Biden Names Blinken Secretary of State, Israel Lobby Pleased
Today, President-elect Biden named key members of his foreign policy team. First among them is Tony Blinken, a long-time aide, as Secretary of State. During the campaign, Blinken spoke frequently to Israel Lobby groups and reassured them that his boss would be an ardent supporter of Israel. Blinken never offered outreach to the Muslim-American community and made no such commitments to them regarding Palestine. In fact, he angered it by claiming in a conference call with pro-Israel leaders that the Palestinians had made “bad choices.”
Blinken is Jewish and his stepfather was noted Franco-American Holocaust survivor-memoirist, Samuel Pisar. He miraculously survived incarceration in numerous death camps and went on to earn a Harvard law degree and doctorate from the Sorbonne. He served as well, as a foreign policy advisor for Pres. Kennedy in the 1960s. After earning his law degree, Blinken wrote for several years for Martin Peretz’s New Republic, in its pro-Israel iteration. In the 1990s he joined Biden’s Senate staff, playing increasingly important roles for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then serving as Biden foreign and national security policy advisor. During the Obama administration he became the number two figure at the State Department. He becomes the third Jewish secretary of state.
He will have a huge, almost impossible task reviving a hollowed-out State Department battered by the cronyism and ideological thuggery of Mike Pompeo. Hundreds of senior staff have left in despair. Key ambassadorial and diplomatic posts remain empty. Others were fired in fits of pique or after they became whistleblowers. It will take a massive effort to right this ocean liner which has already been damaged by the Trump iceberg. Some of his broader foreign policy objectives were outlined here in this podcast.
For these reasons, I doubt Biden’s top priority will be Israel-Palestine. It’s too intractable. The Israelis are too dug in and maintain too much firepower in domestic lobbying for the incoming president to make any headway. It will be four years of benign neglect in the hope that no major massacre or genocide spoils the interval. And that will be just fine as far as Israel’s right-wing government is concerned. That will permit it to continue its expansionist settlement program, its dispossession of Palestinians, and prevention of a Palestinian state.
Others have noted with alarm, Blinken’s interventionist approach to U.S. foreign policy:
Biden has named Tony Blinken his Secretary of State. Blinken was key to shoring up Democrat support for Iraq invasion and instrumental in US role in regime change wars in Ukraine, Libya and Syria. We are back to “smart” wars and they are no less deadly.
— Danny Haiphong (@SpiritofHo) November 23, 2020
Blinken, Biden and the Lobby: Not an Inch of Daylight Between Them
During the campaign, Blinken’s most notable comments were made in a conference call to pro-Israel leaders hosted by the Democratic Majority for Israel. DMI is a hawkish group which is the Democratic Party version of Aipac. Though the latter claims it is bipartisan, it’s common knowledge that the vast majority of its membership, donors and leaders are Republican. Thus, DMI was manufactured to ensure that Democrats would not stray too far from the pro-Israel party line. The group has regularly acted as an enforcer within the Party when candidates espouse positions considered anti-Israel.
Among those who’ve been taken to the woodshed are Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The group sunk over $1-million in ads in the Iowa primary attacking Bernie Sanders. Strangely, the ads didn’t mention Sanders’ views on Israel, which are anathema to the group. After Sanders ended in a virtual tie for first place in the primary, either Biden told DMI to call the dogs off or the group decided it had wasted its money.
By then, Obama, Clyburn and other Party grandees persuaded most of the moderate presidential candidates to drop out of the race, which nullified Sanders advantage as the leading progressive running. Biden then swept to victory.
When Blinken spoke to DMI, he didn’t disappoint. Among the troubling statements he made, was this old saw about not washing our dirty linen in public:
Joe Biden believes strongly in keeping your differences to the greatest extent possible, between friends, behind doors– having it out as necessary, but maintaining as little daylight as possible in public. You don’t want to put people in a corner, when it comes to your friends and partners, in public. You’re much more effective when you have a difference of opinion when you disagree on a policy matter in dealing with it in private– doing it clearly, forcefully, effectively, but not airing to the greatest extent possible any dirty laundry in public.
In contrast to three other candidates, Blinken told the pro-Israel crowd that Biden would never pressure Israel by conditioning U.S. aid on a settlement freeze or any other Israeli policy choice. This is Israel’s Get-out-of-jail-free card:
He [Biden] is resolutely opposed to [conditions on aid]. He would not tie military assistance to Israel to any political decisions it makes. Period. Full stop. He said it, he’s committed to it.
Blinken also advanced the quaint, nostalgic notion that there is, or should be a “bipartisan consensus” on Israel. This flies in the face of the clear dichotomy in support by Republicans and Democrats for the far-right policies of the current Israeli government. Even the vast majority of American Jews despise Netanyahu and the Likud.
