Thursday, May 17, 2018

The reasons behind moving the embassy to Jerusalem

Historically the city of Jerusalem has always been important to people of many faiths, and for that reason alone the US foreign policy has tried to stay clear of the who exactly owns it. Any move to make it look like one faith "owns" the city makes interactions with people of the other two faiths particularly difficult.

Given that Israel militarily seized the city in the war of 1967, the US approach has been to refrain from legalizing Israeli control over the city and the West Bank. While the US recognizes that Israeli national security argument regarding the lack of strategic depth for its coastal belt are correct, it is difficult to determine what if anything will ever give Israel enough depth. It seems as if every time a measure of depth is achieved, some new catastrophic vulnerability asserts itself.

In the decades past when the bulk of US/European oil came from Iran or Saudi Arabia, getting this oil through the Suez was critical for US and European economic security. Engaging Israel provided the US (and Europe) with a way to discourage nations like Egypt from getting too grabby with the Suez Canal. Today this is no longer the case. With Russian, North Sea and US oil sources well developed - the critical nature of the Suez has declined.

As the importance of the Suez to oil shipment has declined, so has Israel's position in Washington DC. Gone were the days of Yitzhak Rabin. The memory of the Holocaust faded from American minds and with it the guilt for having stood by as such a horror took place. The wars of Israel were a distant annoyance at best - something to not get mixed up in.

As Israel is very strongly dependent on a combination of expatriate remittances (or financial support of the diaspora) and US military and economic aid to remain viable - there was little choice in the matter. The two flow private financial support and US govt support are correlated and the toehold in DC was a way to ensure that there are no sudden cash flow issues.

For Israel, projecting the Islamist threat out of the Middle East has been crucial for keeping it's toehold in Washington DC. While I completely agree with Gen Ehud Barak's perspective on Bibi's actions vis-a-vis engaging the GOP, I have to also accept that there is a reason behind it that goes beyond Bibi's "dangerous intellectual" framework.

Bibi continuously tried to entice the Obama Admin with visions of oil under the Golan Heights and the same approach was attempted with Congress in the last decade with continuous whispering about the Leviathan oil and gas field but to no avail. The US was flush with fracked hydrocarbons and there was no need for them to engage Israel's inaccessible and unknowable reserves. The failure of Bibi's efforts with the Obama Admin and Congress in the last two decades drove the Adelson engagement with Trump. This is why the Kushners and Friedmans suddenly became big shots.

That said I feel that the engagement with the GOP hasn't produced any visible result for Israel. The Israeli position in Washington DC seems to be in a decline. There is pressure inside Israel on Bibi (and his supporters) to show visible results for all the money pumped into the GOP. So far the only thing one has seen is the empowerment of American Nazis as a result of Bibi's engagement with Trump.

To counter this complete failure - Bibi pushed for a visible gesture of support for Israel. Trump resisted Bibi's charms until he needed to pay hush money to stall the Mueller investigation and that is when the "Move the Embassy" idea came into being. What Trump's true political leanings are should have been obvious in his choice of the preacher to lead the prayer at the opening of the new embassy.

While Bibi intended to celebrate the opening of the embassy as the start of a new age of influence for Israel in Washington DC, he was reduced to watching as Trump's evangelical supporters celebrated the day as a step towards the second coming of Christ. So while Bibi cheered, the Trump-vangelicals celebrated the beginning of a conflict which would lead to the extinction of Jews and Muslims and the eventual return of Jerusalem to Christian control.

I am reminded of the testimony of Hauptstrumfurher Franz Stangl during his trial for genocide. As the Camp Commandant at Treblinka, Stangl had the path from the undressing chambers to the gas chambers made to seem as peaceful and calming as possible. The entire camp was deliberately camouflaged as "Transit Station" and a "Red Cross First Aid Station" to fool the Jewish prisoners into thinking they were being led to a place of safety and peace. That is not where they were being taken.

I get the sense that is where modern Israel finds itself.

Unless a way is found to defuse the crisis caused by this mess - I fear Israeli security has been permanently and irreparably fractured.


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