Tag Archives | Turkey

Why is Israel Considered a Strategic Ally?

I’ve wondered why Israel was ever considered a ‘strategic ally’ of the US in the Arab world?  And I especially don’t get it now.

Some people peg it to the Cold War.  If the Soviets supported Nassar, the US needed to counter-balance with Israel.  Others say we share democratic systems with Israel, calling it an oasis of democracy in an authoritarian part of the world.  Unfortunately, the US has seldom made democracy a top priority for its allies, and after OPEC was founded America assiduously courted all the Arab authoritarian oil-producers with promises of security garauntees and arms sales.   In return, led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC kept the price of oil within a set range by manipulating supply. That’s strategic!  Even before OPEC, the US displayed a rather cynical view of democracy in the region, having supported a British-inspired 1953 coup d’etat  against the democratically elected government of newly independent Iran and replaced it with the brutal rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi.  We’ve been paying ever since.

Israel as a state grew out of the carnage of WW2.  One factor in the US and Western embrace of Israel was certainly that the Jewish people had a right to a state with defensible borders. And the European Jews who emigrated to Israel during and after Nazi rule were certainly more familiar culturally than the Islamic-Muslim states nearby.  American Jews have been going back and forth to Israel in droves since it was established. So there is a social cultural bond that spans continents.

Maybe I don’t understand the term ‘strategic ally.’  Certainly none of the above reasons explains why so many American politicians in both parties have developed a myopic ‘Israel right or wrong’ policy that directly conflicts with twenty years of official US policy concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli settlement expansion.

Israel is an ally but so is Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and several other smaller Persian Gulf states.  Calling Israel a ‘strategic ally’ gives it an importance that is harder and harder to justify.

George H. W. Bush was the last in a line of GOP presidents to seek a balanced policy in the Middle East,  at least to the extent of convincing the PLO to sign the Oslo Accords believing that Israel would negotiate if it had US security protocols backing it.   George Bush 41 famously held up loan guarantees to Israel until it signed the Oslo Peace Accords.  Unfortunately, the Oslo process turned into a joke over the last two decades, with no American President holding either side accountable for throwing new obstacles up to the peace process on a yearly basis.

Meanwhile,  AIPAC and other politically oriented American Jewish groups shifted into overdrive to build their numbers and influence in American politics.   And under Bush 43, they merged their interests in an informal marriage of convenience with Christian fundamentalists who support Israel based on Biblical  prophesy  in Revelations that predicts the conversion of Jews to accept Jesus Christ or their damnation in hell.

Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that while evangelicals had a role, the changed post-Sept. 11 world should not be underestimated as a factor. Republican presidents such as Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush operated in a Cold War arena in which cultivating allies among Israel’s rivals and enemies may have made sense — but that is no longer the case, he said.

“There were elements in the realist camp who may have seen Israel not as a strategic ally,” Brooks said of the presidency of the first George Bush. “Given how things have developed — the global war on terror, the rise of militant Islam — that doesn’t make any sense anymore.”

Brooks is one who makes no sense.  9/11 changed US strategic interests, and Israel has thumbed its nose at some of those changes for twelve years.  America’s interest in 2001 was to isolate and destroy the terrorists while assuring Arab and Muslim countries that America was not at war with them.  Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have been the one act which, after the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, might win back some good will among Arabs towards America. By the time President Bush got serious about peace six years after 9/11, it was too late.  Although the Bush Administration, like Clinton, threw a Hail Mary pass for Middle East peace during the last months of its second term, it was too late.

In taking office, Netanyahu courted the far right in Israel and solidified the ‘refusnik’ branch of the Israeli body politic.  Although General Petraeus, six former NSC heads and most recently Defense Secretary Panetta have warned that continuation of the Israel/Palestine conflict runs counter to US interests in the area, both Presidents Bush 43 and Obama continued with uncritical support of the Netanyahu government.

Israel under Netanyahu is openly dismissive of US security interests and proves it by making no attempt to restart peace negotiations.  The US Congress, afraid of offending donors, has caved to Netanyahu’s hawkish narrative to the extent of supporting Israeli policies directly at odds with US foreign policy and undermining the President of the United States.

Israel’s increasingly hard-line refusnik policy towards peace, its unrepentant settlement expansion deep into the West Bank and Netanyahu’s desire to wipe the negotiation history of over 20 years clean and start over – all have hurt the US standing not just in the Arab world but globally.  Large parts of the Arab world think peace negotiations are a sham and ridicule the tail-wagging-dog relationship between Israel and Washington.

