Yesterday, on the first evening of Vice President Joe Biden’s official visit to Israel, when you’d think there would’ve been a state dinner to honor him, Bibi Netanyahu joined John Hagee in a massive Night to Honor Israel. Bibi pointedly dissed Biden while celebrating with Christians United for Israel, that country’s intransigence (or its adherence to God’s divine mission, depending on your point of view) and resistance to U.S. efforts to broker a peace agreement with the Palestinians. This night was full of praise for settlers and the most extreme of Israel nationalist politics. It was full of denunciation of peace and Arabs. It was fully of love for evangelical Christianity and revanchist Judaism, and smearing of Islam. Among Pastor John’s more memorable dinner quotations was one in which he called Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the “Hitler of the Middle East.”
Hagee bragged about the $58 million he’s given since 2001 to such Israeli far-right wing and settler groups as Im Tirtzu, Council of Young Israel Rabbis, Friends of Gush Katif, Yeshivat Har Bracha, Elon Moreh-Shehem, Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, Menachem Begin Heritage Center, Efrat Convention Center (better known as the John & Diana Hagee Lovingkindness Convention Center), Shurat HaDin, Gush Etzion Regional Council. I don’t yet have a breakout of how much he’s giving to each this year. If anyone out there has that information please let me know.
What is interesting about my analysis of the donees is that the only ones whose mission is political (and Hagee would view them not as political, but as theological) are the far-right settler groups. There are NO donee groups which have anything other than a pro-settler political agenda. While there ARE donees with no political content, all of them fall within the rubric of health, education, environment, and emergency and social services.
Hagee is leading his annual Israel pilgrimage from March 1-11th to Israel’s “holy places” like a “Middle East Intelligence Briefing” and Ir David, the settler group using archaeology as a pretext to expel Palestinians from their homes in Silwan and other historic East Jerusalem neighborhoods.
In case Biden didn’t get the message last night after being stood up by Bibi, today the government announced with pride the construction of 1,600 new units in occupied East Jerusalem. And this only hours after Biden had pledged the U.S.’ “unvarnished support” for Israel. Biden was forced to issue a strong statement pointing out that such actions are provocative and contrary to the best interests of peace. Which is all well and good. But in the final analysis, the Obama administration has given up on Israel-Palestine. Unless it is willing to follow up on statements like Biden’s with concrete action to fight new settlement construction, then all else is window dressing.
The announcement of the 1,600 new units is the Israeli equivalent of Congressman Joe Wilson’s “You lie” during Pres. Obama’s Congressional speech. With the difference being that his Republican colleagues publicly and privately reined him in. Bibi will get no such treatment. He is somehow entitled to run roughshod over this administration with no consequences for his impertinence. Think back to the last muscular presidents you can remember: do you think LBJ would’ve allowed him to get away with this? Or JFK?
This unfortunately is the age of Israel and its lobby and the Obama administration becomes the one led by the nose by the Bibiites. Think back a mere two days to the U.S. announcement that Israel-Palestine peace talks were resuming. I wrote here that the talks were a charade. As if to prove me right, Israel turns around and pokes its finger in the PA’s eye with the new construction on occupied territory. With each day that goes by I’m convinced that this is a conflict that cannot be resolved by the parties. Like Kosovo, Rwanda and other intractable ethnic wars, this one can only be solved by diplomatic intervention. The parties must be told what the settlement is (everyone knows the outline anyway) and be forced to stick to it. Recalcitrant parties should be shown Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick: legal and economic sanctions, war crimes trials, international no-fly lists, etc. I think both of them would get the message rather quickly. The biggest problem here is that things must be pretty awful for this international herd of elephants to become convinced that they must act. I fear that not enough have died and not horrifically enough as yet. But we must redouble our efforts to draw Security Council interest and lobby the EU and U.S. to find common cause on this issue.
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- APN Denounces New Israeli Settlement Plans in East Jerusalem (peacenow.org)
- Israel plans 1,600 new Jewish homes in Jerusalem as Biden arrives (telegraph.co.uk)
- Israel Humiliates Biden (andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com)