Who is the “Big Dog?”

Petit_et_grand_chien "Mobs of Jewish settlers went on a rampage in the West Bank Monday, attacking Palestinian laborers and setting fire to agricultural land to protest against an Israeli government crackdown on unauthorized outposts in the territory.

Six Palestinian laborers riding on a minivan were injured when stone-throwing settlers attacked them, the workers said.

The violence comes as the Obama administration is pressuring Israel to honor long-standing pledges to tear down wildcat settlement outposts in the West Bank and to freeze expansion in existing, government-sanctioned settlements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has balked at the U.S. demand to halt construction in existing settlements and faces stiff resistance within his hard-line government against taking down about two dozen of the outposts. The disagreement has caused a rift between the allies.

It has also put Jewish settlers and their backers in the Israeli government on the defensive.

Monday's violence was all deep inside the West Bank, where most of the hard-line settlements are located."  Yahoo news.


I have some sympathy for Natahyahu.  He has the problem of reconciling Americans' notions of Israel and their role as protectors and sponsors of Israel with Israeli and Zionist notions of Israel as a resolutely independent country that does not take "guidance" from anyone outside its own polity.  Americans have tended to think that in this relationship "who pays, says."  Natanyahu does not accept that.  This is a problem for him.

Israel was founded to foster the interests of the "Jewish People," not the interests of the Palestinian Arabs (Muslim or Christian) or the United States.  There is an inherent problem in American relations with Israel that starts with the idea of "the Jewish People."  The notion of the Jews being a "people" is a bit alien in America where Jews are traditionally thought of as a religious affiliation rather than an ethnic grouping.  American government does not deal domestically with Jews as other than a religious choice.  There are no set-aside preferential programs for Jews, no affirmative action, no immigration quotas (that I know of).  The armed forces, the Foreign Service, etc. do not have promotion quotas for Jews in the way these institutions have quotas for African-Americans, Asians, Amerindians, etc.  They are not officially considered to be an ethnic group any more than are Catholics, Buddhists, Wikkans, etc.

A large number of Americans think of Israel as a "project" of recompense and penitance towards the Jews for collective failure in not having somehow stopped Nazi mass murder against them.  Another large group of Americans are simply waiting for the rapture and the "end of days" role of the Jews.

Israelis, not surprisingly do not see themselves in these terms.  Typically, they are highly nationalistic and focused on their own task of survival as a "nation" against the hostile forces of militant Islam and competing Arab nationalism.  Israeli interest in religion as opposed to a supposed ethnic identity varies widely.  Many Israelis are not in the least religious.  Others are so religious that they reject the concept of the Israeli state itelf as inherently impious.

Natanyahu and his colleagues in government are clearly focused on the state interests of Israel.

The Obama Administration seems to see Israel as a client state within the sphere of American interests, a client that should understand who is "the big dog."

A contest of wills between these two understandings is rapidly emerging.  pl

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27 Responses to Who is the “Big Dog?”

  1. Highlander says:

    Perhaps Mr Obama doesn’t really understand who owns him. If not, he will eventually.

  2. rfjk says:

    Obviously, Highlander is not paying attention to changing US demographics across the constituent landscapes of America and its ever evolving political environment, especially among Jewish/Americans. Not to mention the massive paradigm shifts in foreign affairs and policies caused by the ‘greatest strategic disaster’ in US history. A Bush/Cheney/neocon gift from the warhawks of the welfare/warfare state that will keep on giving for a long time to come.
    Clearly, Obama is a new kind of politician simply because the political environment is in generational flux and change. Sizing this president up and all that come after him by previous and past measures based on ideology, partisanship, bigotry or usual ignorance’s misses the mark by the proverbial mile.
    The Israelis had best start paying attention. Today the majority consensus among the establishment of power in this country recognizes something must be done about the I/P situation in the Middle East. Its widely accepted in varying degrees that the previous state of affairs is not workable and a threat to US national interests & security in the region. Presently, the US still declares its support of the state of Israel, but pressures domestic and foreign are accelerating and impinging upon that ‘special relationship.’ They will not abate or go away and in the face of continued Israeli intransigence, tomorrow could be another story far worse than what Israelis are agonizing over today.

