Mondoweiss / September 8, 2023
Even as the Israeli government pushes Palestinians out of large portions of the West Bank, Joe Biden seeks to normalize Netanyahu. It’s the Democratic Party line. And liberal Zionists go along.
There is growing pressure on Joe Biden from Israel and its lobby to meet Benjamin Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister comes to the States later this month. “Netanyahu is trying to con his way into the White House,” writes a Haaretz columnist.
The conventional wisdom today is that Biden will meet Netanyahu at the United Nations, though not invite him to the White House.
Netanyahu and the lobby desperately need a presidential meeting to try make Israel normal again, and get past all the frightful news of the democracy protests and of his fascistic ministers. “He will exploit his meeting with President Biden, he will employ the use of endless lies – All to validate his attempted regime coup,” Israeli journalist Orly Barlev writes.
So, former Israeli intelligence chiefs and the democracy protesters in the U.S. are urging Biden not to meet Netanyahu. In fact, there are a great number of Israelis urging Biden to downgrade Israel, to recognize apartheid, and cut off military aid. Just like the U.S. left has been saying for many years.
The sad part of this story is that Joe Biden also needs the meeting. And what we are seeing today is not Israel’s isolation, but the White House taking one step after another to normalize the fascistic Netanyahu government. To make this government just another face of Israeli “democracy,” as the Israel lobby tells us. And make the Israel issue go away before the 2024 election cycle– in which Biden will depend on pro-Israel donors to fund his campaign.
So Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaches out to Netanyahu and affirms the relationship between the countries as if nothing is going on.
So yet another group of Democratic Congress-people travels to Jerusalem for a meeting with Netanyahu, paid for by AIPAC, the rightwing Israel lobby group.
So the U.S. advances a visa-waiver program for Israeli travelers, an insult to Palestinians who spend hours at Israeli checkpoints.
So Biden tries to outdo Trump as a friend to Netanyahu, pushing a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel that Jared Kushner calls “a vindication” of Trump’s policy in the Middle East.
All this as Netanyahu makes a deal with the Russians, flouting the U.S. line on sanctions.
“The U.S. is a thing you can move very easily,” Netanyahu said in 2001, and the U.S. proves him right again and again.
Biden’s collapse is tragic for anyone who cares about human rights.
The Israeli government is doing its utmost right now to humiliate and dispossess Palestinians. Its apartheid system has been declared openly by fascistic ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir. And the government is following through with actions: It has ethnically cleansed a large section of the West Bank between Ramallah and Jericho. It has advanced a record number of housing units in the West Bank in the first six months of the year– 12,000.
Liberal Zionists are, as usual, caught in the middle. You would hope they would speak out as large sections of the West Bank are emptied of Palestinians. And as Netanyahu’s ministers make hateful comments. But they’ve been largely silent.
That’s because the party line in Washington has been laid down. Democrats are sticking with Netanyahu through 2024. He is still our best friend. Dozens of Democratic congressional visits affirm that. Even J Street’s congressional delegation met with Netanyahu and threw J Street under the bus to do so, and J Street urged them to do so.
Earlier this year J Street called for Biden to express his sharp disapproval of Israeli actions. The time for “business as usual” is over, it said. The American Jewish community is critical of Israel.
But look, we’re right back to business as usual. So J Street lauds Biden’s new ambassador to Israel and expresses outrage over Mahmoud Abbas’s recent speech, and calls for a retraction and apology, as other leading Jewish groups have done. But it has issued no statement against Netanyahu going to the White House, no statement deploring Ben Gvir’s “Sorry Mohammed” racist speech and asking for an apology. Americans for Peace Now has also taken that path.
Liberal Zionists have no choice but to go along with the right-wing Israel lobby if they are to maintain influence in the Democratic Party. This is a political dynamic the lobby and the Jewish community established long ago, and that politicians heed today: Don’t allow any daylight between the American government and the Israeli one if you want the support of the Jewish community.
And the number of Palestinian victims of this policy just keeps getting longer.
Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006