After Israel's lethal attack in international waters on a civilian flotilla carrying relief supplies to Gaza, a troubling question arises: Have Israeli authorities, who possess a major nuclear arsenal, become dangerously erratic?
This question can't be posed publicly in the American mainstream news media nor in U.S. political circles, where fear of the pro-Israel lobby remains strong. But it is a concern that is being discussed quietly by foreign policy analysts around the world.
Even as America's commentariat again generates the predictable excuses for Israeli latest actions, the political reality inside Israel is one that is shifting more and more toward a society dominated by Jewish fundamentalists, including an aggressive and racist settler bloc.
The ultra-Orthodox Shas Party is now in the Likud ruling coalition and holds important Cabinet posts such as housing. Shas leaders have made it clear that they favor a country segregated not just between Arab and Jew but between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews.
If these fundamentalist elements continue to consolidate their political power, the world could soon be facing an isolated and paranoid religious state with some 200 to 400 nuclear warheads along with a sophisticated collection of chemical and biological weapons.
One Israeli e'migre', who spent his young adulthood working for the Israeli government, told me that he fears Israel is becoming like North Korea, except qualitatively more dangerous because Israel has an advanced nuclear arsenal and sits in a more strategic part of the world.
The current government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also appears excessively confident that Israel's sophisticated propaganda network and its American neoconservative allies can overwhelm any criticism of Israeli actions in Washington and ensure eventual U.S. backing for a military strike on Iran.
Netanyahu has been dismissive toward President Barack Obama's peace initiatives, particularly Obama's demand that Israel stop building Jewish housing in traditionally Arab areas.
Ignoring those wishes, Netanyahu's Shas Party allies announced new Jewish construction in Arab East Jerusalem last March as Vice President Joe Biden arrived to reaffirm U.S. solidarity with Israel.
Though Obama let his annoyance be known, Netanyahu followed up by announcing that the Jewish housing construction would go forward.
Faced with this Israeli intransigence, Obama quieted his criticism. He was reportedly looking forward to a "kiss-and-make-up" session with Netanyahu on Tuesday before Israel's lethal assault on the "Freedom Flotilla" caused Netanyahu to cancel the meeting and rush back to Israel.
Obama also has fallen in line behind Israeli insistence that a confrontation over Iran's nuclear program be put at the top of the international agenda and that a new Iranian offer to ship about half its low-enriched uranium out of the country be rejected.
The President had privately urged the leaders of Brazil and Turkey to draw Iran into that agreement, which they did two weeks ago. But Israel and American neocons denounced and ridiculed the deal, demanding instead stiffer sanctions and stepped-up efforts for "regime change" in Iran.
Instead of admitting that he had backed the Iran-Brazil-Turkey deal, Obama stayed silent, as he has in the wake of Israel's middle-of-the-night commando raid on the flotilla, which left nine peace activists dead early Monday.
In a P.R. blitz on Tuesday, Israeli officials made a point of showing off knives and other hand-made weapons that some of the activists allegedly used to defend the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, when the Israeli commandos landed by ropes from helicopters.
According to Israeli accounts, the resistance from the people onboard led the commandos to open fire. The Israeli government and many U.S. commentators blamed the ship's resistance for the violence.
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