There can be no bipartisan consensus on injustice, war crimes, and apartheid. These are crimes that cannot be papered over with happy talk. We must call it what it is, whether Biden and Blinken like it or not.
That doesn’t matter to Biden or Blinken, because the vast majority of American Jews don’t write massive checks to presidential candidates. The Jews who do have vast wealth and are ardently pro-Israel. By which, I mean that they don’t just support Israel, they support the Israeli government and take their guidance from it and its foreign agents of the Lobby. In other words, Blinken and his boss know on which side their bread is buttered and aim to keep it slathered.
Blinken clearly doesn’t feel the progressive wing of the Party merits any consideration, as he showed in this stinging criticism:
But equally wrong are those [on the left] who dismiss the daily and existential threats that Israel faces or who don’t call out Palestinians for the very bad choices that they make. The failure to recognize the right and reality of the Jewish state.
There is of course room for legitimate criticism of some Israeli policies, but that doesn’t define the relationship and too often that slides into antisemitism. So we need to call that out as well. Our party, the Democratic Party, should model what has been a bipartisan consensus.
How can anyone with a brain in their head deny that Israeli Occupation, apartheid and ongoing suffocation of Palestinian national rights “define” Israel’s relations with the U.S.? And how can such a brain-dead person claim that criticism of Israel for these outrageous violations of international law and decades-worth of U.S. policy “slides into anti-Semitism?” For what feels like the thousandth time, anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews. It has nothing to do with Israel unless the individual is conflating Israel with Jews. And by the way, how does one slide into anti-Semitism?
Even Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy advisor has become a Blinken admirer:
This is a good choice. Tony has the strong confidence of the president-elect and the knowledge and experience for the important work of rebuilding US diplomacy.
It will also be a new and great thing to have a top diplomat who has regularly engaged with progressive grassroots. https://t.co/NglVbp9YCa
— Matt Duss (@mattduss) November 23, 2020
Which “progressive grassroots” has Blinken regularly engaged with? Jewish or Palestinian progressives? Muslim-Americans? No to both. Duss may be looking for a job in the incoming administration after Sanders loss in the primary. But whatever the reason, this puffery is disappointing.
This is going to be a long four years for progressives concerned about Israel-Palestine. About the only thing we can do is continue supporting the progressive wing of the Party in Congress, support new candidates it endorses to expand the base, and promote grassroots movements like BDS, which is not dependent on electoral victories. The more of these victories there are, the weaker the Lobby will become and the sooner the Democrats can offer a more robust, progressive Middle East policy.
Rep. Ilhan Omar put forth a ringing vision of a progressive U.S. Middle East policy in The Nation:
Instead of siding with one group of dictators over another, we should position ourselves at an equal distance from both, allowing ourselves to be honest brokers, protecting our national security and interests while promoting human rights and democracy. We can hold Iran accountable for its human rights violations while also holding Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the UAE accountable.
This applies to the occupation as well. Ignoring the suffering of the Palestinians runs counter to our most basic values. Moreover, it threatens our national security. No less a figure than Trump’s former defense secretary said that the United States pays “a military price every day” for our role in perpetuating the occupation. As I have said before, we must reinsert the call for a two-state solution with full human rights and self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians back into the public debate with urgency.
More broadly, we must recognize that keeping tens of thousands of troops in the region is a failed endeavor. When people’s only interaction with the United States is through weapons sales and our military presence, they see us as an imperialist occupying force. It also sends a signal to the rest of the world that we care more about material interests like oil than we do about democracy or human rights.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reorient our foreign policy away from shortsighted military alliances and toward justice. We can create an America that means what it says when we claim to stand for human rights and democracy. An end to arms sales to dictators. An end to collective punishment of innocent civilians. And renewed support for multilateralism and accountability. I hope President Biden seizes this opportunity.
What Are We Likely to See in a Biden-Blinken Middle East policy?
Don’t expect much. They’ll possibly reopen the East Jerusalem U.S. consulate; possibly reopen the Palestinian consulate in Washington DC. They’ll resume funding for UNWRA and the PA. None of this will fundamentally alter the calculus of Palestinian suffering and oppression. Palestinians don’t need humanitarian aid or handouts, as much as they need political power and agency. If you can’t guarantee that, you’re fooling yourself. That seems to be a liberal Zionist preoccupation, and Blinken and Biden are chief examples.
They’ll continue the mealy-mouthed token opposition to Israeli settlements offered by president’s going back decades (with the exception of Trump). But they won’t move the embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv. It’s even doubtful they will rescind Trump recognition of Israeli annexation of the Golan and Israeli settlements, among the most damaging features of the soon to be ex-president’s pro-Israel policy.