  3. J says:

    It’s time we put our American bulldog incisors into a chunk of Israeli hide and showed who’s the ‘big dog’. An American bulldog is one of three breeds that can put down a pit bull like it was a limp rag doll. Grrrrr.

  4. arbogast says:

    Obama has given the word lordotic new meaning beyond anything we have ever known.
    I, who thought that perhaps the bums had been thrown out, have come to accept that the bums are still in power.
    And as allies go, the US is looking a little more threadbare each day. Eventually Israel will wake up and realize that all the American shleppers in the world will be of little help.
    But I yearn for more peaceful times. I am tired of constant war and killing. When I was a child I remember hearing the casualty reports from Korea on the radio in our kitchen. I’m tired of it all.

  5. R Whitman says:

    We Americans think in the future tense. Ask an American where he or she will be two years from now and you get a detailed answer. Ask an Israeli or Palestinian the same question and you get an arguement about something that happened in 1985.
    During the recent Netanayu visit I noticed much less support from the American Jewish political class except for the wingnuts at AIPAC.
    Netanyu risks the US Government abandoning the two state solution and substituting a one state secular solution. At this point all it would take is a charismatic, unifying Palestinian to suceed Abbas whose term of office was up earlier this year and only has one more year of grace under Palestinian Basic Law.

  6. lowlander says:

    The Zionist Entity/Israel, is a “project” of the Anglo-American/Euro nobilities. Various factions within the Zionist entity have, for decades, vied for supremecy. Rabin’s asassination stands alone as the definitive moment in the “projects” status. Rabin being the more subservent faction to the Anglo-American/Euro elite/nobility. Bibi and Sharon and the extremist Likud faction have reigned supreme since Rabin’s assassination, defying their Euromasters. Arms sales to the entity are a salve for the Anglo-American Euro elites. The customer is always right, is that not the Military Industrial Complex mantra in this sordid tale?

  7. Highlander says:

    I have no doubt that a significant portion of the American Jewish diaspora is more than ready to flush their fellow Jews in Israel.
    Just as the “Kapos” were more than willing to help Hitler load and unload the trains on the way to the camps in WWII.
    The only question is are these the American Jews who really count, and how large is their number?
    You seem to have a handle on all these numbers. You tell us.

  8. JohnH says:

    “Mobs of Jewish settlers went on a rampage in the West Bank Monday, attacking Palestinian laborers and setting fire to agricultural land.” Under US law this would qualify as terrorism–setting fire to agricultural lands would be considered environmental terrorism.

  9. stickler says:

    It’s time we put our American bulldog incisors into a chunk of Israeli hide and showed who’s the ‘big dog’.
    Have you not been paying attention? No-Drama Obama doesn’t do things like this. But things get done. He was asked tonight, point-blank by NPR, about Netanyahu promising his cabinet not to do what Obama had asked. Obama’s answer was tactful, evasive, and predictable.
    But watch what happens. (Not what he says!) Chrysler bondholders threatened to hijack the deal last month; Obama said a few derogatory things; Chrysler bondholders got hosed. Did you notice that GM bondholders didn’t try the poker strategy this past week?
    I could be wrong, but I’m occasionally optimistic. Obama knows he faces a (potentially) dangerous domestic Likud lobby, and he’s proceeding carefully. As he’s done for his entire career, with some success. What good comes from slapping Netanyahu with a leather glove in public? ‘Mal sehen…, as they say in Vienna.

  10. Abu Sinan says:

    If Israelis push the “capo” argument against American Jews who dont tow the Likudnik line America might cease to be an Israeli ally a lot quick then our current heading shows!
    As a person who completely rejects the notion of any state set up to benefit one religion over another, I say to you “keep it up.”

  11. Walter says:

    Can those more knowledgable about this conflict correct me if I am wrong:
    Circa 1919, Zionists invaded and took over Palestinian lands by force with help of British army after WW1 (Balfour Declaration). Palestinians UNDERSTANDABLY pissed off and have been fighting ever since for their land back.
    Why can’t we just aim for Truth and Justice? Is it so difficult?
    Or is it too difficult to establish what the facts are in this conflict?

  12. arbogast says:

    Unfortunately, this is in French. But what it says is that Israel insists that Obama honor the pledges made to it by the Bush Administration.
    Honor Bush
    The Israeli’s, when in doubt, revert to childish petulance.

