After the Netanyahu-Republican lovefest: What’s next for US relations with Israel?

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Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel for the third consecutive time on March 17. During his 9-year regime Israel’s economic situation has severely deteriorated. Israelis now suffer from massive privatization and outsourcing of government jobs, stagnating wages, and drastic cuts in education and social services. As the gap between the rich and the poor widens, so does unprecedented homelessness.

The political state of affairs has degenerated as well. More anti-democratic laws have passed making protest more difficult. Israel’s military assaults against Gaza have killed thousands of Palestinians, and Netanyahu’s warmongering has intensified bigotry and repression against Palestinians and immigrants.

The government continues to finance exclusively-Jewish settlements on stolen Palestinian land. All of this has plummeted support for Israel around the globe and expanded pro-Palestinian activity.

The election changed little. Many Israelis were fed up with these conditions. The slogan “Just not Bibi” became popular before the election, particularly among the middle class. To appeal to this dissatisfaction, the Labor Party adopted the slogan and hurried to establish a new party — the Zionist Union. It included an alphabet soup of public figures who opposed Netanyahu for one reason or another. Pre-vote polls showed that the new party was leading Netanyahu’s party by up to four seats in the Parliament. Expectations were high that the Zionist Union would win.

However, two weeks before the election, Netanyahu pulled a rabid rabbit out of the hat. He declared that there would never be a Palestinian state — contrary to the official government position of a two-state solution — one Israeli and the other Palestinian. And, as always, he engineered public fear by warning that Israeli Palestinians would be “bussed in droves to the voting booths.”

Netanyahu’s appeal to racism worked. Many voters from much smaller right-wing parties voted for him and he won. The election brought no change; only a shift of voters among right-wing parties.

The Israeli election was a major headline in the U.S. press, partly because of Netanyahu’s highly publicized address before a cheering Congress. Snubbing consultation with Obama, Republican Speaker of the House Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak on the danger of signing a nuclear agreement with Iran. The Republican Party opposes any agreement with Iran and has been relentlessly trying to sabotage an agreement.

Zionist motives. With this speech Netanyahu had several goals. At home, he hoped that fear of Iran would distract voters from their economic and social troubles. At the same time, his warm reception in Congress could also persuade the Iranians that the potential nuclear agreement had no U.S. popular support and that it could be reversed should the next president be a Republican.

In the United States, Netanyahu hoped to put pressure on Obama to go to war with Iran, and to encourage American Jews to believe in Iranian fanaticism and therefore send more money to Israel. A critical goal was also to strengthen his relationship with the aggressive and growing right wing of the Republican Party.

Why would a head of state want to deliberately antagonize the Democratic president of the U.S.?

Clearly, Netanyahu and the Republicans share the same imperialistic and racist ideology, while the Democrats are seemingly against it — in words. But the real reason for the Republicans current enthusiastic support of Israel is … money. Recently, the largest increase in donations to the Republican Party came from right-wing Zionist billionaires who strongly support Israel. These donors also pour big money into Netanyahu’s Party and the illegal settlements. Most prominent among them is Sheldon Edelson, a casino operator. To satisfy these donors the Republicans must give unconditional support to Israel.

These close relations are not exclusive to the Republican Party. For over seven decades the U.S. government has strongly and consistently supported Israel both politically and militarily, regardless of which party was in power.

Israel receives benefits from the U.S. that are not shared with other countries. Financially, it gets at least $3 billion annually in military aid. It is the largest cumulative recipient of aid since World War II. The U.S. delivers the most recent and sophisticated instruments of war, such as bunker-penetrating bombs and the latest fighter planes.

Politically, the U.S. uses its veto power on the UN Security Council to kill any decision that is not favorable to Israel. About half of U.S. vetoes support Israel.

U.S. motives. Why would the richest and strongest country in the world unwaveringly support a very small country with no natural resources?

The Middle East is a strategic part of the world because of its oil and its geographic proximity to Russia. Israel is crucial to the U.S. — even though it is not a NATO member — because it is the only stable country in the area with no revolution in sight. Seventy-four percent of the financial aid sent to Israel must be spent in the U.S. That is, Israel heavily supports the American military industry, which also benefits from Israel testing its weaponry in its ceaseless wars.

The U.S. government also relies on Israel to strengthen its military power in the Middle East. It has five military bases in Israel where it stockpiles military equipment to be used during Israeli and U.S. wars, and a 500-bed hospital for the Navy. Two ports regularly host the U.S. Sixth Fleet, which monitors southern Europe and North Africa. The U.S. also has free use of military equipment it gives to Israel.

Israel’s physical proximity to Arab countries and its advanced spy technology provided key military intelligence to the U.S. When popular outrage in 1975 forced Congress to declare an arms embargo on apartheid South Africa and on Indonesia (as it invaded East Timor), the U.S. got Israel to supply American military gear to the rulers of these countries.

In the words of the late right-wing senator Jesse Helms, Israel is “America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East.”

U.S. public opposition. U.S. government support for Israel does not reflect the will of the American people. Resistance to aiding Israel and its military occupation of Palestine is mounting, as there is more awareness about Israeli military aggression. And several U.S. Jewish organizations now exist, such as J-Street and Jewish Voice for Peace — with demands for stopping aid to Israel.

The most active and growing area of organizing for justice to the Palestinians are university campuses. Today, many campuses have student groups — Palestinians, Muslims, and Jews — that organize seminars, protests, and solidarity, while connecting the dots between racism in the U.S. and Israel.

Many U.S. residents now understand that an end to U.S. aid to Israel is essential. This heightened political consciousness promises the first glimmer of hope for an anti-colonial, anti-capitalist resolution for the besieged peoples of the Middle East.

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