Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Biden and Blinken Poke Israel in the Eye - Hugh Fitzgerald


by Hugh Fitzgerald

It’s no secret that the Biden administration is deeply disappointed in the recent Israeli elections.


It’s no secret that the Biden Administration is deeply disappointed that Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and its coalition partners, won enough seats in the Knesset to assure Netanyahu of becoming Israel’s next Prime Minister. Netanyahu is seen by the Bidenites as too unyielding, insufficiently willing to placate either the Palestinians or, for that matter, the Americans. And the Bidenites have been poking Israel in the eye ever since the election. The latest manifestation of this is Tony Blinken’s decision to give the keynote speech at the annual meeting of the leftist Jewish group, J Street, which claims to support Israel (“Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace, Pro-Democracy” is its motto), but it appears to many observers that J Street’s support depends on the Jewish state agreeing to be squeezed back within the 1949 armistice lines.

Daniel Greenfield wrote about Blinken’s J Street appearance at Jihad Watch here. More on his appearance, and other Bidenite pokes in Israel’s eye, can be found here: “Welcome, Bibi: Blinken To Headline Anti-Israel J Street Conference,” by Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon, December 1, 2022:

…A State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon that Blinken’s engagement with anti-Israel groups like J Street is an “important part” of the agency’s mission.

“It is routine for the secretary of state to engage with different civil society groups representing a broad array of foreign policy interests, this is an important part of the State Department’s domestic outreach,” the spokesman said.

But everyone in Washington knows that this particular civil society group has only one issue – Israel – and only one desire, which is to force Israel to make territorial concessions for the sake of “peace” to those who would destroy it. J Street is not exactly a reflection of a large slice of “civil society.” It is supported by a few thousand contributors, but about half of its money comes from a handful of rich donors. These include George Soros (who wants the world to know that he contributes “only” 2.5% of the total), Bill Benter, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation, which have contributed each year between $200,000 and $400,000 apiece. In one year, a contribution of $811,697 came from a certain Consolacion Esdicul in Hong Kong, apparently solicited by Mr. Benter. And there are other donors who give at least $100,000 each year.

Contributions in 2022 to J Street have so far come to $3.26 million. Year after year, J Street’s founder and apparently permanent head, Jeremy Ben Ami, receives as his salary between 7% and 10% of the total contributions. J Street may not be good for Israel, but it has been very good for Jeremy Ben Ami.

While Blinken is not the first secretary of state to address a J Street conference—then-secretary John Kerry and then-vice president Joe Biden both spoke in 2016—the timing of his address is being viewed as highly symbolic. The Biden administration in December took the extraordinary step of launching a Justice Department investigation into the shooting of a Palestinian-American reporter by the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel in September conducted its own independent review in cooperation with the U.S. State Department, and U.S. lawmakers are accusing the administration—given the president’s support for an additional FBI investigation—of kowtowing to radical elements in the Democratic Party who seek to transform Israel into a pariah state.

The IDF conducted its own thorough investigation of the death of the Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh three months ago. It concluded that “most likely” she had been killed by an IDF soldier, but that there was no evidence of any intent to kill her. And indeed, Israel scrupulously tries to avoid civilian casualties; think of how it routinely warns civilians in Gaza to get away from buildings about to be targeted, by telephoning, emailing, and using the “knock-on-the-roof” technique, and giving them time to do so. It would make no sense for Israel to have targeted Abu Akleh; her death would then become a vehicle for anti-Israel propaganda, as indeed it has. After the IDF report was read by the administration, the Americans declared themselves satisfied. They agreed with both parts: first, that an IDF soldier’s bullet had “most likely” killed Shireen Abu Akleh; second, that there had been “no intent” to kill an innocent civilian. But having done so, and after more than a month had passed, all of a sudden the administration apparently changed its mind, and ordered the FBI to conduct its own investigation of Abu Akleh’s death – an insulting sign that it doesn’t trust the IDF’s conclusions. How the FBI will determine whether there was “intent” by the Israeli soldier to kill a civilian remains unclear. And who was behind the decision to “reopen” what had been a closed case? Those who are determined to throw a spanner in the works of America-Israel relations. Who might those be? Names, please.

