminently plausible to me – so long as the Royals can keep control over their angry, religiously radicalized youth. After all, the Saudis have as much, perhaps more to fear from the Iranians that Israel does. Of course, despite the billions in fancy equipment, the Saudis are completely unable to do what Israel can do.
    Personally, if (or better, when) an attack comes, my guess is an attack vector from the Arabian Peninsula. And probably one from the Empty Quarter at that.

  22. J says:

    Based on ‘actions’ by the Obama administration, I sadly have to concur with the suggestion that the NEOCON ZIONISTS [for emphasis] have our nation’s White House by its balls. Sadly the compliant media has been a party to the Neocon Zionists castration of our nation’s foreign policy.
    Bibi is (shudder) our nation’s defacto puppet master.

  23. Patrick Lang says:

    I know Adam Silverman quite well and he is none of the things that are implied by your most recent comment. pl

  24. Several points:
    1. I believe I recall that there was a large delivery of ordnance to Israel in the fall of 2004 prior to the elections. Bunker busters may have been included. The reasoning for the delivery was said to be that if Bush lost the election, at least Israel would have the ordnance stockpiled.
    2. For an attack on Iran, perhaps the Suez 1956 scenario. That is, Israel, UK, France pre-arranged the war together. The decision was jointly made to let Israel lead off so that public opinion could be generated behind the war in UK and France who would then enter to assist heroic Israel: Nasser as Hitler, etc. was the propaganda line.
    So Israel could trigger something and the US would step in/join in as one scenario.
    3. As far as I know the pro-Israel Lobby network vets appointments in various ways, including amabassadorial appointments outside the Middle East. There was a story a while back that the White House/Rahm even denied Hillary a top staff aide (who is Jewish no less).
    Basically, you want to control the nomination process in both parties. That way you don’t lose. Arguably, the pro-Israel has attained this ability.
    4. Beaver, yes they are one influential “club” like Trilateral and Davos etc. Global movers and shakers developing policy consensus. This gets one into the analysis of transnational elites and their impact on policy (domestic and foreign.)
    Anna Missed a little while back mentioned Prof. Carrol Quigley…a well informed academic to say the least. Clinton studied under him I believe.

  25. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    My apologies. As mitigating circumstances, I was focusing primarily on Bibi. Secondly, I was examining some of Dr. Silverman’s analytical assumptions by relying upon the work of Rabbi Teitelbaum. Obviously Dr. Silverman is not of the Bibi ilk. Such an association was never intended.
    But, at least right now, I am not sure the J – Street approach will work, no matter how well meaning, and I say that as someone who use to associate himself with progressive Zionism. But Israel is not a liberal democracy and such an analytical assumption must be questioned, at least in my opinon. My methodology not much different than an appellate judge questioning an attorney’s stance, at least so I thought.

  26. Robert C. says:

    SP wrote ” Seems eminently plausible to me – so long as the Royals can keep control over their angry, religiously radicalized youth. ” Pure demagoguery. Some Saudi’s meet your desription. But most are likely moderates who have justifiable anger. They have puppet government, and limited freedoms. Perhaps they are also justifiably angry about the continued ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Further, the whole Arabs verse Iran debate seems to be a foil devised by pro-Israel groups.
    Robert C.

  27. Patrick Lang says:

    “They have puppet government,” Oh, come now, what are you, an aged Egyptian Nasserist? Do you really think the Saudi government is the puppet of the US? How charming! pl

  28. Walrus says:

    Regarding Bilderberg, I’ve seen a few such Coffee Klatsches. They seem to exist to stroke the egos of those involved and my experience was that they generate large amounts of “conventional wisdom”. What then happens is that large amounts of senior public servants time is wasted as they explain to the Prime Minister or Minister that the “helpful suggestion” they brought back from their meeting is: (a) Totally illegal and/or (b)Economically implausible.
    My limited sense is that the solution to the Middle East problem that does not involve bloody destruction must come from “Outside the square”, but I don’t think it will because Israel is going to be overtaken by events.
    We have a bigger demographic problem than Israel to face; there are not enough natural resources on this planet to support the rapidly growing Indian and Chinese middle classes in a Westernised lifestyle to which they believe themselves entitled.
    Such contests for resources end in war. I think the Israelis have a sense that at some point in the very near future America is going to have to focus on it’s own pressing interests to the exclusion of Israel’s.