Where Biden may make his most critical mark is on Iran. He’s announced that he plans to return to the JCPOA nuclear deal negotiated by Pres. Obama. He’s also denounced Saudi behavior including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and its war on Yemen. This would mark a decided pivot away from Trump’s fawning approval of every act by the Crown Prince, whether the murder of journalists or Yemeni children.
Despite a Senate that may be controlled by Republicans, Biden may attempt to tone down the stridency of Trump pronouncements on Iran. In order to return to JCPOA, he would have to remove sanctions. A test of how far he will go to improve ties would be investing political capital in lifting sanctions, which would in turn persuade the Iranians that he is serious. If he goes through the motions, but does little, the Iranians will have no interest in such an act of political theater. In that case, Biden will have little or nothing to show for his efforts.
18 thoughts on “Biden Names Blinken Secretary of State, Israel Lobby Pleased – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.
Biden will see the Abraham Accord as reason to continue Obama’s plan for a gradual, strategic American withdrawal from the Middle East.
Blinken and Biden probably think that Trump’s crushing sanctions have weakened Iran and that America can now leverage Iran into signing a revised JCPOA. This is wrongheaded.
Khameini and his hardliners in Iran will never seriously re-negotiate with America. Not since Trump tore up the JCPOA agreement and not since America assassinated General Solimani. Not happening.
Iran will talk to America only insofar as getting sanctions removed and will ‘slow walk’ Blinken while she enriches a fissionable uranium stockpile.
Iran must project strength to the Arab world, so Iran will double down on Syria, using her proxies there to harass Israel while maintaining ‘strategic depth’.
Nonsense, America isn’t going anywhere. Not to mention that Blinken is quite the interventionist. So if starting and fighting wars is your indication of American engagement, then you won’t be disappointed in him. But rejecting regional tyrants like MBS isn’t withdrawal. It’s upholding principle, which we still have a few of.
First, Iran has already signaled willingness to return to JCPOA protocols. And it would not do so because “it is weak.” It would do so because it is in its interest to do so–as long as Biden delivers on his end, which the U.S. failed to do during the Obama era.
Utter nonsense, when Iran says it will return to compliance that means it will drastically reduce its uranium stockpile. If it doesn’t do that then it’s out of compliance. It knows that. Everyone except you and your fellow hasbaroids seems to know that as well.
You haven’t a clue what you’re talking about. You know nothing about Iran. You know nothing about its views, policies or interests. Yet here you opine like a fool as if you do. You are transparent.
75% of American Jews voted for Biden. The minority with the biggest impact on the Democratic party, not least because of its funds.
It is natural that American Jews would support Israel. Yet it appears to you that it is some surprise that Blinken would take into consideration the issue dear to their heart. It is only natural.
Can you explain why you consider Palestine to be a ‘Muslim’ issue when the Arab lobby is mainly staffed with Arab Christians?
Really? Bigger than African-Americans? Of whom there are twice as many? Bigger than Latinos? An even larger population? As for funds, yes American Jews make huge financial contributions to Democrats.
But American Jews do not support Israeli policies nor its government, nor it leaders. Wealthy American Jewish leaders who represent less than 1% of the overall number of Jews here do support right-wing Israeli policies carte blanche. Blinken is not catering to American jews. He’s catering to the pro-Likud 1% of the American Jewish financial elite.
Well golly gee. Could be because over 80% of Palestinians are Muslim and the Haram al Sharif is situated in Palestine.
Utter nonsense. First, I have no idea what the “Arab Lobby” is. Sounds like Arabophobia to me. CAIR? A Muslim organization. Arab American Anti Discrimination COmmittee? A small group. Who else did you have in mind? As for your claim that these groups, such as they are, are staffed by “Arab Christians,” you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.
Remember Islamophobia, racism and prejudice of any kind is not permitted here. Consider that a warning.
You call me a fool, yet you read my comments very carefully and you respond in detail.
“Utter nonsense, when Iran says it will return to compliance that means it will drastically reduce its uranium stockpile. If it doesn’t do that then it’s out of compliance”.
Iran is already out of compliance. Iran now has more than 10 times the amount of enriched uranium permitted under an international agreement, the UN’s nuclear watchdog says.
I wonder what the IAEA found at those two undisclosed Iranian nuclear sites that the IAEA only recently inspected? Did the IAEA inspectors physically go inside and inspect the sites, or were they only allowed to take outdoor soil samples?
You know a lot about Iran, Richard, so you can tell us about these inspections.
