by James M. Wall
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking on April 12 at a dinner to open the US-Islamic World Forum, hosted by the Brookings Institution and the State of Qatar, had warm words of greeting to her many friends there:
It is such a pleasure for me to join you at this first U.S.-Islamic World Forum held in America. His Highness the Amir and the people of Qatar have generously hosted the Forum for years. . . . I was honored to be a guest in Doha last year. And now I am delighted to welcome you to Washington. I want to thank Martin Indyk, Ken Pollack and the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution for keeping this event going and growing.
Indyk (pictured above) and Pollack have helped to shape US foreign policy in the Middle East for decades. They are currently housed at the Saban Center, thanks to the generosity of Haim Saban, an Israeli-American media-mogul and one of the biggest contributors to the campaigns of pro-Israel politicians in the U.S.
Saban has been described by a New York Times reporter as a “tireless cheerleader for Israel.” He has also founded various centers and institutions to produce policy research favorable to Israel. In 2002 he pledged $13 million to found the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, which is now directed by Indyk, who had earlier founded the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an AIPAC spinoff.
This is the organization which hosted the US-Islamic Forum last week, the event at which Indyk’s good friend Hillary Clinton, was the keynote speaker.
Haim Saban and the Clintons go way back, starting with Bill Clinton’s eight-years as president. According to a 2006 article by Ha’aretz reporter Ari Shavit:
Since [Saban] lost the hold he had in the White House through his good friends Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution and the Saban Forum have become his levers of influence on political Washington and on Jerusalem.
Shavit writes further that “one of the achievements of which [Saban] is proud” is his ability to bring together Ariel Sharon and Bill Clinton, Shimon Peres and Henry Kissinger, Tzipi Livni and Condoleezza Rice.
Saban (pictured here) and his hardline Zionism, however, does not speak for all of his fellow business leaders in Israel. According to a Jerusalem Post analysis, Israel’s growing international isolation is seen as a threat to Israel’s economic future. A group of Israeli security and business leaders, speaking at a Tel Aviv press conference, April 13, agreed that:
“The changing landscape of the Middle East and Israel’s declining international image demand a new Israeli peace initiative.”
At that economics and security leaders’ press conference, Israel’s former Shin Bet Director General Yaakov Perry, described the current status quo in the West Bank as “presenting a mortal threat to the state of Israel”.
Our continued presence in the [Palestinian] territories is a threat to Zionism. With every passing minute further damage is done to the state of Israel.” One thing is clear, the Middle East is changing, dramatic things are happening around us, we are witnessing historic changes towards reform, most of which are not being led by extremist groups.
It does not portend well for Israel’s enonomic future when the US Congress gives Israel’s Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu a prestigious forum in Washington to present his “plans for peace” to the world. That is most certainly not the “change toward reform” that Israel’s economic and security leaders were talking about.
The prestigious forum before which Bibi will speak in late May is a joint session of the US Congress, a platform given to him by the new Big Dog in Washingon, House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio.
The Speaker took time away from budget trashing to invite Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress during the Prime Minister’s May 22-24 visit to Washington where his address there will be a highlight at the AIPAC Policy Conference.
Netanyahu’s appearance will be a dramatic change from joint session appearances by previous Israeli prime ministers.
On two previous occasions, when an Israeli prime minister appeared before a joint session he was not alone. He spoke in tandem with the leader of a neighboring Arab state in connection with completed peace negotiations.
On September 18, 1978, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, spoke to a joint session. Then, on July 26, 1994, King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, addressed another joint session. These occasions were related to peace efforts organized by first, President Jimmy Carter and then by President Bill Clinton.
Aaron David Miller, a long-time State Department pro-Israel operative, was around during those earlier PM appearances. He is now comfortably esconced at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where, among other duties, he writes pro-Israel articles for pro-Israel newspapers like the Washington Post.
His latest column for the Post, is entitled, “The Palestinians’ mistake in seeking statehood from the UN”, has the ring of a Tom Friedman New York Times column, including Friedman’s snide advice to “Arabs” and “Arab leaders”, couched in Friedmanesque faux self-deprecation. Here is one Miller example:
In almost two decades of working on Arab-Israeli negotiations as a State Department adviser and negotiator, I’ve come up with more than my fair share of dumb ideas. But the notion Palestinians are cooking up, for U.N. action on Palestinian statehood this fall, takes dumb to a new level.
And there you have the establshment Zionist line. Negotiations are the only answer. Anything else is just plain “dumb”. Tom Friedman could not have said it better.
The Palestinians have heard this before from American pro-Israeli politicians and pundits. Talk to the Israelis. We are here to help you. Trust us. If you will talk friendly-like, those settlements that are spreading over your land will be negotiated. Those endless checkpoints will not always be there. When Israel launches military assaults to hunt down “militants”, they do not mean to kill civilians. Trust us; we are Americans who believe in justice.
Such nonsense no longer rings true in Ramallah, Hebron, Jenin, nor Jerusalem. Palestinians know full well that the Israel Lobby maintains its tight grip on the US Congress, the media, and the White House. They also know that Hillary Clinton, Aaron David Miller, Martin Indyk, and rich moguls like Haim Saban, have been around for a long time. They are not going away.
For Miller, in his Washington Post column, it is “dumb” to move away from negotiation when the prison keys are locked inside the warden’s safe?
What would Miller have the Palestinians negotiate for? Extra desserts, ice cream once a week?
The Washington Post is on Miller’s side. These comments in a recent Post editorial sing the same song with the same words.
European governments have been pressing for a new initiative by the Middle East “Quartet” — a group made up of the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia — that would attempt to set the parameters for Palestinian statehood. . . .
To its credit, the [Obama] administration has been resisting these initiatives, which would probably set back rather than advance the Palestinian cause. The American position remains that Palestinians can achieve statehood only through negotiations with Israel, and that, as Ms. Clinton put it, “only the parties themselves can make the hard choices for peace.”
Only the parties themselves, Madam Secretary? The parties are the warden and the prisoner. Someone besides the warden will have to take away those keys and open those prison doors. At the moment, the Palestinian Authority is counting on world opinion to jar the United Nations into action on behalf of those who demand freedom.
So let Prime Minister Netanyahu give his speech to the joint session, and let the Congress cheer his every word. Outside those hallowed halls there are growing demands for justice which are being heard in the UN, and eventually may even be heard inside the walls of our morality-keeping, “can’t we just all get along” churches.