One senior State Department official told the Free Beacon that “attending this J Street event is like a blatant and obvious attempt to stick Bibi [Netanyahu] in the eye.”

“Unfortunately,” said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record, “it has the effect of undermining our relationship with Israel, and thus U.S. national security.”

It may be momentarily pleasing for Blinken to stick it to the Israeli leader, but is it wise to antagonize a close ally whom we will undoubtedly need to help halt Iran’s seemingly inexorable march to manufacture a nuclear weapon? This isn’t statecraft, but petulance.

It’s not the first sign that the Biden administration is less than elated at Netanyahu’s reascension to power last month. Biden waited days to congratulate the newly elected Israeli leader, drawing accusations the president was trying to isolate Netanyahu’s conservative government before it even was seated.

This, too, was a kind of schoolboy tantrum, of the “I don’t want to play in your yard/I don’t like you anymore” variety. Biden, biding his time to make that phone call to Netanyahu, was semaphoring “I’ll show you, Bibi. I’ll keep you waiting for my call.” While every other world leader had telephoned Netanyahu to congratulate him, Biden let a week go by before calling. “Take that, Bibi,” Biden must have thought, but it was Biden who should have been embarrassed at this display of puerile pouting.

“The Biden administration is filled with partisans who hate Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu. They banned the use of the phrase ‘Abraham Accords,’ couldn’t bring themselves to have President Biden call Netanyahu to congratulate him until their silence became comical, and now they’re even unleashing the FBI,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) told the Free Beacon. “So of course Secretary Blinken is going to J Street, an anti-Israel activist group that also criticized the Abraham Accords, loathes Netanyahu, and regularly calls for investigations against Israel. It’s both disgraceful and predictable.”

Senator Cruz is exactly right. In the Biden administration, there are holdovers from the Obama administration, who still resent how Netanyahu fought back against Obama’s mistreatment of his country, including his giving a final finger to the Jewish state, when instead of vetoing UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which labelled Israeli settlements in the West Bank as “illegal,” Obama instructed our ambassador, Samantha Power, to vote to “abstain.” And they cannot forgive Netanyahu for addressing both houses of Congress on the threat from Iran, and his withering criticism of the Obama administration’s willingness to capitulate to Tehran in the 2015 Iran deal.

One former Israeli government official told the Free Beacon the administration is not even trying to hide its disdain for Netanyahu and his conservative coalition.

“This is simply bad diplomatic strategy,” said the source, who would only speak on background so as not to upset either government. “Speaking to J Street may displease the incoming Israeli government, but they’re hardly afraid of the lobby. This doesn’t send a message of strength but rather one of petulance. Secretary Blinken should know better.”

Nothing is achieved by this ill-considered appearance, as keynote speaker, by Tony Blinken at the annual meeting of the leftwing, Jewish, pro-Palestinian anti-Israel lobby that is J Street. Such a slap in the face won’t make Israel be more accommodating to the administration, but rather less, for Netanyahu and his colleagues will correctly interpret Blinken’s appearance at J Street not as one more of his engagements “with different civil society groups representing a broad array of foreign policy interests,” as the State Department spokesman smugly explained, but as one more deliberate  slap at the new government in Jerusalem.

Blinken speaking to J Street will constitute the third such slap. The first, you will recall, was Biden’s puerile delay in calling Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory. The second was the opening of an FBI investigation into the death of Shireen Abu Akleh long after the administration had proclaimed itself satisfied with the Israeli investigation and report.

And after that? It will be fascinating to see what further slights the Administration comes up with to punish our most loyal ally for daring to choose a leader whom the Bidenites detest. Too bad, Bidenites. Get used to that changing of the guard in Jerusalem. And if you just can’t? Then tant pis pour vous.

Hugh Fitzgerald


Follow Middle East and Terrorism on Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment