Mondoweiss / October 14, 2021
The big news on our issue in Washington is that Benjamin Netanyahu is gone, and Joe Biden and the Israel lobby are celebrating. Yair Lapid, the foreign minister and alt-PM in the new Naftali Bennett government, came to Washington this week and was treated like a rock star by the lobby. Here at last is an attractive Israeli leader who is media-genic and loves Democrats.
And who is effectively as rightwing as Netanyahu: Lapid had nothing to say about Palestinians except some lukewarm comments about them having a “better life.” He devoted his comments to the threat Iran supposedly poses to Israel, likening it to Nazi Germany, and praised Israel’s normalization with Arab monarchies. Just as Prime Minister Bennett ignored Palestinians entirely in his recent speech to the U.N.
The pity is that American leaders go along with this charade. Secretary of State Tony Blinken amped up his anti-Iran rhetoric for Lapid’s benefit, pleasing Israelis by saying that the “runway” back to the Iran deal is getting shorter all the time.
“With every passing day and Iran’s refusal to engage in good faith, the runway gets short.”
Blinken and Lapid offered empty statements about the Palestinian future. Blinken mentioned “the importance” of “finding a two-state solution” and Lapid said Palestinians deserve a “decent life.” But there is nothing concrete here (even though the U.S. recommitted to reopening the consulate Jerusalem).
In rhetoric straight out of the Netanyahu playbook, Lapid cited Blinken’s father’s Holocaust background to justify an attack on Iran:
“Secretary of State Blinken and I are sons of Holocaust survivors. We know there are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil. If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act. We must make clear that the civilized world won’t allow it. If the Iranians don’t believe the world is serious about stopping them, they’ll race to the bomb.”
(Blinken of course emphasized the same background when he appeared at Congressional hearings seeking the job of Secretary of State.)
VP Kamala Harris was also vague and empty about the Palestinian future after her meeting with Lapid Tuesday:
“Vice President Harris reaffirmed the United States’ strong support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, and our unwavering commitment to Israel’s security. The two leaders also discussed the importance of advancing peace, security, and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis, in particular the need to improve living conditions and ensure calm in Gaza. “
While Lapid embraced Harris as one of Israel’s best friends in Washington/
Lapid met with Jake Sullivan, national security adviser, and this readout also offered nothing substantive about Palestinians.
“Mr. Sullivan emphasized the importance of practical steps to improve the lives of the Palestinians “
The meeting with Nancy Pelosi October 12 was even worse. Pelosi said not a word about Palestinians. Pelosi seemed enthused by the get-together. She published a video of the two leaders’ appearance before the press and said Israel support was in her “DNA” and in the U.S. “national interest”. She heralded the bipartisanship of the issue.
“On any occasion… it is a privilege to talk about the importance of the U.S. Israel bond… It is one that is based on our mutual security, it is based on our mutual values. And it is again something that is the source of pride to all of us in the Congress who work on this. Support for Israel has always been bipartisan in the Congress of the United States and it continues to be so.”
Well not every Democrat loves Israel: eight Dems voted against giving Israel another $1 billion two weeks ago.
But this is very much what Pelosi told an Israel lobby group a couple years back, the Capitol would crumble and fall before the Congress stopped supporting Israel.
And Lapid picked up the theme: “Being pro-Israel is being bipartisan.”
That bipartisanship is obviously what Netanyahu and Trump eroded by undertaking extreme and provocative measures. Though Lapid is in no way altering Netanyahu’s policy, of doing all Israel can to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.
Lapid gave this lame lip service to Palestinians with Pelosi.
“And the Palestinians deserve a better life.”
Lapid also met with the rightwing Democratic Party Israel lobby group — Democratic Majority for Israel — and said, “Israel is grateful for the support of all its friends in both parties.” Democratic Majority was over the moon to get the meeting:
“Thank you, Minister Lapid, for recognizing the importance of our work. We are also deeply grateful for all of your efforts to strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance.”
Democratic Majority also issued a “thrilled” statement that made no reference to Palestinians but leaned hard on the new accords between Israel and Arab neighbors which of course was a theme of the Blinken and Pelosi and Harris meetings as well.
“Great to see @SenTomCotton again today. We discussed the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program and malign activities in the region. Israel is grateful for your leadership and commitment to strengthening the alliance between our two countries.”
In that same bipartisan rightwing spirit, Lapid met with Ted Deutch, the Democratic congressman and hack for Israel who smeared Rashida Tlaib as an antisemite on the floor of the House because she dared to say that Human Rights Watch says Israel is an apartheid state when she voted against giving Israel another $1 billion.
So calm was restored in Washington, and the Democrats are feeling confident that the party is behind Israel going into the 2022 election cycle. Because Israel support is crucial to the party’s fundraising.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006