The timing of the flotilla massacre could not have been worse for the United States government. Apparently (press reports in Israel and the United States are consistent on this) the administration had decided to kiss-and-makeup with Prime Minister Netanyahu. There was to be a White House meeting on Tuesday (today), some kind of announcement of new joint cooperation, and a photo of Obama beaming at his grateful "friend." All would be forgiven.
And now this: an unmitigated disaster, far worse than the original Israeli provocation that infuriated Obama a few months ago.
What to do? What to do?
That question, of course, is being asked by the people who wanted the smooch session with Netanyahu. They are the leaders of the House and Senate Congressional Campaign Committees (Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen) and the usual "pro-Israel" claque which view the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as their cash cow.
Remember when Schumer went ballistic when Obama took on Netanyahu over settlements earlier this spring? Schumer declared that his name was Schumer, not because that is his parents name, but because Schumer means Guardian in Hebrew and God made him Israel's Senate guardian. He is also the head of the Democratic Senate fundraising committee.
This is an election year and, get real, foreign policy has to take a way back seat to fundraising. That is the Democratic (and Republican) way. (It's also true in the years before election years and the years running up to the next cycle).
But here's the thing?
How was President Obama going to justify his love-in with Netanyahu? Nothing had changed since the prime minister kicked Biden in the teeth with his announcement of new settler homes in Jerusalem. There are no serious negotiations, no indications Israel ever intends to begin ending the occupation, and the monstrous blockade on Gaza is as brutal as ever.
So what would the President say to announce the new improved "special relationship?"
The answer is that it wouldn't have mattered. The goal was simply to get the friction behind us and let the good times roll.
But hapless Bibi messed that one up. Now the administration and Congress will have to pour on the love despite a major Israeli act of incitement. That is why the administration barely uttered a word of criticism yesterday. The whole world was appalled but we only asked for an investigation. We did, however, deplore the loss of life.
And, unless something changed since yesterday, we can expect more of the same today -- led by AIPAC's acolytes in Congress with the White House and State Department simply calling on everybody to be nice. (To their credit, this sucking up to Bibi drives the State Department professionals crazy but they know the name of the game. It's not their call).
The worst part is not so much the mushy stance of the White House after the flotilla horrors but the fact that it felt the need to kiss up to Netanyahu before the massacre. They were ready to prove Bibi's firm belief that the White House will always fold when it hears from donors: he doesn't need to do a thing, it's an election year and the Democrats will blink. Even if the Israelis bomb Tehran.
And hence the planned White House session that was slated until that bumbling Bibi had to go attack a humanitarian relief flotilla.
So now it's time for Plan B. We need to come up with a formula that oh-so-gently criticizes the flotilla massacre -- but maybe couple it with more aid. Or we can announce that the massacre was not good but every inch of Jerusalem really must be Jewish forever. Or, how about this, we announce that we are really really mad at Iran and "nothing" is off the table. Nothing. NOTHING.
In any case, we'll think of something. Tip O'Neill used to say that "all politics is local." He wasn't talking about foreign policy which, in theory, cannot be local. But it is now. Fewer than a thousand donors determine it.
They believe themselves to be pro-Israel. They aren't. They are anti-Israel because they are preventing the United States from leading Israel to achieve the peace (and security) it needs to survive. AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, the Congressional screamers (Eric Cantor, Anthony Weiner, Alan Grayson, Barbara Boxer, Elliot Engel. etc, etc) are not Israel's best friends. In effect, they are Hamas's and Hezbollah's.
I do not mean to slight the Palestinians by ignoring their plight. But this column is not about them. Besides, thanks to Israeli policies, one can have no doubt that they will be fine in the end. It is Israel, not the Palestinians, that is going down the tubes. All the Palestinians have to do is cover their heads, stay away from Israeli soldiers, and watch Israel unravel. It is Israel that I'm worried about today. At this rate, it will not survive. And its so-called friends will be responsible. Take a bow.
POSTSCRIPT: Here's my rule of thumb. If you support the survival and security of Israel, you work to end the occupation. Israel, within its own borders, has the right, even the obligation, to defend itself against all enemies. If, however, you don't care about Israel but rather only about the opportunity to feel superior to Arabs and play power games in Washington, you support the status quo, the occupation, and idiotic acts of murderous bravado like the one we saw yesterday.
Pro-Israel requires opposing the occupation. Pro-Israel means defending Israel's security within its own borders. Pro-Israel means a secure homeland for Jews in Israel, alongside a secure homeland for Palestinians in Palestine. What part of that does AIPAC not get? Or, more to the point, why doesn't it -- and its Congressional cutouts -- care?