  29. Adam L Silverman says:

    Mr. Smith: Good to know – I’m going to now delete the snarky response I had prepared… And COL (ret) Lang – thank’s for the kind words. Seriously though, I think, unfortunately, that the Israeli problem set is more complicated than just exclusionary socio-political attitudes with religious undertones and overtones. For some Israelis this is certainly true, and as I’ve written in other things here at SST, Israel has two internal socio-political problems to overcome at some point: 1) the disputes between the ultra-devout, the observant, and the secular and 2) the class (caste?) divisions between the Ashkenazim, Sephardim (including Jewish Arab Israelis), Ethiopian (Falashas), and now Russian Jews within Israel and the Israeli Arabs. These issues are not unlike similar ones that we face here in the US and that are faced in other places. It is certainly clear that a large number of the ultra devout, including those that don’t even believe Israel should exist because the Messiah has not yet come, are exceedingly prejudiced, bigoted, and intolerant of not only less devout Jews, but of non-Jews. I have been tracking this behavior among these groups in Israel since my first master’s thesis back in the mid 1990s. These attitudes clearly come out in the settler movements, and seem to have finally fully infected the major Israeli religious parties. Moreover, there is a great deal of research based data, though the anecdotes would be disturbing enough, that the Palestinians essentially play the societal role in Israel that African Americans played in the US during Jim Crow. However, these attitudes are not uniform across the Israeli political spectrum, just as their American correlates are not! The problem in Israel is that the inability of either of the traditional two largest parties (Likud and Labor) or the new third party alternative (Kadima) to capture a clear majority gives unprecedented power very small minority parties; parties that often have almost single issue agendas and that can extract (extort?) exceedingly high prices from the larger parties so that a functioning governing coalition can be formed. As a result Likud gets pulled even farther right into intransigence when it forms a government, as it has, in conjunction with these minority parties. The results would be similar if the Tory Party had to form a coalition government with the British National Party and the Natural Law Party in the UK to form a government – you’d start seeing some really strange results. In many ways it is not unlike what we are seeing in the US right now. While we do have a good ten or so “third” parties (the Libertarians, Constitution, Workers, Greens, and several others – and I apologize if I left someone’s favorite out), by and large they have no formal influence because at this time both the Democratic and Republican Parties are still powerful enough to incorporate most of the natural constituencies for these smaller movements into themselves. As such we get two “big” tent parties that may, overall, have somewhat unified platforms and agendas, but also have several veto players. This has been no where more visible than during the healthcare reform debate and especially in the Senate. Putting together a simple Democratic Senatorial majority of 51 or 53 votes isn’t all that hard – maybe some political wrangling, but by and large its obtainable. Given the misuse, or perhaps innovative and new uses, of the filibuster and senatorial holds, simple majority rule is no longer possible for the majority of Senate business, which means that a voting coalition of 60 has to be put together. But votes 52 or 53 through 59 (now) or 60 (before the Brown victory) was damn near impossible even from just those who are or caucus with the Democrats. Basically each of these last 8 or 9 senators, and don’t get me started on the Republican senators that were playing “show me yours first and I’ll show you mine” functioned liked a minority party does in Israel’s coalition politics dragging the party and the process and the outcomes into strange, and often warped, places.
    The real question for Israel is going to be if the more mainstream elements in Likud recognize the danger they are being pulled into by their leader and PM and his coalition allies. It is also important to remember here that the most powerful people in Israeli politics are often the same folks over and over and over again. This was true for the first and second generation of leaders (in fact many of the second generation were just the aging first generation that became formerly known as Likud) and is true now. Moreover, some of these folks are legacies and others, just as the first and second generation leaders, have deep seated grievances with each other. This is certainly the case with Netanyahu in regard to Barak. Perhaps, more importantly, they’ve all been dealing with their Palestinian counterparts over and over and over again, which can make any attempts to negotiate anything a “groundhog day” experience.
    Finally, its not that Israel is or is not a liberal democracy, its that it has a democratic system that is failing to live up to the liberal standards that were set at the founding and as a result producing bad outcomes. What we see on both the Israeli and the Palestinian side is the tragic truth of both the Democratic Peace Thesis and the Joint Freedom Proposition, both of which underlined so much of President Bush’s foreign policy: just because there is an election, does not mean you are going to get a liberal democratic outcome; sometimes you just get elected authoritarians of various stripes.

