Thursday, February 26, 2015

The perennial crisis in US/Israeli relations

We are, again, in the midst of that periodic occurrence: a crisis in Israel/US relations. This one revolves around White House pique over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation by House Speaker John Boehner to address the US Congress on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, an issue on which the White House and Jerusalem have been divided for some time.

But any remotely careful analysis of the US/Israel relationship will show that Jerusalem and the White House (but rarely the Congress and, by extension, the US electorate) have often clashed on issues deemed vital to Israel’s security and existence.

In fact, Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared Israel’s very independence in the face of strong opposition from US Secretary of state George Marshall.

Though personally favorable to Israel and quick to extend recognition to the new Jewish state when it emerged in May 1948, president Harry Truman imposed an arms embargo during Israel’s 1948-49 war of survival against six Arab nations. The embargo hurt Israel, which had few sources of weaponry, rather than the Arabs, who enjoyed many.

In 1956, Israel conquered the Sinai from the Egyptians, following six years of constant attacks by terrorist bands (fedayeen) sponsored by Egypt. Nonetheless, the Eisenhower administration insisted on Israel withdrawing completely from Sinai without any peace treaty or recognition demanded from Egypt and threatened Israel with sanctions if it failed to comply.

In 1967, Egypt imposed a blockade on Israel’s southern port at Eilat. Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban asked president Lyndon Johnson to honor U. commitments made in 1957 to ensure free passage of Israeli shipping and break the blockade. Johnson refused.

When Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria in 1973 the US pressured Israel into ending the war prematurely when Israeli forces were on the road to Damascus and Cairo. This prevented Israel from achieving a more decisive military victory.

During the Carter administration, the US voted for UN Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon following an Israeli incursion in 1978 – despite the fact that Lebanon had been the launching pad for major terrorist attacks on Israel – and condemning Israel’s annexation of the eastern half of Jerusalem; both vitally important issues to Israel.

In 1981, prime minister Menachem Begin ordered the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

This was condemned by the Reagan administration, even though a nuclear-armed Saddam would have posed a mortal threat to Israel.

Successive US administrations have opposed Israeli settlement in the territories conquered in 1967, leading to recurrent tensions and crises in the relationship. In 1992, the first Bush administration even withheld loan guarantees to Israel in protest against Israeli settlement policies.

During the Oslo peace process (1993-2000), the Clinton administration often pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions of territory, arms, assets and even the releasing of imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, while ignoring Palestinian failure to comply with its obligations to stop terrorism and end the incitement to hatred and murder that feeds it. Securing new agreements was preferred to holding Palestinians to past ones, as US chief negotiator Dennis Ross subsequently admitted.

The US has criticized Israel’s security fence and both president George W. Bush and secretary of state Colin Powell pressured Israel to curtail military incursions against terrorist strongholds, most notably during Israel’s offensive in Jenin in 2002. Despite US understanding that the Palestinian Authority has been a haven and launching pad for terrorists, the Bush administration pressed Israel to resume negotiations and make concessions to the PA .

So why the panic about the latest crisis? When the US president and Israel do not agree on a policy bearing on the existence and security of Israel, there is bound to be a crisis. Yet none of these crises ruptured the US/Israeli relationship; indeed, they often served as the unlikely preludes to a stronger relationship.

The US /Israeli relationship became truly strategic in the 1970s, only years after the crisis that led to the Six Day War. The early ructions between the two countries in the first years of the Reagan administration settled into an expanded and harmonious strategic relationship for its remainder.

President Barack Obama has sought to cast Netanyahu’s acceptance of an invitation to address Congress as a slap in the face. But it isn’t.

The issue is entirely a product of Obama’s policy on Iran, which engenders bipartisan concern in Israel. Put simply, President Obama seems willing to tolerate an Iranian nuclear weapons threshold capacity – but Israel is not. Of course there’s a crisis.

Obama was glad to have British Prime Minister David Cameron urging members of Congress last month in support of his Iran policy, but is peeved to have Netanyahu there critiquing it. In the end, however, the two countries are bound in an alliance by a range of common interests which even a major policy difference can only temporarily sour, but not sunder.



Rereading "American Betrayal": Why Did Uncle Sam Keep Soviet Secret Agents in the U.S. government a Secret?

Could it be that many elite American Leftists volunteered their services to Russia because they liked the Soviets better than their own country?

Written by: Diana West

Attempts to explain the unhinged campaign (spearheaded, curiously, by ex-Communists) to save "court history" from the newly dusted-off, newly inter-connected evidence presented in "American Betrayal" have logically pointed to the arguments in the book that pull FDR from his pedestal and lift McCarthy from history's hell.

