I was interviewed by Kourosh Ziabari of Truth NGO about the American Enterprise Institute announcement that it would grant its Irving Kristol Award for 2015 to Benjamin Netanyahu during the Israeli prime minister’s recent visit to the USA to see Obama. This is what I said.
DR: Israel is the USA’s main strongman in the Middle East. It has “boots on the ground”, a highly developed intelligence network, military preparedness, an ideologically uniform and committed population, and coercive influence on nations in the region. Israel is the USA’s main ally asset in this region that has a controlling share of world oil production capacity, and oil is the most important strategic and economic commodity. In addition, if the US can force oil to be purchased in US dollars, then this secures the US dollar’s preeminence as a global currency.
But Israel is much more than an asset. The USA ruling elite has, over many decades, allowed a symbiotic relationship between the political classes of the two countries to develop, which is mediated by what has been broadly termed the “Israel lobby”, which, in turn, is financed as part of the ruling and economic structure of the whole.
These two elements [that is] Israel’s enforcement role for US dominance in the Middle East, backed by a nuclear arsenal, and the symbiotic system of financed political influences between the two countries, constitute the “special” and “warm” relations that we are told about ad nauseam to generate public acceptance of the non-democratic and criminal arrangement; criminal because it enables war, occupation, and genocide.
This is the context in which we can interpret the American Enterprise Institute 2015 award to Netanyahu. The prize and its timing are part of the on-going mediation and communication of interests between the ruling elites of the two nations, in such a way as to best advantage and protect the mega-interests that fund the influential think-tank that is AEI.
I don’t mean that each national “ruling elite” is homogeneous and without internal battles, but on the global scale, the main competing and interconnected blocks agree on the overarching plan that the USA, with the aligned satellite countries, should dominate the globe completely, that only the US dollar – which the US prints at will – should prevail, that only US corporations should control the most lucrative extraction schemes in the real economy, and that all governments must be subservient. In this system, the “internal battles” are of a lower order and relate to which corporate alliance, including finance corporations, will make the most money, which strategy of dominance will most benefit a preferred corporate alliance, and which strategy of dominance and geopolitical tactics are ideologically preferred to ensure sustained and increasing dominance.
Thus, when Netanyahu has a “falling out” with Obama, this is representative of a cleavage between their strategy preferences for managing dominance of the Middle East, and this cleavage will also generally exist between the Republican and Democrat blocks, or else Netanyahu would not pursue it. Such a cleavage cannot be allowed to harm the overarching project of regional and world dominance, which is the prerequisite for staggering US multi-national corporate profits. Therefore, efforts must be made to repair the “falling out” and to mediate a solution.
The AEI award is part of this mechanism of repair and mediation. The award is also a way for the AEI to increase and maintain its own status, to remain relevant and influential.
The next question is: What are the matters of disagreement regarding management of the Middle East? Palestine is certainly one matter, as you suggest.
Basically, Israel has a determined policy to annex all of the occupied territories and to deprive Palestinians of nationhood. It achieves this in reality on the ground by combining land theft, settlements, home demolitions, forced exodus, etc. and confinement, constant police and administrative harassment, mass imprisonment, apartheid, and genocidal sanctions and slaughters in Gaza.
The USA allows Israel to have its genocide, as a compromise in exchange for the role Israel plays in US world domination, especially against independent-minded nations in the Middle East.
The entire Israeli geo-psyche is anchored in the paradigm of a constant and unavoidable “terrorist threat”. Netanyahu himself is a significant promoter of this paradigm, as one can see from the titles of books he has edited or authored, [including] International Terrorism: Challenge and Response, edited in 1981, Terrorism: How the West Can Win, edited in 1987, and Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorism authored in 1995. Netanyahu has succeeded in convincing the USA to adopt this view, at least as a media cover for a devastating string of wars of aggression intended to re-model the Middle East – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, now Syria and Yemen, with strong intentions regarding Iran and southern Lebanon.
Within this national paradigm of constant existential threat, Israel is in-all-appearance committed to effectively exterminating the Palestinians, with the main goals of stealing the land and ensuring that no viable Palestinian state or influential political formation can ever see the day, using the “terrorism” of children with rocks, desperate youth with kitchen knives, and domestic rockets, as justifications for mass slaughters and murderous military repression.
But Palestine is a problem for the nuclear regional superpower that is Israel, and Palestine has become a source of cleavage between the USA and Israel. The problem is that no empire can sustainably rule and exploit by the threat of force alone. In the age of distributed instant journalism, and thanks to the remarkable Palestinian resistance organized throughout Palestinian society, the peoples of the world have become thoroughly disgusted and outraged at Israeli massacres in Gaza, which are condoned by the USA. This popular outrage has organized itself and has achieved significant political leverage in the UK, France, Germany, etc., and to some degree even in the USA and Canada.
The world is disgusted at the military ethos of Israel, and, increasingly – viewing Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – at the now too apparent military ethos of the USA. As such, the USA, under Obama, has come to understand that another Israeli massacre in Gaza could strike a serious blow to the Empire’s image, and that a war with Iran could be intolerable for Europe. These are the considerations that bring Obama to want to de-escalate, but Israel experiences de-escalation as an existential threat, thus, there are presently unavoidable tensions.
KZ: Prime Minister Netanyahu is being lauded by the conservative think-tank AEI for his role in cementing the ties between Israel and the United States. However, he has had bitter confrontations with President Obama over the settlements constructions and the Iran deal, which President Obama considers his most significant foreign policy legacy, and now even the Israeli media are talking of the need for an Obama-Netanyahu rapprochement. Do you think that Netanyahu has really been successful in bringing the United States and Israel closer together?
DR: Well, Netanyahu has “cemented the ties between Israel and the USA” in all the usual ways, such as co-supporting Daesh (ISIS) against Syria, as a US target for destruction, providing intelligence, providing propaganda support to attack Iran, and killing Palestine in the hope of permanent eradication. These are blood ties nourished by vast expenditures.
The Iran deal is a needed effort to de-escalate the US aggressions of sanctions and of constant and irrational threat of war. The deal was needed in order to create a barrier to prevent Israel from performing rogue airstrikes against infrastructure in Iran. The Iran deal is a huge setback for Israeli militarism. Israel sees the deal as a massive strategic error that threatens its identity as the regional bully, when it comes to nations that cannot be bought or coerced.
Thus, Iran is a major source of tension, at this time, between Israel and the USA. But the question is not so much whether Netanyahu has created the tension. The tension was the result of a dramatic shift in US foreign policy in the region, a shift that is pragmatic, in view of dominance of the entire world, whereas Israel’s ambitions are regional. The shift was away from military confrontation with Iran, and away from Israeli rogue military actions, in order to preserve an appearance of legitimacy as “leader of the free world”.
This shift was due to several factors related to real forces on the ground, in the context of the world’s reaction to Israel’s slaughters in Gaza. The first factor is the resolve and integrity of Iran itself, which is a model of national self-determination and strength of character, and which also has hardened military experience and vast resources and regional influence. Another factor is the valiant war of self-defense waged by Syria, aided by Iran, in which the Syrian people, government and army defended the territory for many years, forcing the USA and its blood-thirsty allies to create a growing monster that repelled the world.
As always, the military battles on the ground, just like the present Russian involvement in Syria, are the main determinants of adjustments in the US foreign policy of dominance, rather than personality differences with leaders such as Netanyahu.
KZ: During his upcoming visit to Washington D.C., Benjamin Netanyahu will also meet the experts and fellows at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning advocacy and research organization that falls on the extreme end of the political spectrum as opposed to the American Enterprise Institute, a neo-conservative group which backs Israel’s policies unreservedly. Is he trying to appeal to the Democratic Party and the American liberals and improve his status in their eyes?
DR: The shift in US foreign policy of world dominance that has led to the Iran deal is significant, which suggests that the shift is not a mere Democrat policy preference but rather an actual US-regime decision. The decision appears to be to move away from Israel as the sole nexus of Middle East policy, towards a multi-polar approach. For that reason, Netanyahu’s efforts cannot be limited to the Republican block.
Netanyahu will use the occasion of this award to continue selling his vision of military might as the only agent of sustainable advancement for a USA-Israel partnership of dominance in the Middle East, to extract military “aid” increases to compensate for his perceived loss of security, and to continue testing the strength of his Israel lobby in America. He is understandably concerned and must make it a priority to salvage the relationship and secure the most profitable role for Israel.
In a sense, this catastrophe for the Israeli regime is partly of Netanyahu’s making because he is responsible for his mass slaughter campaigns in Gaza, which significantly mobilized anti-Israel sentiment across the world, including among strongly allied nations of the USA, which could decide to have more foreign policy independence on select issues, such as not supporting USA war campaigns, US sanction campaigns, and US-led economic exchange deals that are meant to exclude global rivals.
The US needs its allies to align with its campaigns because it wants to vigorously oppose the economic emergence of the BRICS association [made of] Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. BRICS is poised to leave the US Empire’s economy behind and to eventually abandon the US dollar as its trading currency. BRICS will attempt to play following market forces, whereas the US is habituated both to global control and to an irrelevant debt, since it prints the money.
At this stage, it is difficult to see how the US-Israel partnership will be impacted by Russia’s now-demonstrated willingness to militarily assist its allies and to defend against the threats that US carnage has created. No doubt Netanyahu is promoting Israel’s battle readiness as a needed shield or intervention capacity in what he will project as a grim future.
KZ: In 1973, the godfather of neo-conservatism, Irving Kristol, the award which Benjamin Netanyahu will receive is named after him, said the people of Israel wouldn’t be happy with a cut in the U.S. military budget proposed by Senator George McGovern, who was running for the 1972 presidential election. Why should the people of Israel oppose the reduction of U.S. military budget? What Israeli interests could be at stake when the U.S. moves toward demilitarizing its expenditures and investing more capital on the social security of its people?
DR: I don’t think the USA will “demilitarize”, in the sense of shifting its foreign policy away from military intimidation as its main instrument and towards economic competition and distributed development, until it is forced to do so by global reality. The USA will certainly never voluntarily “demilitarize” in order to improve the living conditions of its working and non-working class citizens. It is not a simple trade-off. The US prints the global currency at will, and uses loans of this fabricated currency to extort real labor and material resources from its areas of exploitation. It enforces this racket with its military and covert operations and ensures that its corporations make disproportionate profits. The US has over 1,000 major military bases around the globe. Therefore, unlike in other countries, the US does not need to balance a budget. It only needs to dominate. The treatment of US citizens by the US regime is an ideological choice. The regime prefers to fund a massive prison system and paramilitary police rather than create equitable opportunities.
Israel is not about to dismantle its apartheid system. Likewise, the USA is not about to dismantle its economic apartheid within its national borders. The US maintains its apartheid by, among other mechanisms, approximately 1,000 murders of unarmed US citizens – virtually all black citizens – by police officers per year. Israel, by comparison, has a policy beyond solely maintaining apartheid, beyond containment, towards intimidation to abandon territory, and towards complete suppression of Palestinian freedoms. Consequently, the yearly rate of murder of unarmed Palestinians, including children, by Israeli military and police, on a population basis, is typically fifty to one hundred times greater than the rate per capita of US murders of unarmed civilians by police. These numbers do not count the injuries and early deaths from the horrendous conditions of occupation, in both countries. Thus, there is indeed a “special relationship”, an “unbreakable bond”, and a “mutual admiration” between the US and Israel. And Netanyahu is certainly one of the eminent creators of that bond.
KZ: There are intellectuals and academicians as Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer who have elaborately documented the influence of a powerful Israeli lobby in the United States, which significantly sways the U.S. politics, including the decision-making of the Congress and the foreign agenda of the administration, as well as the media and entertainment industry. There are pundits like Walter Russell Mead, however, who reject such a notion basically and call the Israeli lobby a “myth”. What’s your viewpoint on these two different convictions?
DR: It is beyond doubt that Walt and Mearsheimer have described a real political structure. The Israel lobby is as real as any major institution in the USA. It is well organized into an intricate hierarchy, and it is exceedingly well funded, more than the traditional think-tanks. The lobby has been allowed to flourish because it provides large political campaign funds, while helping to create public acceptance of the US Empire’s actions via Israel in the Middle East.
At this stage, from the perspective of those actually running the Empire, the lobby’s influence probably needs to be reined in because Israel’s hunger for genocide and desire for regional control is somewhat counter to the broader interests of the US regime.
Another feature of the Israel lobby is that it achieves public “acceptance” of the Israel-US dominance projects by outright intimidation of academics and intellectuals in all the professions, which is contrary to the purported values of “the freest country in the world”. The firings of university professors and media professionals have become routine, as has the blacklisting of entertainment industry workers.
Likewise, there is a disturbing trend, organized and spurred by Netanyahu, to criminalize criticism of Israel in all the allied states, such as France, Canada, etc. The US-led Israel lobby is multi-national. Here, in Canada, technically the government could criminally prosecute me for “hate speech” against the state of Israel for writing this very article, using a newly amended provision of the Criminal Code of Canada. For this alone, and many other such achievements, Netanyahu amply deserves the AEI 2015 Award.
But there is backlash and a societal price to pay, and the days of being suppressed by the Israel lobby may come to an end if the US regime decides to give Israel a lesser role. Disallowing the intelligentsia and political activists of a nation from being critical of the nation’s foreign policy investments is a recipe for disaster, a disaster that for now mostly Palestine, Libya, Syria and other nations have suffered.