  30. Adam L Silverman says:

    Serving Patriot: I make no great claim to understanding air operations – my work for the Army was on the non-lethal COIN side; I’m one of those people COL (ret) Lang described that likes to wander around marketplaces, take pictures, drink chai, talk to the locals (from elites to refugees) and find out what the wants, needs, and expectations of the host country population are. So my estimation was based on what would be the most direct, and therefore, quickest route. I would also expect the Saudi Air Force to not be particularly amused if Israel tried to overfly Saudi air space and that the Royal House would seek to shore up support with the populace by giving the green light for their air force to intercept.
    No matter how Israel would try to do this sort of operation its going to further destabilize the CENTCOM AOR, which is going to put US and allied troops in harms way in Iraq and Afghanistan, with ripple effects for US personnel – civilian and military – performing development and humanitarian operations in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. My view on these things is that in a fight between GEN Petraeus over the safety of his troops and the stability of his AOR and Israel’s desire to try to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, that as far as US policy is concerned GEN Petraeus is going to win. And I fervently hope that is the case. Letting the Israeli tail continue to wag the American dog is like buying a good friend with a drinking problem a bottle of whisky! A really good friend would say no.

  31. @Adam S.,
    I hope you are right. My point about the Saudis is that I believe they would cut a bargain with the devil they know to unleash it on the devil they really fear (Iran). It serves their purpose and results in their big brother protector coming to their rescue. (It should not go unnoticed all the talk of US missile defenses in the Persian/Arabian Gulf region. Will they have authority to protect Riyadh if the missiles are not also headed to a US base?) Again, would the Royals make such a deal (or permit a violation without prior warning)? Hard to know for sure, but I suspect the Royals believe they have a tight enough cork on their society now that they’ve cleaned up some of their internal Al Qaeda problem and might just roll the dice too. (As for the RSAF capability to defend KSA airspace from an IDF AF overflight, I would not put much stock in that; but, it would make for some nice internal PR.)
    We should never forget that Israel has made some masterstrokes in the past, achieving what was thought impossible (Tunis, Baghdad, Entebbe), but which in hindsight, were not only plausible but perhaps even should have been anticipated. I worry that all the public kerfuffle right now (including General Dave’s well-timed “warning”) may be part and parcel of a larger strategic deception to shield such a masterstroke in the making.
    I agree with your assessment as to the effect of such an Israeli action (no matter the attack vector). I hope that you are right that General Dave and Admiral Mike will “win the argument” if Tel Aviv decides to roll the dice. But our history with the “tail” suggests American forces (and their civilian families and all other non-combatants int he region) will be made to suffer if Israel decides it in its larger interest. USS LIBERTY was only one example of this principle.
    Let’s hope the good friend not only says no, but also takes away the bottle, pours out the liquor and publicly drags the drunkard to the tank to sober up. Otherwise, we’re all liable to be victims of the drunk driver.
    Yes, Bibi’s visit will be very, very interesting.
    PS — thanks also for the very good comment re:internal Israeli dynamic. very informative and I think spot on. Just as Bibi wags us, he is being wagged by the likes of Lieberman… which cannot be fun for him!