  13. Rider says:

    The occupation and the settlements are Israel’s greatest existential threat, and that is the basis on which the United States is insisting that settlement activity be frozen and that Israel commit itself with the Palestinians to work out a two state solution. The existential threat is “the demographic time bomb.” When Israel captured Palestinian territory in 1967, it captured Palestinians along with the land, Palestinians who in the space of a decade or so will outnumber Jews. The latest census shows the population in the occupied territories to be 51% non-Jewish. Once Arabs comprise the majority, they will vote Israel out of existence as “a Jewish state.” Hamas knows this and is content to wait out the process rather than negotiate a settlement. Once this happens, either Israel becomes a truly apartheid state ruled by a Jewish minority or “a state of all its citizens.” If Israel went the apartheid route and ceased to be democratic rather than cease to be Jewish, all ties with the US and with the rest of the world would be broken, the end of Israel as we know it. The only option is for Israel to get back within the borders it had up to 1967, become overwhelmingly Jewish once again, and live under a treaty of normalized relations with the entire Arab world as proposed since 2002. If there is a one state solution, it won’t be called Israel.

  14. jonst says:

    Shlomo Ben-Ami, history professor, and former Foreign Minister of Israel, in his book, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy, makes a very convincing argument that religious nationalism in Israel sprung up in the wake of 1967 war. And that even the most secular, Dyan, for instance, began to feel its tug. In fact….Ami makes a good case linking those (some, anyway) in the United States we call neocons today, and religious movement that came about in Israel in the late 60s early 70s.
    Is he correct? I don’t know enough about the subject to say one way or another. But it sounded rather plausible to me. It was well researched too.
    It makes a very good read for those interested in a history of the region.

  15. Eric Dönges says:

    Or is it too difficult to establish what the facts are in this conflict?
    The Israelis claim that the territory of Israel is historically theirs because God gave it to them (of course, they had to slaughter to original inhabitants first; see the Old Testament for details). The Palestinians claim it is theirs because they had been living on it for hundreds of years. Both sides also like to trot up any other number of justifications whenever it suits them.
    Personally, I would aim for what the original UN resolution(s) did – reaching a workable compromise instead of truth and justice, because the antagonists are probably never going to agree on what the “truth” actually is.

  16. David Habakkuk says:

    You aren’t by any chance the same ‘Highlander’ who runs the ‘From the Rock’ blog, are you?
    (See http://lonehighlander.blogspot.com/.)
    Whoever you are, the problem you raise about assessing how many American Jews are following along the kinds of path mapped out by, for example, Philip Weiss is certainly key.
    But if British experience is anything to go by, it may be very difficult to put numbers on this, because the complexities of people’s attitudes are not readily to be caught in opinion polls.
    On Sunday, my wife and I were at the 70th birthday celebration of an old friend. Born in Hamburg, on May 31, 1939, he was brought over not long after on one of the lasts boats out. He worked for a long time at the BBC, and seems somehow to have survived those closet anti-semitic propensities you attributed to that organisation some time back, as the party was a vast gathering of old faithfuls from the BBC’s drama departments, as well as the theatre.
    We sat at a table with my wife’s oldest friend, and her husband and her brother. Her mother made it across Europe from Vienna just before war broke out, and her father was from Istanbul — the family being ‘archetypal Wandering Jews’, as her brother put it. Her husband is Jewish-American, the family coming originally from the Ukraine.
    On Friday we had dinner with another old Jewish friend, whose mother worked at Bletchley Park during the war, and who used to run the BBC’s main economics programme, very successfully.
    So, you see, I have doing some fieldwork on these matters!
    Of course as you also think that ‘liberals’ tend to be closet anti-Semites, and these people are all in some sense ‘liberals’, you may think I have a sample consisting of ‘self-hating Jews’.
    In fact, there is a visible spectrum of opinion about Israel among such people, ranging from clear repudiation of Zionism, to strong Zionist commitment. In the middle, I am inclined to think, are many whose commitment to Israel, although real, is more negative than positive.
    Before the Holocaust, European Jews had little in common — indeed, many of those German Jews whom Hitler declared to mortal enemies of the ‘Volk’ self-identified simply as German, and did not see themselves as Jewish. The fact of the Holocaust gave very disparate people something fundamental in common, and makes natural a commitment to the survival and welfare of other Jews.
    The prospect of Israel foundering can easily seem like a re-enactment of the Holocaust. That however does not imply that people who feel this would necessarily see themselves as members of any ‘Jewish People’, still less of a ‘Jewish People’ as defined by the Jewish Agency: Dennis Ross and his friends.
    Until quite recently, it was not so difficult for people of intelligence and goodwill to imagine that, although we had not got there yet, at some point there would a two-state solution leading to a lasting peace, in which Israel could become a ‘normal’ country, and no longer need to repress Palestinians. This meant that tensions between commitment to Israel and unease about some of the actions of its government could be contained.
    But it is increasingly difficult to see how a two-state solution is on the cards, without believing in six impossible things before breakfast, to use Lewis Carroll’s phrase.
    The tension between fears for Israel’s survival, and the difficulty both of identifying with the Israel of Netanyahu and Liebermann and of seeing how the routes to which these people are committed can ensure survival, then becomes enormously difficult. And commonly, the conflict produces silence.
    It seems to me likely that a very significant number of British Jews are caught in this kind of conflict. And even though circumstances in the United States are very different, I would suspect that a significant number of American Jews is similarly caught. I also suspect that the most likely resolution, both in Britain and the United States, will in many cases eventually involve a parting of ways with Zionism. And if this is true of the children of the survivors, in my generation, I think it will be even more true of the grandchildren of the survivors, in the following one.

