An amazing story in Foreign Policy today by Mark Perry, the Middle East expert and security consultant.
Perry reports that the startling and unpredicted US -Israel smackdown did not really start in Jerusalem this week. It began months ago when CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus dispatched a team to brief the Joint Chiefs and the White House on the danger continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict posed to US troops in the Middle East.
The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Admiral Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer later bluntly described it) "too old, too slow ... and too late."
The White House was also stunned by the report and decided to act. Its first move was to dispatch Vice President Biden to Israel and Palestine to announce the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Prime Minister Netanyahu''s government tried to abort the US policy shift (and avoid negotiations) by announcing the new settler units in East Jerusalem. But the attempt blew up in Bibi's face when Obama, Biden, and Clinton reacted with public fury at the unprecedented public diss of the US by an ally and #1 foreign aid recipient.
Perry concludes that the "lobby" that argued for the policy shift is even more powerful than AIPAC.
There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA, the American Medical Association, the lawyers -- and the Israeli lobby. But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the U.S. military. While commentators and pundits might reflect that Joe Biden's trip to Israel has forever shifted America's relationship with its erstwhile ally in the region, the real break came in January, when David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America's relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America's soldiers. Maybe Israel gets the message now.
POSTSCRIPT: The Pentagon issued a statement on the Perry piece. It noted that one item in the report was wrong, a minor point about Petraeus wanting to change the geographic groupings of the various commands so that CENTCOM included Israel. By correcting only this minor point, the Pentagon essentially confirms the rest. The significance of the military speaking out like this cannot be exaggerated.