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American Influence on Israeli Political Affairs
Within the Israeli state, innumerable political maneuverings occur at a frenzied pace.  Debates on the floor of the Knesset, Israel’s lawmaking body, are quite similar to their American counterparts in Congress, but one should not assume that the agendas of the respective countries are by any means similar.  If one pays close attention to the barrage of news items outlining U.S. involvement in Israeli politics, it is evident that two countries have involved themselves in a war of words and covert maneuverings—simply put, the U.S. has mounted a full-scale offensive into Israel’s political realm in the hope of maintaining its "interests" (i.e. the capitalistic pursuance of inexpensive oil) in the Middle East.  Although this idea is contradictory to the inextricable American-Israeli alliance touted by the news media, there is little difficulty in proving U.S. intervention in Israel; defining the aforementioned American agenda, however, requires more analytical investigation.  

In terms of identifying the scope in which U.S. agents have entrenched themselves in Israeli politics, one need not look further than the most recent ministerial elections.  Accompanied by a few supporters, notable Clinton political advisor James Carville was faced with the daunting task of helping Ehud Barak, Israel’s top challenger to Benjamin Netanyahu, win the office of prime minister.  Employing a series of political strategies, the Americans learned to recognize the idiosyncratic preferences of the Israeli public and to exploit them in the interest of helping Barak win office.  Barak’s "spin managers" were so confident of their success that Carville flew back to the United States three full days before the elections began.

Interestingly, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has employed an American advisor in the past—Arthur Finkelstein.  Finkelstein is known for engineering Netanyahu’s 1996 come-from-behind victory against Shimon Peres, Israel’s Labor Party leader who was notorious for his propensity toward militarist aggression against the Palestinians.   Netanyahu—although he was traditionally harsh with the Palestinians—was, at that time, the less militant of the two candidates, and he was supported by the United States accordingly. When pitted against Barak in early 1999, Netanyahu was perceived as a more hostile threat to Mid-East peace in comparison to his opponent and faced off against the American support that had facilitated his previous rise to power—a stark contrast to the 1996 campaign.  The most recent Israeli elections, therefore, have resulted in the election of individuals who were more willing to sacrifice "land for security," and the American tendency to offer more strategic assistance to those who are willing to compromise for this stability cannot be overlooked.

U.S. involvement does indeed beg the question as to why America would go to such lengths to ensure peace in a locality seemingly devoid of national interests.  The most obvious answer according to some analysts is that the election of conservative officials would result in a more stern policy against Palestinian upstarts, thereby upsetting the delicate balance between Arab contentment and Israeli security and tarnishing the American image of maintaining worldwide security. Humanitarian interests aside, one should still question U.S. involvement in an area that concerns Israeli domestic policy, and many have concluded that an external American benefit stands to be gained if both Palestinian and Israeli concerns are equally addressed.   An example of overt intrusion into Israel’s policymaking department is evident in light of the most recent events leading up to the September signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Israeli-Palestinian agreement.  Less than two months after Barak’s victory, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright capitalized on the win by pressuring both sides to sign a new peace accord calling for both "land for peace" and a timetable regarding final status negotiations.  Interestingly, both sides cited this signing as a "crucial step in reaching a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, particularly with Syria." It would seem, therefore, that Arab-Israeli appeasement is a concern for all sides involved and that the United States is the most selfless of the participating countries because sustainable peace in the region does not appear to offer any direct benefit to a country located neither in nor around Southwest Asia; the indirect benefit, however, is vastly more important.  This advantage, which, according to most analysts, is the right to safeguard more than two-thirds of the world’s oil supply, appears to be a more than adequate reason for American intervention in an otherwise foreign affair.

The United States does have reason to fear instability in the region because the potential for an Arab retaliation via the oil market always exists.  Following the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1973, Saudi Arabia, both a predominantly Muslim country and a major exporter of the world’s crude oil supply, significant decreased the amount of oil sold to the U.S.   This drastic measure was evidently an Arab reaction to increased American assistance to Israel during the war—the U.S. has been one of Israel’s most devout supporters dating back to the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.   After understanding the ramifications of ethnic and religious turmoil in the region and their perceived role in the eyes of the Arab population, America assumed the role of an almost exclusive Mid-East peacemaker.

If one is still in doubt as to whether or not American influence truly exists in Israeli politics, a simple survey of the Israeli role in the U.S. sufficiently dispels such a notion.  Although most would conclude that Israel’s influence on U.S. politics is a different topic of interest altogether, it stands to reason that if the latter imposed its rule on former, Israel, by all definitions a proud and self-sufficient nation, would not only take umbrage at American influence in its private affairs; it would also attempt to exert its own pressures as a response to increasingly aggressive American intrusion.  For instance, in response to 1998’s May 10th ultimatum given by the United States concerning an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Benjamin Netanyahu expressed a nationwide sentiment on behalf of his people labeling U.S. treatment of Israel as that of a feudal lord exploiting a "vassal state."   The resentment of the Jewish people is, therefore, evident and would explain their infiltration into the politics of the United States as a response.

Pro-Israel organizations involved in U.S. politics such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Bnai Brith’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL) not only influence electoral outcomes—these organizations have tens of millions of dollars at their disposal that can be issued as campaign donations—but they are also suspected of compiling files on numerous politicians, journalists, and academics in order to circulate misinformation among Jewish supporters.   Further, prior to his capture by American officials, Jonathan J. Pollard, one of Israel’s most successful spies, managed to procure the locations of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and to pass them to then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir; Shamir, in turn, delivered these weapons sites to the Soviet Union, aptly illustrating Israel’s ability to respond to American intrusion into Israeli affairs.   A Jewish reaction to U.S. encroachment is, therefore, obvious.

America does indeed have vested interests in the Middle East, and conflict within Israel exists as a potential threat to the execution of an American agenda.  The United States was initially tied to Israel following former President Truman’s unwavering support for the state in 1948, and the current administration today carries on that legacy by catering to the needs of influential Israeli lobbyists.  With respect to sustaining a healthy economic relationship with oil-rich states bordering the Jewish nation, this link between the two countries has proved a liability for America.  U.S. strategists have gone to extreme pains to ensure healthy cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli nationals, and by extension, these strategists have sought to appease any Arab contingents outside of Israel that, in the wake of a falling out between the two sides, could be driven to shift the political balance in the region.   Although many may argue that America can depend on its recent successes of solidifying its relations with Arab dictators—thus, eliminating the threat of oil embargoes—the Arab peoples of said countries still have the potential to cause inexplicable devastation to both the peace process and to American oil interests via alternative means of political expression (i.e. terrorism and the possible overthrow of idle governments).   The pursuit of these alternative means could very well result in a rejection of the capitalist model of economics and could give rise to a more Islamic implementation of socio-economic policy.  Maintaining peaceful cooperation between Arabs and Israelis, therefore, is crucial to the continued execution of American capitalist objectives in the Middle East; the interventionist policies of the United States toward Israel should be expected.

Should Israel not respond to the encroachment into its political core, Netanyahu’s characterization of Israel as nothing more than "vassal state" in the hands of American elites could become more of an actuality than it already appears to be.  That is not to say, however, that Netanyahu was inaccurate with this classification.  As seen above, America certainly makes its presence known in Israel, but unlike the feudal vassals of old, Israel has responded with a ferocity that only exacerbates the tension in this already chaotic game of international exploitation.

J. Adam Brockwell
Oppression.org Site Cordinator

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