Mondoweiss / November 24, 2020
Tony Blinken is Joe Biden’s choice to be secretary of state and he brings long loyalty to Biden to the job as well as a highly polished internationalism, which entails active engagement with allies, and yes, militarism. Biden supported the Iraq war and the Yemen slaughter with Blinken huddled at his side (Blinken gets low grades from progressive realists on military restraint and cognitive empathy, and not learning from mistakes).
The 58-year-old former deputy secretary of state is nothing if not smooth. Get ready for catch phrases like “Indo Pacific” and “with us on the take-off and on the landing too.” His big theme is that if the U.S. isn’t running the world, someone else will. On trade alliances:
We have a choice to make. If we’re not engaged in these efforts, then someone else is likely to be in our place. And so it makes a big difference to the United States if we are helping to shape the rules that govern trade.
But our website is consumed with Israel/Palestine policy and here Blinken reflects Biden in spinning highly scripted and cagey responses that steer a delicate path around Israel’s clout in Washington while doing nothing to offend what he calls “the Jewish homeland.” He says, We need to re-enter the Iran deal if Iran re-enters it, because trashing the deal has made Israel unsafer; we need to leave troops in Syria and check with Israel on all our actions in the Middle East because it’s the “anchor” of democracy in the region; and we need to call out Israel’s settlement activity as unhelpful but then not do anything about it. We need to rush Israel emergency military funding as it’s massacring civilians in Gaza.
And the boycott movement for human rights in Palestine is a very bad thing. But we can’t stop Americans from supporting it.
No wonder that the Israel lobby groups J Street and the American Jewish Committee have celebrated the Blinken nomination. While Rashida Tlaib said yesterday, answering Bernie Sanders’s former aide calling Blinken a “solid choice” — “So long as he doesn’t suppress my First Amendment right to speak out against Netanyahu’s racist and inhumane policies. The Palestinian people deserve equality and justice.”
By the way, Blinken is Jewish (“Born of Jewish parents and the stepson of a Holocaust survivor,” as the AJC notes), and Biden has a long history of political philosemitism.
Here are some quotes. Blinken told the Hudson Institute last July that the alliance with Israel is fundamental.
Certain fundamentals… remain constant, starting with our relationship to Israel as the anchor and foundation for democracy in the region. That won’t change. Commitment to Israel’s security is not going away.
He’s clung to the two-state solution despite its demolition by Israel. When Walter Russell Mead asked him last summer whether “annexations on the West Bank” will “complicate” the relationship between Biden and Israel, Blinken gave a long diplomatic answer that completely avoided any real criticism.
Here’s what it does. It certainly complicates even more than it already is, the prospect of achieving a two state solution in the middle east, and that outcome, two states for two people, in my judgment and the vice president’s judgment more importantly, represents the best way and probably the only way that you’ll have a secure future for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and a state for the Palestinians…
Any unilateral action by either side that makes that prospect even more difficult and more distant is something that the vice president opposes and would oppose as president. So we’ll see what Israel chooses to do. But ideally obviously it won’t pursue it, and we will find ways to rebuild an environment in which it’s possible for the parties to reengage in the direction of two states.
Of course along with that, Blinken is against any conditions or sanctions on the near $4 billion a year we give Israel, despite its unending colonization of lands designated for that Palestinian state.
In a June 2020 appearance before the American Jewish Committee, he said Biden would stick by Israel in every way, because we share values.
Joe Biden made his first foreign trip as a young senator to Israel in 1973…. He’s worked with every Israeli Prime Minister since [Golda Meir] and he’s demonstrated in word and in deed an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security including when he was vice president, through the Iron Dome missile defense program and the largest military aid package in U.S. history. He’s got a lifetime record to show that he understands that Israel is America’s closest partner in the Middle East and the world’s only Jewish state and one of the best partners we have from everything from counterterrorism to now counter-covid, given Israel’s remarkable record in dealing with the coronavirus and the science and technologies being put to work for the benefit of the world.
On our best days we both aspire to shared values that Joe Biden actually cares about. You can count on him to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself. To honour the bipartisan traditions of U.S. support for Israel, to safeguard and not put at risk Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Blinken emphasized the political goal. Biden doesn’t want politicians to argue about Israel.
You can count on him… never, never to try to turn support for Israel into one more wedge issue that divides Americans. Israel is so much stronger when Americans are united and when America is respected around the world.
Biden overrode differences over Israel inside the Democratic Party during the platform discussions last summer in which he maintained a hard line. And Blinken waved those issues aside. Israel won’t pay a price.
“Some of these issues came up in our primaries. Joe Biden has spoken out strongly and stood strongly against the BDS movement, which he has criticized in no uncertain terms. He’s also been very clear that he would not tie military assistance to Israel to things like annexation or other decisions by the Israeli government with which we might disagree.
Right back to that two-state solution! Notice how he repeats the talking point.
“At the same time he has stood strongly for the proposition that the best way and indeed the only way to fully guarantee Israel’s future in security as a Jewish and democratic state and to give Palestinians a state is through a two state solution. So any unilateral actions by either side that make that already-difficult prospect even more challenging, is something he would oppose.
Blinken has faulted Trump for undermining Israel’s security. For instance, when he announced he was withdrawing forces from northern Syria, in a tweet. “No coordination with Israel, no taking its interests into account,” Blinken lamented. “Iranian provocations increased not decreased.”
Trashing the Obama administration’s hard-won nuclear deal with Iran was an “abject failure.” Doing so endangered Israel and “isolated the U.S. not Iran,” Blinken says, pursuing his theme of alliances. Iran is closer to a nuclear bomb than when Obama left office, and Trump has put us on the brink of war in the Gulf. Trump said tearing up the deal would compel Iran to negotiate a better one, and maximum pressure would cause Iran to cease dangerous actions. But they’ve increased, Blinken says.
The U.S. of course broke the deal. Since then, Iran is also said to have breached parts of the deal. Blinken has said all parties should go back in, and make the deal tougher on Iran.
If Iran comes back into compliance, Joe Biden has said we should too…[and] build a stronger longer agreement. With the allies with us.. we’re in a much better position to confront Iran’s actions that we don’t like.
Netanyahu has of course been saying loudly that the U.S. must not re-enter the deal. This could get interesting …
Thanks to Donald Johnson
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006