Mondoweiss / April 18, 2023
Longtime Israel lobbyist Martin Indyk says Joe Biden’s rebuke of Benjamin Netanyahu last month will have dramatic consequences on the Israeli leader’s ability to influence US politics.
Joe Biden’s rebuke of Benjamin Netanyahu last month, saying he’s not invited to Washington, will have dramatic consequences for the Israeli PM, blocking his ability to use Congress “to pressure Biden to do his bidding” on Iran, says Martin Indyk, the former White House aide and longtime advocate for Israel.
In unusually blunt language on March 28, Biden deplored the Netanyahu government’s efforts to neuter the Israeli Supreme Court, saying “They cannot continue down this road.” Biden then stated that Netanyahu is not invited to Washington– “Not in the near term.”
“Now that is applying real pressure to Netanyahu,” Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said on Preet Bharara’s podcast last week. Indyk explained:
I just want to explain why it’s a problem for Netanyahu in particular. It’s not just that it looks like he’s damaging the US-Israel relationship, which is critical to Israel’s survival and wellbeing. If he can’t come to Washington, he can’t advance the two issues that he said during his campaign and when he was sworn in were his priorities. That is Iran and Saudi Arabia – normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Neither of those things can be achieved without Netanyahu coming to Washington, sitting down with Biden, working out a joint strategy, and going to The Hill and talking to his Republican mates and ginning them up to pressure Biden to do his bidding. And so he’s got a real problem on his hands now, that if he goes ahead without a consensus, he’s not going to be able to pursue those other objectives which he said were his priorities.
Indeed, the next day Netanyahu pulled his judicial plans for at least a few weeks.
Indyk said Biden’s outspokenness was out of character, but he “blew his fuses.”
“He’s been very careful to adopt the approach of speaking truth to Netanyahu in private but not putting that out in public, but I think what happened this time blew his fuses.”
Bear in mind that Netanyahu came to Washington whenever he wanted under Presidents Obama and Trump; and in 2015 he used an invitation from the Republican speaker of the House to address a joint session of Congress and try to undermine Obama’s Iran deal. Ginning up indeed! Obama all-but had to apologize for bucking Netanyahu, and four Democratic senators voted against the deal (including Chuck Schumer, rewarded for his betrayal with the Democratic leadership of the Senate). Netanyahu (and Schumer) were backed then by the Israel lobby groups, which had open access to the White House. The big difference this time around is that Biden can say that he has pro-Israel organizations on his side against Netanyahu. “They [Israel] know America’s position. They know the American Jewish position,” Biden said.
Indyk’s commentary on Bharara’s podcast was also notable for his dismissive view of Palestinians– the anti-Palestinian attitude typical in Washington.
Consider Indyk’s Israel-centric description of the recent violence over Israel’s raid on the Al-Aqsa mosque.
There’s been a lot of tension in the last couple of nights in Jerusalem in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the third holiest mosque in Islam in the old city of Jerusalem. And there’ve been confrontations between young Muslims in the mosque. They’ve locked themselves in the mosque and Israeli police who are rooting them out of there and beating them up as they go inside this third holiest mosque, so it’s really increased the tension. Normally when this happens, we see rockets being fired by Hamas out of Gaza, the territory which Hamas controls in Gaza in a kind of solidarity move. And two years ago, that produced an 11-day war focused on Gaza between the Israeli armed forces and Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad in Gaza…
[T]he Israeli calculations in this regard is always about how to maintain or reestablish, in this case, their deterrence.
The observer Ilene Cohen pointed out Indyk’s bias to me:
“There is no discussion of Israel’s raids in Jenin/Nablus and the killings. He also fails to mention the reason that young Muslims were staying in Al Aqsa mosque (during Ramadan)—Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir strutting on Haram al-Sharif and inviting Jews to pray. And what purpose was served by sending armed Israeli police to raid the mosque? Indyk talks about reestablishing deterrence, when Israel is the provocateur, as it often is. I find this very problematic, as it feeds the ‘self-defense’ argument, which undergirds the Israeli argument for occupation. In my view the self-defense story is disastrous—it’s the all-purpose justification for anything and everything Israel does. I don’t think Indyk gets that, even though I consider him to be decent and well meaning. It’s just that his default position, even when critical, is reflexively the Israeli point of view.”
In fact, Indyk mentioned Palestinians as such only once in his 25-minute discussion, in praising Israel’s Supreme Court for its rulings on Palestinian issues. Indyk said:
The Supreme Court has also been protecting the rights of Palestinian landowners in the West Bank, which is legally occupied territory, occupied by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day[June] War. And normally, the law that applies there is military law, occupation law, but the Palestinian landowners have been able successfully to apply to the Supreme Court for protection.
This is liberal Zionist propaganda. The human rights group B’Tselem calls the Supreme Court the “Supreme Court of occupation”:
The court has proven its willingness to sanction almost any injustice or violation of the human rights of Palestinians. Over the years, it has permitted nearly every kind of human rights violation that Israel has committed in the Occupied Territories. Violations approved by the court include the punitive house demolitions, lengthy detention without trial, the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip and the imprisonment of some two million people inside it, the expulsion of entire communities from their homes, and the construction of the Separation Barrier on Palestinian territory, resulting in extensive land grab.
Many times in its 2021 report saying Israel practices “apartheid,” Human Rights Watch described actions by the Supreme Court to deprive West Bank Palestinians of property rights. “Israeli authorities, for example, built in the 1980s a significant segment of Road 443 in the West Bank, in part on expropriated Palestinian land, to offer an alternative route for Israelis to commute between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Some landowners challenged the confiscation, but the Supreme Court dismissed their petition.”
Indyk’s failure to report such information is consistent with his longtime role.
He has said he “made aliyah” — i.e. emigrated — to Washington from Australia in order to help Israel, taking a position at the lead Israel lobby group AIPAC 40 years ago. Indyk later founded the Israel lobby think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, with the help of pro-Israel givers, including Democratic godfather Haim Saban.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006