As I now record the audiobook, however, I am struck anew by other arguments mustered in the book that augur a change in the way we also regard Truman, Eisenhower and many more. Such arguments make the case for a seismic shift in our conception of the "American Century."

To be sure, that conception to date is based on drastically incomplete information. Chapter 6 of American Betrayal begins by showing that almost every US history book -- military, biography, diplomacy, etc. -- written post-Venona (1995) fails to incorporate the record of espionage relevant to the epic events and actors they purport to explicate. Among other things, this tells me it is incumbent on us to re-assess these events and actors by interweaving the mainly absent intelligence backstory into the familar tapestry of war and peace we all "know." This is the mechanism of American Betrayal.

Along the way, the behavior of the executive branch in particular in regard to the massive, secret Soviet-directed penetration of the halls of power that reached criticial mass under FDR demands new scrutiny. For example, take Truman's reaction to Whittaker Chambers 1948 testimony unmasking Alger HIss as a leading agent of the Soviet-directed, Communist conspiracy against the United States. Rather than crowning him with laurels, he sought to indict Chambers for perjury. Why?

Starting in 1945, Truman began receiving numerous and weighty reports from the FBI on the Soviet penetration of the Roosevelt administration that named Hiss and White and Currie, among many others, so he was cognizant of the crisis in considerable detail.

Chapter 6 focuses on an important FDR aide, Lauchln Currie, who was publicly i.d.'d as a Soviet agent in Venona in the 1990s. Why do I highlight "publicly"? It is worth noting that 40 years prior to the public release of 2,900 Venona documents by the US government (there may be more that are unreleased; we don't know), Currie was already being investigated by the FBI as a Soviet agent -- and, among others, so reported to Truman. Indeed, Currie comes up on the government radar before that.

Currie was first identified internally in 1939 by Whittaker Chambers as a fellow traveller who helped the Communist Underground inside the US government; i.d.'d for the FDR administration by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1941 as one of the 1,100-plus federal employees (also including Hiss and White) belonging to Soviet front organizations (and investigated by the FBI but the reports have "disappeared"); highlighted in 1944 as part of a Communist "fifth column" "boring from within" the FDR administration by GOP VP presidential candidate John Bricker; i'd.'d as a Soviet agent to the FBI (which alerted the Truman White House) in 1945 by ex-Communist Elizabeth Bentley; i'd.'d in open hearings as a Soviet agent by Bentley in 1948. (Tantalizingly, thirteen years later, future Sen. Ted Kenney met and dined  with Currie on a trip to Currie's post-America home of Colombia.)

Long before the public unveiling of Venona in 1995, however, codebreakers were also able to confirm Currie's activities on behalf on the Kremlin. At some point before 1995 -- as far back as 1950, as a matter of fact -- codebreakers confirmed that Soviet intelligence was working with Hiss and White and many other traitors to the United St. Why did We, the People, have to wait 45 more years to learn of this crucial confirmation? Why did Uncle Sam permit Americans to tear themselve apart for decades in a rancorous debate over people such as Hiss and White -- over whether Communist agents even existed in the first place -- when for so much of the time Uncle Sam knew the truth?

From American Betrayal, pp. 166-169:

"...It should be noted that a number of espionage prosecutions were secretly assisted by Venona, beginning with that of Soviet agent Judith Coplon, a young Justice Department analyst who in May 1949 became the first spy to be identified and arrested due to Venona revelations; Robert Soblen and Jack Soble followed. It was Venona clues that led to the linchpin conviction of British atomic spy Klaus Fuchs in 1950, and Venona decrypts “unmistakably identified Julius Rosenberg as the head of a Soviet spy ring and David Greenglass, his brother-in-law, as a Soviet source at the secret atomic bomb facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico,” Haynes and Klehr write.

“Unmistakably.” The word peals like a steel bell, cold, penetrating, and troubling. Venona decrypts unmistakably identified Julius Rosenberg . . . “Unmistakably”—and the U.S. government let that secret evidence sit in a vault as our citizens tore each other up over this case for decades? Exactly the same question goes for the Hiss case, the other split-view lodestar by which what became two distinct peoples took their bearings. The U.S. government knew the truth about Hiss and withheld it, too.


It’s worth noting that Hiss, unlike Coplon and the other atomic spies, was in no way prosecuted with the help of Venona. Indeed, Hiss was already in jail serving four years for perjury related to the lies he told Congress about Chambers before analysts deciphered his name in Venona. It was in the contentious aftermath of his imprisonment, however, during the battle over Hiss and White and Silvermaster and the rest on the one hand, and Bentley and Chambers on the other, that every scrap of information belonged in the center of the public square under bright lights, with Uncle Sam playing town crier:

Hear ye, Hear ye . . .

