Sunday, February 23, 2014
An Alliance Too Far: Someone Needs To Tell Congress That Israel Is Not The 51st State Yet
Paul Pillar in the National Interest, on a letter that nearly 100 US congressional representatives have sent to House leaders John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, asking that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu be invited to address a joint session of Congress when he is in Washington next month to speak to AIPAC's annual policy summit. “Doing so,” the letter declares, “would send a clear message of U.S. support to Israel.”
Pillar, a former top CIA analyst with extensive experience in the Middle East and in Washington analyzing US Middle East policy at Brookings and at Georgetown, offers an appropriately tart response. He writes from a point of view that the American-Israel "special relationship" needs rebalancing and that Netanyahu has chronically meddled in the making of US foreign policy---a diplomatic no-no--- courtesy of the Israel lobby. His headline is what grabbed my attention: Prime Minister, You're No Winston Churchill. Pillar notes that:
If Netanyahu were invited to address Congress next month it would be an extraordinary instance of honoring someone who has repeatedly been poking a stick in the eye of the country bestowing the honor. Among other things, he has been doing everything he can to sabotage the current negotiations with Iran, which is one of the most important foreign policy initiatives the United States and its five foreign partners currently have going. He also has been pursuing policies—including continued colonization of occupied territory and the adding of new demands—likely to ensure failure of another set of negotiations important to the United States, the one involving the Palestinians.
Even if members of Congress were to ignore these factors, one might expect them to be mindful of not cheapening the currency when it comes to one of the few symbolically important ways that Congress can make a foreign policy statement. Ever since the Marquis de Lafayette became in 1824 the first foreigner to address Congress, the privilege has not been profligately bestowed. President Park Geun-hye of South Korea was the only foreign dignitary invited to do so last year. None were invited in 2012.
Now get this: Netanyahu already has addressed Congress twice: in 2011 and during his earlier stint as prime minister in 1996. Only one person has been given the honor of doing so three times: Winston Churchill—twice during World War II and again in 1952. People want to put the stick-poker on the same level as Churchill?