  17. William R. Cumming says:

    Okay time to cut the mustard so to speak! Let’s have a breakdown of non-practicing Jews residing in Israel, Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, and orthodox and Hasidic Jews? What percentages are these groups of current population? Do we INTEL Israel or not? How many dual US citizens?
    All this is background to NEW US policy to be announced by Labor Day 2009! The US will no longer provide any kind of foreign assistance to nation-states that do not adopt in their organic charter (see we are an exceptional and revolutionary state)the equivalent of the First Amendment to the US Constitution:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abrdging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
    No participation in muli-lateral organizations that don’t include such language or equivalent in their Charters and prohibit membership to those without such language or eqivalent in their nation-state governmental charters. You want a militant democratic crusade–you got one! Hey I would through in an equal rights amendment based on gender but guess that means we couldn’t join anything either! This is not facetious. If we are going to expend $3 trillion dollars on armed violence let’s get something for it.

  18. curious says:

    aha, but Israel does not have constitution. Officially, they are still thinking about writing one. ..
    The problem is exactly about the exact relationship nature between modern state vs. theological drive of israel state creation.
    Israel has been unable to adopt a constitution full blown, not because it does not share the new society understanding of constitution as fundamental law, but because of a conflict over what constitutes fundamental law within Israeli society. Many religious Jews hold that the only real constitution for a Jewish state is the Torah and the Jewish lawhalakhah.that flows from it. They not only see no need for a modern secular constitution, but even see in such a document a threat to the supremacy of the Torah and the constitutional tradition associated with it that has developed over thousands of years to serve the Jewish people in their land and in the diaspora

  19. Charles I says:

    Perhaps the question is evolving, in the public’s mind any how, to just who exactly has been a good dog; and who has been a bad dog; and just who exactly is it that has been treated like the proverbial dog, force-fed the shit end of the stick every time, then beaten with it for good measure.
    Sometimes its not about size.
    But until there’s an actual cost imposed on Israel, the UN SC veto withheld, arms embargoes and ICC trials, don’t change your bets on this dog file.

  20. William R. Cumming says:

    Okay no constitution for Israel! Then sitting as a joint version of highest court with both religious and secular scholars, this body sua sponte and self-initiated interprets Israels entire history and determines that first amendment principles apply throughout Israel. The end does justify the means. US support over next few decades for a secular Israel. You say such an Israeli state cannot exist then about about a referendum of all citizens and resident aliens in Israeli as to their views? Majority or 2/3 or whatever wins! A state that does not resolve its most basic contradictions [US did finally resolve slavery] in my judgement will not continue to exist.

  21. euclidcreek says:

    “Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen, before Israel goes under.” – Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in an interview 1/31/03.