Over the past year, Israel’s ‘strategic alliance’ with the US has taken an even more ominous direction.  While the formerly autocratic post-independence Arab autocrats are being replaced by more open, democrat governments, Israel doubles down, saying it’s impossible to have peace with so much upheaval.  More pointedly, Israel has destroyed its own relationship with Turkey, a NATO member and real ‘strategic’ ally of the US and Egypt, with whom its co-existed peacefully for over 30 years.

A strategic ally doesn’t ignore all requests by the US to ease up on settlements.  A strategic ally doesn’t manufacture a fight with the President on US soil to court members of the opposite party.  A strategic ally tries to work with its partner in influencing the direction of diplomacy in a region.  It doesn’t kiss a NATO ally of its ‘strategic partner’  goodby and good riddance over a hubristic refusal to apologize for killing nine of its citizens.  It doesn’t keep throwing the region out of balance by its own blunders even as the region navigates upheavals of its own.

Israel is no strategic ally to the US.  Maybe President Obama should study Bush 41′s playbook and get serious.

 

 

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The Arab Spring

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Netanyahu: Not Just Stupid but Dangerous

Ahmadinejad is one thing.  But I think Netanyahu is so far out of touch with reality he’s dangerous.  And he does have atomic weapons.

The Israeli government has everything going against it.  Turkey is taking it to the ICC and downgrading diplomatic relations.  Egypt now has troops in the Sinai for the first time since 1979, with Israel OK-ing this violation of the 1979 peace accords.  Internal demands for housing and a more equal economy are bringing hundreds of thousands of protesters into the street.  The UN will vote on Palestinian statehood next month.

Netanyahu is far, far out of his league.  He has no intention of nor idea about how to relieve the pressure on the country.  If this isn’t an existential crisis, I don’t know what is.  Yet what does Netanyahu do with this and all his other crises: double down. When will Israelis begin to ask:  who lost Turkey?  Who lost Egypt?  The relations it took Israel 30 years to build up in the region are unraveling before Israelis’ eyes.  (disclosure: I am not Jewish)  This government is a danger to itself, the region and Jews everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Turkey Expels Israeli Ambassador

In a move sure to rattle the region, Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador to Turkey, suspended military cooperation and downgraded diplomatic ties.  Turkey took issue with yesterday’s UN report saying the Israeli blockade is legal:

“Turkey will take all measures which it sees as necessary for freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean,” Davutoglu said.

“Turkey does not recognize Israel’s blockade of Gaza. It will secure the study of this blockade at the International Court of Justice. We are beginning initiatives to get the UN General Assembly moving on this,” he added.

 

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Growing Isolation of Assad

Over the weekend Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait withdrew ambassadors to Sytia and yesterday Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Syrian President Bashir al-Asad and pushed him to cease killing civilians at once and to implement reforms.  Assad replied that he will not quit fighting the ‘terrorists.’

Turkey has declared the Syrian conflict to be a ‘nearly internal’ problem for Turks given the 500 miles of border the countries share.  Over the past few years, Turkey has reached out to Assad and other neighboring Arab states in an attempt to increase its leverage in the area.  However, according to some analysts, the check-checkmate duo to watch are Saudi Arabia and Tehran.  How far will Tehran go in supporting al-Assad, a long-time friend?

Almost the entire world is against the Assad regime’s brutal suppression of protests and large-scale killings of civilians.  Assad seems immune to those condemnations.  However, according to Syria Comment  rumors are swirling that Syria’s business elite are preparing for life without Assad.  Losing the support of one of his most loyal constituencies would weaken Assad in ways a hundred international condemnations couldn’t.

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Poll Shows Arab/Muslim States’ Dim View of US

The latest Pew Research Center Report on how people in Arab and Muslim states see the US and President Obama was released yesterday.  It’s not pretty:

 

With the exception of Indonesia, Obama remains unpopular in the Muslim nations polled, and most disapprove of the way he has handled calls for political change roiling the Middle East. Moreover, many of the concerns that have driven animosity toward the U.S. in recent years are still present — a perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally, opposition to the war on terror, and fears of America as a military threat. And in countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan, most say their own governments cooperate too much with the U.S.

 

The poll was conducted before the death of Bin Laden and the Hamas-Fatah deal.  Both would likely drive up unfavorable and disapproval categories.  How long can the US afford to have favorable ratings below 10% across the Muslim world and confidence in Obama above 50% only in Indonesia and only 10% in Turkey. Obama seems strangely out of touch with Arab and Muslim nations.  Western, Arab and Muslim elites were taken by surprise when the wave of Middle East and North African democracy movements broke out in Tunisia.  But public disgust with ossified, corrupt governments had been simmering for decades.  Pew poll numbers on Arab and Islamic countries’ views of America began plummeting a year ago.  It would be condescending for the Administration to think that the election of the first African-American President and a great speech two years ago would move the favorable needle up without the concrete follow-up on Middle East peace and troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

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