June 14, 2010

Israel’s Means Outweighing End

The US Congress and Israeli lobby, in synchronization with the US media, have certainly done their job. Despite a few bruises and the general mismatch in political positions and personalities, US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be much farther apart.

Having used the crisis to bond, Israel has now approved an internal investigation into the Freedom flotilla raid - and Washington applauded.

The Haaretz reports, “The United States hailed the decision to investigate the May 31 raid,” and quoted a White House statement as saying, "Israel has a military justice system that meets international standards and is capable of conducting a serious and credible investigation.”

A substantial section of the US and Israeli public appears to be under the illusion that President Barack Obama is an “Israeli basher.” This misconception stems not from his “Cairo snub,” or the settlement blunder during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Jerusalem and the exaggerated media battle it generated.

That’s what the Israeli lobby wants everyone to believe.

"The Obama administration's recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern," the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said in March, having marshaled nearly the entire US Congress. "AIPAC calls on the administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish state."

The real root of Israel’s insecurity is that America, under more international pressure than ever before, can no longer green light Israel’s every act of aggression, especially when pursuing a two-state solution. Yet America keeps biting its tongue for as long as possible. Obama can talk Palestinian statehood all he wants, but Israel’s tail still wags the US dog.

Netanyahu’s investigation is unlikely to meet any standard outside America and Britain. Only two foreign monitors will “observe,” and one of them - Nobel Laureate William David Trimble - is a “Friend of Israel.” The committee is only authorized to access documents directly relevant to the incident, not Israeli personnel. Turkey and IHH’s role will be examined, but not Turkish witnesses.

"The members have been appointed by the political echelon; the politicians will control everything, and they don't have the power to really investigate," adds Tel Aviv law professor Ze'ev Segal.

The investigation has quickly reached such ridiculous proportions that the White House’s expectations sit on the ground. Having resisted a UN investigation, Haaretz reports, “it made clear that it expected Israel to present the results openly.”

"While Israel should be afforded the time to complete its process, we expect Israel’s commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly,” read the White House’s statement. “We also expect that, upon completion, its findings will be presented publicly and will be presented to the international community.‬"

Apparently the White House has reached the point where it merely hopes the investigation will be released publicly. It then becomes clear that Washington is actually unsatisfied with Israel’s decision and remains stuck on the ride anyway. The space between UN ambassador Susan Rice’s lines are filled with doubt, try as she does to cover her tracks.

According to Ynet News, “US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said that Washington was not pressuring Israel to cooperate with an investigation it doesn't want.”

But she can’t hide her disappointment, which she should act on given that it reflects the opinion of the wider international community. Though Rice claims Israel is capable of carrying out a credible investigation, she also believes, “an international component would strengthen the investigation and certainly buttress its credibility in the eyes of the international community.”

Translation: Israel’s investigation isn’t enough for America privately and nowhere near enough for the Palestinians or international community. What Israeli leadership fails to understand is that it needs a more honest ally in America, otherwise perpetual protectionism will degrade into a strategic liability. The process has already begun, and has less to do with Obama than the shifting balance of world power.

US officials are whispering for more and Netanyahu should listen up. By refusing an international investigation Israel might as well forgo any probe at all, since few foreign states will accept the results. Washington knows it can’t contain Turkey, the Arab League, the EU, Russia, or China. It’s probable that whatever punishment Israel would face from the international community will be exceeded by further defying it.

The pressure cycle is destined to repeat, not end, thus Israel’s means and ends don’t equate.

If America were a smart friend it would openly push for an international investigation and end to the Gaza siege, which the rest of the world is uniting against. It would walk Israel down from the ledge, not enable it towards future conflict with the UN and ultimately Washington itself.

Or maybe Obama is an Israeli basher after all, encouraging reckless behavior to secretly bring it down? Makes more sense than blindly following into Israel’s dead-end.

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