  22. curious says:

    “Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen, before Israel goes under.” – Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in an interview 1/31/03.
    Posted by: euclidcreek | 03 June 2009 at 02:41 PM”
    That would be true in the 60’s, with US/europe supply. But as time progresses, Israel depends more and more on US supply. And increasingly maintenance and training.
    Next generation fighters, ships, and tanks will be even more so. Israel barely can afford current generation of military gear. Once they enter space and naval arms race against Iran, they will have to spend 5-10times current military expenditure.
    If Hezbollah gains expertise on making explosives and effective remote detonation, things will get exponentially expensive supplying settlements. The west bank will not be sustainable if it is turned into war.

  23. SAC Brat says:

    Cowpie question:
    How is US/Israel different than China/North Korea?

  24. Highlander says:

    Professor Van Crevald has a valid point. Unlike a large percentage of current Western peoples, the Israelis will not go quietly into the night if it comes down to the crunch.
    Israel could easily take down the Middle Eastern oil complex if it were facing annilation.
    Then there won’t be any regular gas at all for the Colonel’s Escalade, and all of our villas will be foreclosed on. Not to mention no fertilzer for the next grain crop.
    We live in interesting times don’t we?

  25. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    The simple facts are that British Imperial strategy (proto-Great Game) created a space in the Middle East for Zionist settlement. This was Palmerston’s policy as of 1839 advised by his Christian fundamentalist son in law, Ashley Cooper.
    The subsequent discovery of hydrocarbons in the region (Mosul-Kirkuk etc.) and the British navy’s shift from coal to oil (Cricket class etc.) in the early 20th century upped the strategic ante.
    Thus British policy was to secure in whole or in part the zone called “Palestine” so as to be able to best exploit the oil resources of what is today northern Iraq. And thus the Mosul-Kirkuk area was incorporated into the entity called “Iraq” which was created by the British. Sykes-Picot and all that…
    By having control over Palestine (or at least the Haifa area) one could run pipelines from Mosul-Kirkuk in “Iraq” to Haifa for refining. In the run-up to the Iraq War the Neocons talked about reviving the old Iraq-Haifa pipeline project and etc….

  26. David Habakkuk says:

    euclidcreek, curious:
    The van Creveld remarks — rather like the famous Ahmadijehad quote which is commonly rendered as proposing that Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’ — is a classic example of the dangers of taking statements out of context. In both cases, the effect is to further heat the temperature about nuclear threats, which is precisely the opposite of what is necessary at this moment.
    If you look at the full text of the van Creveld interview, it becomes apparent that what is being expressed is actually apocalyptic despair.
    (The text is http://www.rense.com/general34/dutchisraelimilitary.htm.)
    What van Creveld was saying was that, by continuing along the routes down which they were headed, Israelis would ‘destroy ourselves.’ He personally advocated building a wall ‘so high that not even a bird could fly over it’ along the old border, but he doubted whether Israeli public opinion would wear this any longer — they would not surrender the gains of 1967, hanging on to which means trying to control a large Palestinian population. But as he saw it — and for what it is worth van Creveld is widely regarded as a a leading authority on wars against non-state actors — the long-term suppression of such a population was impossible.
    Accordingly, the logic pointed to the expulsion of the Palestinians. It was when he was asked whether the world would ‘allow that kind of ethnic cleansing’ that van Creveld came up with the remark about most European capitals being ‘targets for our air force’.
    So it is depair about the directions in which Israel is headed, rather than exuberant confidence in its military might, which lies behind the remarks about the country having the ‘capacity to take the world down with us’, and the assurance that that this ‘will happen, before Israel goes under’.

  27. curious says:

    Regime change game on the US has begun.
    Additionally, Peled called for giving away sensitive US technology to other countries against previous agreements.
    But in the interim, the minister suggests reconsidering military and civilian purchases from the US, selling sensitive equipment that the Washington opposes distributing internationally, and allowing other countries that compete with the US to get involved with the peace process and be given a foothold for their military forces and intelligence agencies.
    Apart from that, boycotting Boeing and other US military contractors should be brought into the discussion.
    Here the article details Peled’s plans for influencing US politics toward Israeli interests:
    In what may be his most controversial suggestion, Peled recommends intervening in American congressional races to weaken Obama and asking American Jewish donors not to contribute to Democratic congressional candidates. He predicted that this would result in Democratic candidates pressuring Obama to become more pro-Israel.
    Peled called for the formation of a new body intended to influence American public opinion. The groups he suggests courting include Hispanic Americans and Labor unions in industries that benefit from Israeli military acquisitions.

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