  32. confusedponderer says:

    Adam Silverman,

    …its not that Israel is or is not a liberal democracy, its that it has a democratic system that is failing to live up to the liberal standards that were set at the founding

    Great point.
    Another aspect is Israel’s demographic problem with the growing ultra-orthodox segment of the population. Focusing on the spiritual realm, they don’t contribute to Israel’s economy in a meaningful way. The rest of Israel’s economy will have to be extremely productive to allow them their lifestyle of piety indefinitely. The ultra-orthodox were allowed their privileges in order to revive Judaism after the holocaust. Fair enough. It is now revived and the solution found 50 years ago starts to become economically challenging. What to do?
    The also growing settler segment in a similar way is promoting their single issue agenda. To settlers, it is indeed about ‘Blut und Boden’. There can be co compromise. And never mind the elephant in the room – the Palestinians impertinently living in Greater Israel.
    Or take the question of whether Israel is a Jewish State. When Liebermann demands to expel the Christian Arabs, Israeli citizens after all, one doesn’t need to think long about what he wants to do with the Muslim Arabs living in Greater Israel.
    In face of such problems Israel has a hard time adapting. More to the point, Israel is in a permanent domestic political crisis at least since Rabin became president. I agree that Likud, be it by themselves or through coalition requirements, has moved further to the right.
    Israel’s response to it’s internal fissures was to project that outwards. Someone here has written that, without the Palestinians to whack around, Israel would have a civil war. I think there’s a lot to that point.
    Take the issue of Iran, which, if it ever became a nuclear power, would counter weigh Israel’s deterrence, and force it to engage with the Arabs and make concessions, thus forcing Israel to engage it’s inner demons as well.
    I think that’s key to understand Likud’s obsession with Iran. I think they see Israel’s internal problems quite clearly. Only in that sense it is understandable (to me) how Iran can be considered an existential threat to Israel. With regards to that, I can see how Israel would give concerns about harming US interests at a very low priority.
    All of which gives Netanyahu’s government a strong incentive to cling to the status quo domestically, and press for confrontation with Iran, if necessary at the US’ expense.
    That said, I am pessimistic about that, and I don’t think that it can do more than delay Israel’s domestic problems.

  33. Phil, great post as always,
    but here are some possible additions:
    1. Dennis Ross’s past role as
    Chairman of the Board of the Jewish People Planning Institute.
    Would someone who had been
    “Chairman of the Board of the Muslim People Planning Institute”
    ever be viewed as unbiased in Israeli-Muslim relations?
    2. You seem to single out Fred Hiatt as the responsible party for
    the WPEB problems you (correctly) point out.
    True, but in the big scheme of things he’s just a hired hand.
    Surely on these big issues the policies he pushes
    must be approved by, and almost surely directed by,
    those who control the Post,
    the Graham (and Weymouth?) family.
    By singling Hiatt out, don’t you admit the possibility that
    they could change the name
    but retain the exact same (disastrous for America) policies?
    How’d you like to see Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, Elliott Abrams, etc.
    as Hiatt’s replacement? 🙂
    Martin Indyk maybe? 🙂
    Or maybe Marty Peretz might take a lateral? 🙂
    3. Is it not interesting that
    the Graham family insists on retaining full control of the Post>?
    They are now on their fourth generation:
    Eugene Meyer
    Katherine Graham (I’m skipping the brief reign of her husband)
    Donald Graham
    Katherine Weymouth.
    That’s dynastic rule.
    Is there any major American corporation,
    other than those of the Sulzberger’s and Graham’s,
    that has been ruled, directly, hands-on, for four generations?
    What is the reason for that?
    Is it the desire to ensure American policies
    continue to be those desired by Israel?
    4. Many people in this blog recently supported
    designating AIPAC as a foreign agent.
    What about giving the Post that same designation?

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