FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Congressional Catering to Netanyahu Must End

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Four years ago, the U.S. Congress invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint congressional session as part of his campaign to defeat the Obama administration’s efforts to negotiate the Iranian nuclear accord.  Netanyahu’s address was an unacceptable interference in the U.S. domestic political arena and should have been challenged.  President Obama refused to hold a private meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister but, before leaving office, the president signed the most generous military aid package ever given to the Israelis.  Thus, Netanyahu paid no price for lobbying in our congress against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Last week, 400 members of the Senate and House of Representatives presented Netanyahu with another gift in the form of letter to President Trump advocating a Middle East policy that fully indulged the Israeli agenda for the region.  The fact that the letter coincided with Netanyahu’s floundering efforts to form a new Israeli government suggests that the Congress was trying to enhance the Israeli prime minister’s efforts.  Clearly, the U.S. president and the U.S. Congress are on the same page in trying to boost Netanyahu’s standing.

The letter to the president was presented as a U.S. regional security agenda for the Middle East, but the recommendations that concerned Syria and Iran were thoroughly consistent with Israeli (and Saudi) proclamations and propaganda. Israeli and Saudi spokesmen have been lobbying the Congress in recent months for such a statement and, in gaining a letter signed by most Democratic and Republican party leaders, the capitals of Jerusalem and Riyadh have been well rewarded. (Five congressional contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination signed the letter, indicating that they would continue the one-sided policy of the current administration.)

The letter elevates Israeli (and Saudi) security concerns to the highest priority and falsely argues that the United States shares these concerns.  Terrorist groups in Syria represent a challenge to Israeli national security, but it is ludicrous to argue that the “main purpose” of these groups is to “plan and implement attacks against…the U.S. homeland.”  The emphasis on the threat from Iran is also consistent with the Israeli (and Saudi) playbook for the greater Middle East, but distorts the limited challenge that Tehran represents to U.S. interests.

In conveying the Israeli national security viewpoint, the letter obfuscates the importance of the United States finding a way to reduce its role in the Middle East where a series of Washington administrations have wasted resources in confronting growing regional instability.  The U.S. commitment to Israel is sufficiently strong and even one-sided; it is in no need of greater enhancement.  But the congressional letter emphasizes that the United States must continue to defend Israel against “growing threats” without acknowledging that Israel is a relative superpower in the region, no longer requiring massive U.S. blandishment.

The U.S. problem in the greater Middle East is one of too much visibility; the solution is to lower the U.S. role in the region.  The congressional letter assumes that any threat to Israel is equal to a threat to the United States.  In fact, it was the U.S. invasion of Iraq that put the region on the current path to instability in the first place. The congressional letter merely continues Washington’s escalation of the Iran problem that could lead to confrontation. The U.S. demonization of Iran must stop.

The key to solving the problem with Iran is to return to the diplomatic tool that produced the JCPOA.  This marked a successful exercise in international diplomacy and a potential tool for reviving a moderate community in Tehran.  We need to ignore the demands of Israel (and Saudi Arabia) and find a way to establish a diplomatic dialogue with Iran that leads to the eventual restoration of diplomatic relations that were broken 40 years ago.  The congressional letter plays into an unfortunate U.S.-Israeli-Saudi triangle that finds the Saudis and Israelis successfully worsening the U.S.-Iranian relationship (such as it is).

The Syrian situation is much too complex for any easy solution, particularly because of the presence of so many non-Arab forces and interests, including the United States, Israel, Iran, Turkey, and Russia. Donald Trump’s back-and-forth pronouncements on a U.S. military presence have not helped to stabilize the situation. Unfortunately, a token U.S. presence must remain in Syria in order for the United States to have a place at any bargaining table.  Syria probably cannot be restored as an effective nation-state until the Assad dynasty (approaching 50 years) comes to an end, but greater Russian and Iranian influence should not be assumed because of their non-Arab credentials in this tribal arena.

The greater problem for the U.S. is dealing effectively with Israel and Saudi Arabia, the traditional twin pillars of U.S. policy in the region.  The energy revolution in the United States means that we are no longer dependent on Saudi oil, and should be using leverage for genuine reform in Saudi Arabia.  The White House and the Congress should stop playing to the worst sides of Bibi Netanyahu, and should start making genuine efforts to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority in order to seek a path toward a two-state solution.  The congressional catering to Bibi Netanyahu and the presidential catering to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and his criminal behavior must stop.

More articles by:

Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. and A Whistleblower at the CIA. His forthcoming book is American Carnage: Donald Trump’s War on Intelligence” (City Lights Publishers, 2019).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 19, 2019
Matthew Stevenson
Requiem for a Lightweight: the Mayor Pete Factor
Kenneth Surin
In China Again
Stephen Cooper
Abolishing the Death Penalty Requires Morality
George Ochenski
The DNC Can’t Be Allowed to Ignore the Climate Crisis
John W. Whitehead
The Omnipresent Surveillance State
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
Guaidó’s Star Fades as His Envoys to Colombia Allegedly Commit Fraud With Humanitarian Funds for Venezuela
Dave Lindorff
What About Venezuela’s Hacked Power Grid?
Howard Lisnoff
Try Not to Look Away
Binoy Kampmark
Matters of Water: Dubious Approvals and the Adani Carmichael Mine
Karl Grossman
The Battle to Stop the Shoreham Nuclear Plant, Revisited
Kani Xulam
Farting in a Turkish Mosque
Dean Baker
New Manufacturing Jobs are Not Union Jobs
Elizabeth Keyes
“I Can’t Believe Alcohol Is Stronger Than Love”
June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: USA Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail