Leading Australian thinker and academic Scott Burchill comments on the recent revelations that American General David Petraeus is publicly linking the Middle East conflict and Washington’s failures in the Muslim world:
Assuming that [Mark] Perry’s report is accurate – and it apparently is – it’s quite a significant development. If the Pentagon decides to flex its muscles, there could be real pressure on Israel to carry out at least cosmetic changes, meeting some if not all of Clinton’s demands. All Petraeus et al have to do is go public with the charge that these upstart Jews are endangering our brave boys In Iraq and Afghanistan, etc, and the country could be swept by a wave of anti-Semitism. The generals have already taken this message to Congress. The power of the Israel lobby is not as great as the volume of its spruikers. It has nothing on the Pentagon lobby.
The situation is reminiscent of 20 years ago when Yitzak Shamir – arrogant, self-righteous and obnoxious – so irritated James Baker by purposeful humiliation that Bush the First’s administration imposed light sanctions. Israel got the message. Shamir was replaced by the supreme cynic Shimon Peres, who is much better attuned to Western hypocrisy. Things smoothed over. Same policies, but more politely pursued.
It’s not quite as easy this time because the ultra-nationalist and fundamentalist religious right (not identical – Shas is really unworldly) are much stronger now, and Western-oriented sectors in Israel are much weaker.
Interestingly there is apparently a split among elites in the US. The Washington Post seems to be demanding the Obama follow the Joe Lieberman line (“we are all one family”), but the New York Times and other centrist Democrats (like the Boston Globe) are calling for Obama to stand his ground, or there will be trouble.
Israel has decisive power in Congress. Arabs have oil, money and can make life difficult for US expeditions in the Middle East and Central Asia. Flip a coin. Netanyahu isn’t very bright, Obama loathes him but he remains a very resolute reactionary and Washington has a grave dilemma with him. They may try to finesse his coalition but there is no guarantee Kadima would play ball.