Friday, February 01, 2008

If a Lobby Meet a Lobby

Jim Henley, commenting on Tony Karon's analysis of Israel's internal probe into the conduct of the recent war with Lebanon, points out an oft ignored reality: The influence on American political institutions of the notorious "Israel Lobby" is but half of the co-dependent story. At times, US interests can play an inordinately large role in Israeli political decision making processes as well. Here's Karon on how this dynamic may have played out vis-a-vis Lebanon and Hizbullah last summer:

While Israel’s Winograd Commission has certainly pulled no punches in excoriating the Israeli military and political leadership for their botched war in Lebanon last summer, there appears to be a massive lacuna in its conclusions...

...the elephant in the room: the very clear sense, throughout the Lebanon misadventure, that Israel was coordinating its actions with Washington to an extent that the Bush Administration’s own decisions had a decisive impact on how Israel waged its campaign. Once Israel had launche its initial air raids, the U.S. quickly moved to define the objectives of the war in terms far more expansive than Israel had ever intended, using its diplomatic veto to block a ceasefire that the Israeli leadership had, in fact, been counting on when they began. [...]

The extent of U.S. influence was also made clear by Israeli media reports at the time of Olmert rushing out of critical security cabinet meetings to coordinate his strategy on the phone with Rice — hard to picture Ariel Sharon doing that, actually. But Schiff also makes clear that, plainly, the Israelis had no idea what they’d signed up for, which is why, as Winograd concluded, they waded into battle without a plan. (But Winograd doesn’t appear to want to ask why — presumably U.S.-Israeli relationship is a third-rail of Israeli politics that dare not be touched…) They had assumed they were launching retaliatory strikes to punish Hizballah for seizing two of its soldiers; then, suddenly, they were exected — by Washington — to militarily eliminate Hizballah.
Karon recalls, in another post, the prevalence of appeals from several domestic US observers that were consistent with this outlook. Quoting Charles Krauthammer:

Israel’s leaders do not seem to understand how ruinous a military failure in Lebanon would be to its relationship with America, Israel’s most vital lifeline… America’s green light for Israel to defend itself is seen as a favor to Israel. But that is a tendentious, misleadingly partial analysis. The green light — indeed, the encouragement — is also an act of clear self-interest. America wants, America needs, a decisive Hezbollah defeat. [my emphasis]
According to other interested parties, however, not only did the Bush administration want Israel to crush Hezbollah with greater dedication and zeal, but there were other targets picked out for our somewhat reluctant proxy. This interview with David Wurmser's wife, Dr. Meyrav Wurmser, contains some disturbing implications:

Is this a popular stance in the administration, that Israel lost the war?

"Yes, there is no doubt. It's not something one can argue about it. There is a lot of anger at Israel."

What caused the anger?

"I know this will annoy many of your readers… But the anger is over the fact that Israel did not fight against the Syrians. Instead of Israel fighting against Hizbullah, many parts of the American administration believe that Israel should have fought against the real enemy, which is Syria and not Hizbullah."

Did the administration expect Israel to attack Syria?

"They hoped Israel would do it. You cannot come to another country and order it to launch a war, but there was hope, and more than hope, that Israel would do the right thing. It would have served both the American and Israeli interests.

"The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space… They believed that Israel should be allowed to win. A great part of it was the thought that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hizbullah. It was obvious that it is impossible to fight directly against Iran, but the thought was that its strategic and important ally should be hit." [...]

"The final outcome is that Israel did not do it. It fought the wrong war and lost. Instead of a strategic war that would serve Israel's objectives, as well as the US objectives in Iraq. If Syria had been defeated, the rebellion in Iraq would have ended." [ed note: Oh sure, without Syria, the Iraqis could never mount an insurgency! Not as if Saudi Arabia is enough of an outside patron.]

Wurmser says that what most frustrates her is hearing people close to decision makers in Israel asking her if the US would have let Israel attack Syria.

"No one would have stopped you. It was an American interest. They would have applauded you. Think why you received so much time and space to operate. Rice was in the region and Israel embarrassed her with Qana, and still Israel got more time. Why aren't they reading the map correctly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem?"
You know, we really bring out the worst in each other.

(cross-posted to TIA)