US military targets Israeli 'intransigence'
(Asia Times) -- By Jim Lobe --
WASHINGTON - The crisis touched off by last week's announcement of Israel's plans to build 1,600 new homes for Jews in Arab East Jerusalem during a high-profile visit by United States Vice President Joseph Biden appears to be escalating rapidly.
Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to Washington and a historian who has written widely on ties between the two nations, called the growing contretemps "the worst [bilateral] crisis in 35 years" in a teleconference with other US-based Israeli diplomats on Saturday night, according to a number of published accounts...
While the ongoing public crisis was clearly sparked by the coincidence of Biden's visit and the East Jerusalem housing announcement - almost universally described by the mainstream US media as a "slap in the face" at the vice president and by extension at Obama himself - its seriousness appears to be rooted in what Biden told Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials in private.
According to an account in Israel's mass-circulation Yediot Ahronoth newspaper, Biden "warned his Israeli hosts that since many people in the Muslim world perceived a connection between Israel's actions and US policy, any decision about construction that undermines Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem could have an impact on the personal safety of American troops fighting against Islamic terrorism".
"This is starting to get dangerous for us," Biden reportedly said. "What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.'"
In an important elaboration on these remarks posted on the foreignpolicy.com website on Saturday, Mark Perry, a writer with long-standing and close ties to the military brass, reported that Biden's private comments reflected the collective view of top US military commanders throughout the Middle East region.
They had been tasked in December by the chief of the US Central Command (CentCom), General David Petraeus, to submit reports to him about the impact of Washington's failure to make progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace on the perceptions of Arab leaders on US standing and influence.
The result was a briefing presented to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, in January and subsequently communicated to the White House that underlined the growing conviction in the region that "the US was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CentCom's mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing US standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was ... 'too old, too slow ... and too late'."
A subsequent trip by Mullen to Israel - whose purpose was described in the media as designed to coordinate strategy on Iran - was aimed more at persuading the Israeli top brass of the importance to the US of achieving progress on peace talks, according to Perry.
But it became apparent with last week's housing announcement that the message did not get through, according to Perry, so the administration responded first with Biden's public condemnation, followed by Clinton's phone call to Netanyahu, the summoning of Oren for what the ambassador described as an "extremely harsh" dressing down by Clinton's deputy, James Steinberg, and now the demand for a "formal response" to her suggestions to Netanyahu.
"There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA [National Rifle Association], the American Medical Association, the lawyers - and the 'Israel Lobby'," wrote Perry. "But no lobby is as important, or as powerful as the US military."...MORE...LINK