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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/24/17

The Israel-gate Side of Russia-gate

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President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the United Nations General Assembly
President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the United Nations General Assembly
(Image by (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead))
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In investigating Russia's alleged meddling in U.S. politics, special prosecutor Robert Mueller uncovered evidence that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pressured the Trump transition team to undermine President Obama's plans to permit the United Nations to censure Israel over its illegal settlement building on the Palestinian West Bank, a discovery referenced in the plea deal with President Trump's first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

At Netanyahu's behest, Flynn and President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner reportedly took the lead in the lobbying to derail the U.N. resolution, which Flynn discussed in a phone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (in which the Russian diplomat rebuffed Flynn's appeal to block the resolution).

I spoke on Dec, 18 with independent journalist and blogger Richard Silverstein, who writes on national security and other issues for a number of blogs at Tikun Olam.

Dennis Bernstein: A part of Michael Flynn's plea had to do with some actions he took before coming to power regarding Israel and the United Nations. Please explain.

Richard Silverstein: The Obama administration was negotiating in the [UN] Security Council just before he left office about a resolution that would condemn Israeli settlements. Obviously, the Israeli government did not want this resolution to be passed. Instead of going directly to the Obama administration, with which they had terrible relations, they went to Trump instead. They approached Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner became involved in this. While they were in the transition and before having any official capacity, they negotiated with various members of the Security Council to try to quash the settlement resolution.

One of the issues here which is little known is the Logan Act, which was passed at the foundation of our republic and was designed to prevent private citizens from usurping the foreign policy prerogatives of the executive. It criminalized any private citizen who attempted to negotiate with an enemy country over any foreign policy issue.

In this case, what Flynn and Kushner were doing was going directly against US foreign policy, because Obama wanted the resolution to pass; He just didn't want to vote for it because that would cross the Israel lobby in the United States. The US finally ended up abstaining on the resolution and it passed 14-0.

But before that happened, Flynn went to the Russians and to Egypt, both members of the Security Council, and tried to get the resolution delayed. But all of Israel's machinations to derail this resolution failed and that is what Mueller was investigating, the intervention and disruption of American foreign policy by private citizens who had no official role.

This speaks to the power of the Israel lobby and of Israel itself to disrupt our foreign policy. Very few people have ever been charged with committing an illegal act by advocating on behalf of Israel. That is one of the reasons why this is such an important development. Until now, the lobby has really ruled supreme on the issue of Israel and Palestine in US foreign policy. Now it is possible that a private citizen will actually be made to pay a price for that.

This is an important development because the lobby till now has run roughshod over our foreign policy in this area and this may act as a restraining order against blatant disruption of US foreign policy by people like this.

Bernstein: So this information is a part of Michael Flynn's plea. Anyone studying this would learn something about Michael Flynn and it would be part of the prosecution's investigation.

Silverstein: That's absolutely right. One thing to note here is that it is reporters who have raised the issue of the Logan Act, not Mueller or Flynn's people or anyone in the Trump administration. But I do think that Logan is a very important part of this plea deal, even if it is not mentioned explicitly.

Bernstein: If the special prosecutor had smoking-gun information that the Trump administration colluded with Russia, in the way they colluded with Israel before coming to power, this would be a huge revelation. But it is definitely collusion when it comes to Israel.

Silverstein: Absolutely. If this were Russia, it would be on the front page of every major newspaper in the United States and the leading story on the TV news. Because this is Israel and because we have a conflicted relationship with the Israel lobby and they have so much influence on US policy concerning Israel, it has managed to stay on the back burner. Only two or three media outlets besides mine have raised this issue of Logan and collusion. Kushner and Flynn may be the first American citizens charged under the Logan Act for interfering on behalf of Israel in our foreign policy. This is a huge issue and it has hardly been raised at all.

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Dennis J Bernstein is the host and executive producer of Flashpoints, a daily news magazine broadcast on Pacifica Radio. He is an award-winning investigative reporter, essayist and poet. His articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, and (more...)

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