@ Wunsch: I read all the comments carefully. But I’m especially concerned with hasbara trolls like you introducing red herring arguments that misrepresent and mislead. THat is why I spend the time I do pointing out the errors, lies and distortions in your comments.
Speaking of that, I’m introducing a new rule that applies to you. Since you are prolific as a commenter here, you may post a single comment in any particular thread. But no more. Consider that rule to apply from now to any future thread or comment you wish to publish.
Iran is not out of compliance concerning all the JCPOA protocols. It has been selective in choosing what it will comply with and what it won’t. As for enriched uranium, Iran specifically said that once the U.S. withdrew from the agreement Iran was no longer bound by it at all. But rather than completely abandon it, Iran said that it would choose specific provisions to abandon and maintain the rest. And it has done that. While the US withdrew completely. It takes a lot of fucking nerve for you & the Israelis to geschrei about Iran being out of compliance when the US sought to wreck the deal entirely.
Rather than offer whispers and unfounded claims, I’d rather wait to find out what the IAEA actually knows about those inspections. Innuendo is not proof nor fact. Much as you would like it to be so.
Too much to hope for, but I did: “But they won’t move the embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv. It’s even doubtful they will rescind Trump recognition of Israeli annexation of the Golan and Israeli settlements, among the most damaging features of the soon to be ex-president’s pro-Israel policy.”
Thanks for this rundown on Blinken. Looks like Blinken is a first disappointing move. Although we cannot expect that Biden will be “progressive” in all but a few areas, what is called progressive that he will move on progressively out of the gate probably (hopefully) on is vital and urgent issues especially domestically including the virus and climate change.
As for the JCPOA this, too, Israel/Netanyahu is against. So there is a conflict right there with Israel if we return (or don’t leave if we have not yet).
Regarding the I-P situation it will continue on it’s trajectory to one state with half it’s population under military occupation, deprived of rights. I would like to know which mistakes Blinken thinks THEY made as well as the ones Israel did not. Nevermind. Sooner or later Israel will pay the price. Palestinians have been paying. If holding the present position is “pro-Israel” we will not have left that alternative universe as we leave others. (Our last trip to Israel, about a year ago, Israel felt like a different place altogether than a few years ago…I think it hopeless)
There are just so many battles that can be fought at once. But Biden deserves some honeymoon (I guess).
My comment last May
Joe Biden Promised to Bring Stability Across Syraq (2007) by Oui @BooMan on Feb. 14, 2016
A failed VP for 8 years as arms sales to Arab States peaked. Democrats making the same mistakes as four years ago. Biden is so 20th Century in mindset and policy. America deserves better … time to clean house.
Anthony Blinken, all the “qualities” of Madeleine Albright and Zbigniew Brzezinski put together – HORROR!
A perfect match as Democratic neocon on ME aggression for Israel. Let the JCPOA be the litmus test for Biden’s principle.
The ‘arab lobby’ is not arab discrimination, any more than Israel lobby the term you used is discriminatory. What I meant was that there are more Christian Arabs in the USA than Muslim Arabs, and most Muslims are not Arab in the USA. Much of the lobbying by Arabs is done by Christian Arabs.
We both know that Al Aqsa wasn’t in Israel. Its original location was not where todays Islamists claim it is.
If the Haram al Sharif makes it a Muslim issue, then Jesus’ birth in Israel surely makes Israel more a Christian issue? Christian support for Israel is rising through the world, the growing Evangelical crowd in China and South America, for example.
The demographics, yes, majority Muslim Palestinians,so I concede that if you go by demographics, but not by rights, and most certainly not by religious rights which puts Christians and Jews ahead of Muslims.
Since you mention, the democrat partry demographics, I just want to say, Trump had an increase in votes from blacks and latinos, so your claim that Trumps party represents white supremacists is flawed. That some white supremacists support him, doens’t mean anything. I am sure some nazis support the Democrats too, that doesn’t make the democratic party a nazi party.
What I meant was that the biggest funders in the Democrat party are Jewish and most are pro Israel, they don’t care who is in power. If I am pro American, I don’t care who is in power. So by logic, Blinden will have to take into consideration what the majority of its funders hold dear. That said, most Americans are pro Israel. There is a growing class of black and hispanic Israel supporters in the USA.
The world “Arab” is capitalized. Show respect for the word and the English language by writing the word properly.
I love it when people like you say something erroneous then, when your error is exposed, you claim you said something else, or that you “meant” to say something else. You said what you said and it was wrong.
I have no idea what this means or what to make of it. But it sounds totally bizarre.
