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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/9/10

Israel Is Fueling Anti-Americanism among U.S. Allies

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The attack in the international waters of the Mediterranean in the early hours of May 31 by an elite force of the Israeli navy on the Turkish flagged Mavi Marmara civilian ferry crammed with more than 700 international activists, including several Americans, carrying 100 tonnes of cargo including concrete, medicines and children's toys, and leading five smaller vessels of the Free Gaza Flotilla, which left eight Turks and a U.S. citizen of Turkish origin dead and wounded several others, has cornered the United States in a defensive diplomatic position to contain the regional and international fallout of the military fiasco of the "Operation Sky Wind" its Israeli regional ally launched against the flotilla; it "puts the United States in an extremely difficult position," Marina Ottaway wrote in a report published by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on May 31.

Containing angry Arab reaction and adverse repercussions on Arab U.S. relations was most likely on the agenda of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday. However Biden is the least qualified to allay Arab anger for being the most vocal among U.S. officials in "legitimizing" Israel's blunder. The Gaza flotilla episode has dispelled the benefit of doubt the Arab allies have given to President Barak Obama's promises of change in U.S. foreign policy in their region. To regain Arab confidence it needs more than U.S. official visits whether by Biden or by a better choice because at the end of the day politics is not about "good intentions", but is rather about "good deeds," according to the Egyptian veteran political analyst Fahmy Howeidy.

Despite a pronounced belief to the contrary by U.S. Senator Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the head of Israel's Mossad, Meir Dagan, was more to the point when he said last week that "Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden." Earlier this year CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in CENTCOM's area of operations and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world." Israel seems determined to complicate Petraeus' mission further.

Washington has found its diplomacy faced with an Israeli fait accompli to be involuntarily embroiled in what the Israeli media harshly criticized as a tactical failure, which engulfed the U.S. administration in the roaring Arab and Muslim anger to be accused of being a partner to the Israeli adventure, thus fueling anti Americanism in the same arena where the administration is doing its best to defuse and contain the anti Americanism that was escalated by the invasion of Iraq in 2003, i.e. among U.S. regional allies. Once more, the Free Gaza Flotilla episode "will raise questions --not for the first time--over whether (Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu can be a dependable partner for the United States," Michele Dunne wrote in a Carnegie Endowment report.

Ironically, the fiasco of the Israeli "Operation Sky Wind" has created a snowballing conflict not between Israel and its self-proclaimed arch enemy Iran, but with Turkey, traditionally Israel's only regional friend, a key regional power, a NATO member, a U.S. ally and a hopeful of EU membership, as well as with the U.S. allied camp of Arab and Palestinian moderates, whom both Israel and the United States endeavor to recruit in a unified anti Iran front and who are their partners in the U.S. sponsored Arab Israeli "peace process, which Washington is now weighing in heavily to resume its Palestinian Israeli track.

Israel is not making U.S. life easier in the region. "That's it, Israel. Put your best friend on the spot, with stupid acts of belligerency, when hundreds of its sons and daughters are dying fighting your avowed enemy. It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States," wrote Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the mainstream Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington (CSIS). Stephen Walt, a Harvard international-relations professor and co-author of the 2007 book, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," agreed. Professor of International Relations at New York University, Alon Ben Meir, concluded in American Diplomacy on May 10th: "The Netanyahu government seems to miss-assess the changing strategic interests of the United States in the Middle East, especially in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

However official Washington so far acts and speaks in a way that would contain adverse fallout of the Free Gaza Flotilla episode on bilateral relations with Israel, otherwise it would make a bad situation worse if one is to remember that the episode made Netanyahu cancel a summit meeting with Obama - after he was forced to cut short his visit to Canada - that was scheduled specifically to mend bilateral fences. But the motion which was unusually "personally" presented to the Israeli Knesset by the opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, for a no-confidence vote in Netanyahu's government on Monday because, as she said, "the current government doesn't represent the State of Israel to the world" and hurts "ties with the United States" made public what the U.S. administration has been trying to keep away from the spotlights. Trying to defuse the repercussions of Israel's blunder, the U.S. leaned on Israel "quite a lot" to release hundreds of Turkish peace activists who were on board of Mavi Marmara, Turkey's Deputy Under Secretary for public diplomacy Selim Yenel told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Fueling anti Americanism among Arabs and Muslims is absolutely not in the interests of the United States, but this is exactly what current Israeli policies boil down to. Soaring Israeli U.S. relations further was the first casualty of the Israeli attack.

Disrupting U.S. regional strategic plans was the second U.S. interest threatened by the attack. Both sides of the Arab and Turkish U.S. alliance find themselves now on the opposite side of the Arab Israeli conflict, which was on the verge of an historic breakthrough on the basis of the U.S. sponsored so called "two state solution", which enjoys the support of the major world powers thanks only to all of them being on the same side. The U.S. led Middle East camp seems now fractured and divided. The opposite camp led by Iran and Syria seems more confident and united. The U.S. position is weaker and their stance is stronger. Washington seems to loose the initiative in the region to its adversaries thanks to Israel initiating a conflict with U.S. moderate allies. For Israel and its U.S. advocates this should flash a red light.

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
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