Instead Uncle Sam mumbled to himself and hid away the precious proof against the traitors, protecting the traitors against the soundings and probes of investigators hot on their trail. Let them grope and stagger blind, Uncle Sam said, let them sift through the good info and the bad, let them rely on their gut hunches to go on, let them fall back on their political courage until it gives out, let them get knocked down, smeared, destroyed. Let the country go to hell. Given what the executive branch knew and when it knew it, this was the greatest betrayal of all.

So, yes, M. Stanton Evans is right about the nation owing plaudits to Joe McCarthy, and more. We owe all of these intrepid public servants our undying gratitude. Sensing the massiveness of the assault on our republic—yes, a conspiracy so immense, to give McCarthy his due—they kept at it, seeking, hunting what their many detractors, many inside the government, never stopped screaming was a mythological beast, a figment, a “witch hunt.” It was just something “under the bed,” a silly “bugaboo,” which became the White House term of choice. ...

“The people are very much wrought up about the Communist bugaboo,” Harry S. Truman wrote in a letter to former Pennsylvania governor George H. Earle in 1947, in response to a very similar warning from Earle. Truman would switch to “red herring” when it came to the Hiss case in the 1948.

Bugaboo? Red herring? Alger Hiss was neither. He was a bona fide enemy of the American republic, but the U.S. government didn’t want anyone to know that, not even after Venona confirmed Hiss’s treason sometime in 1950, as the Schecters report. Why? Oliver Kirby recounted a revealing exchange with Defense Secretary James Forrestal two years earlier, in 1948, about disclosure in general. The way the Schecters tell it, “Kirby raised with Forrestal the idea of publicly releasing the news that American intelligence had broken the Soviet code.” The Soviets, aware American codebreakers were [beginning to] read them since 1945 (thanks to the treason of Drew Pearson’s meek little “Lock” Currie), would only be further inhibited by the announcement, Kirby argued. More important, “Kirby believed that revealing the full extent of Soviet penetration”— complete exposure—“would remove the issue from politics” and limit a “Red Panic” (Truman’s political concern) “because the cases would be acted upon and fully resolved.”

Call it the Sunshine Strategy. Forrestal nixed the notion in no uncertain terms. “Forget that. No. Hell, no”—that kind of thing. His reaction was not unlike what Kirby had already heard from the State Department when he attempted to bring Venona-fingered Communist infiltration to its attention. Or what he would later hear from Gen. Omar Bradley, who, Kirby said, would urge him not to brief other administration officials on Venona’s findings.

It begins to sound like a lot of other things. What George Racey Jordan heard in early 1944 when he went to the State Department wondering about whether he really should be “expediting” military secrets ASAP to Moscow. What U.S. Army Maj. John Van Vliet heard after expeditiously filing a report of his eyewitness assessment of Soviet responsibility for the Katyn Forest Massacre in May 1945. Or what German defense lawyer Alfred Seidl would hear at Nuremberg in 1946 when trying to introduce to the world evidence of the secret division of Europe that Stalin and Hitler had prearranged in the Nazi- Soviet Pact of 1939.

Sunshine was the last thing the powers that be—the powers that accommodated, the powers that served—wanted when it came to any aspect of Communist crime and deception. The Establishment wanted its shadows deep, dark and undisturbed. Maybe that was because too many of its members were in them. Maybe that was why they always argued against exposure because, the rationale went, it might upset the Soviets, might worsen relations, might play into the hands of the “hardliners.” These are variations on the same arguments, not at all incidentally, that we hear today to squelch the truth about Islam and its agents’ penetration of the U.S. government.

This Iron Curtain of secrecy left it to the Great Red Hunters to investigate the old-fashioned way, the hard way, the rough way, their suspicions more often than not, it now may be fearlessly declared, confirmed by evidence that just continues to mount to the skies. Evidence that condemns not just the agents of our destruction but our own government, too.

With Venona in a vault, the U.S. government became an agent of concealment, and thus, in effect, a part of the Communist conspiracy, despite itself (or perhaps not). The struggle that characterized what we know as the McCarthy Era, then, pit the forces of full disclosure and transparency—personified by Senator Joseph McCarthy—against the more powerful forces of deception and obfuscation, which included the Truman and Eisenhower White Houses. That’s not at all how we think about it, of course. We’re conditioned, Pavlov’s-dog-style, to invert the paradigm.  ...



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog

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