Not only is this nonsense, it ignores the fact that the Israeli government and its settler thugs routinely destroy Palestinian Christian churches and property in Israel. What you mean to say is that a niche of Christians, and a small minority of the world’s Christians at that, evangelical US Christians, are increasing in support for Israel. That’s far different than what you claimed.
Evangelical Christians in China and Brazil are a tiny proportion of the overall population and an even smaller proportion of world Christian population. Their support of Israel is insignificant.
Read my comment rules before trying to publish another comment here. This is your second Islamophobic statement. I will not tolerate this again. YOur next comment rule violation of any kind will bring moderation.
Once again, I insist on calling people by the names they call themselves. It is the “Democratic Party” with a capital “D.” If you disrespect anyone in future by deliberately misspelling their name that will also lead to moderation.
Again, another red herring. Of course Trump had an increase in Blacks and Latinos (again, each of these groups use capital letters). He had an increase in votes from Jews and whites. But so did Biden. The lection brought the largest percentage of eligible voters to the polls since 1902. Every candidate gained votes from every demographic.
The GOP is the Party of white supremacists. Clearly. IF you wish to deny reality you’re going to do it elsewhere.
A stupid lie. I dare you to offer a single shred of proof this is true.
Again, nonsense. If pro-Israel Democratic funders didn’t care who was in power they would switch immediately to Trump because he was far more servile to Israeli interests than any Democrat.
Do not publish again in this thread. And take my warnings above to heart if you wish to continue posting here.
Bibi secret meeting CP Salman in Riyadh … discussiing murderous plots, assassinations and domestic “terror” … more than one reason to call an oppostion leader a terrorist … grand meeting of minds .. Judeo-Wahhabist values … looking forward, not to Biblical past … let bygones … 🙃
[comment deleted: you have here exposed yourself as a fraud. My comment rules specifically prohibit commenters from dissembling about their identity. You clearly hate Muslims as you’ve shown in your comments. In this comment you claim to be a Muslim. I don’t know who or what you are. But you are not who you claim to be. Such fraud is unacceptable here. You are now banned.]
Normalisation will take place as soon as the Sunni nuclear bomb is fitted on a ballistic missile? May I be the first to extend my congratulations … dual-use technology will become available to a murderous tribe … wet dream of Osama.
Biden took Hoenlein’s side. In Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide, Michael Oren’s memoir of his time as Israel’s ambassador in Washington, he quotes Biden as telling him, “We must have no daylight between us”—which contradicted Obama’s position.
Oui, I don’t know what nonsense you are spouting about the nuclear ballistic missile. Do you mean that Saudi Arabia is about to go nuclear? Or Iran? or both? to it matters not, even if North Korea or Finland does.
The truth is if the USA can be a nuclear power along with the handful of other countries that are so can anyone else in the world. I mean if Pakistan can have a nuclear weapon, I don’t see why Iran or Saudi Arabia cannot. How do you know Pakistan isn’t already sharing with Iran and Saudi? My own belief is that Pakistan has shared its knowhow with these two countries already. That is also how North Korea becamse nuclear. Benazir Bhutto took nuclear knowhow to North Korea on a state visit there.
Don’t you ever try to hold any other country to a different standard.
Untill every country agrees to do away with nuclear weapons, every country in the world has the right to go nuclear.
[comment deleted: you clearly are from the MeK social media propaganda mill. This site is not going to offer you an outlet. Go elsewhere.]
If Palestine is a religious issue, rather than a national issue, why do you accept Islamic claims to Jerusalem and not Jewish claims?
Jews have been praying for 2000 years – אם אשכחך ירושלים, תשכח ימיני – If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget. Do you take it on yourself to give up that dream?
Why do you think only Muslims should pray at that holy site but not Christians and Jews?
It’s not. But Israel’s settler state has made it into one because it’s easier to gin up hate based on issues of religious supremacy. If I can turn a political conflict into a religious one I will have 1000 times the impact on those I need to follow me.
Enough with the grandstanding and sloganeering. I have not forgotten Jerusalem. It’s very much in my thoughts. But that verse you quoted does not tell us to remember a Judeo-supermacist Jerusalem from which non-Jews have been expelled. It does not tell us we must rebuild a Third TEmple on the blasted out ruins of Haram al Sharif. So stop with the faux nostalgia.
Our rabbis for centuries have commanded us NOT to enter the Temple Mount so as not to violate the sanctity of the site. If you are an Orthodox Jew that is the normative Jewish halacha. OF course, there are Judeo-fascist deviants who defy this norm. You clearly are, or wish to be one of them. But you are in a distinct Jewish minority.
And why would a Christian pray on a site holy to Jews and Muslims? They don’t. They pray at the Churches and locations associated with Jesus life and death.