AIPAC aims to play ‘major strategic ally’ card to save aid for Israel from US cuts?
The annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is reportedly focused on the congressional designation of Israel as a “major strategic ally” of the US, a unique status that would be enjoyed only by the Jewish state. The move is seen as facilitating Israel’s military action against Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, which also appears on the conference agenda.
But according to the policy director at Just Foreign Policy Robert Naiman, the pro-Israel conference is focusing on Iran so as not to draw attention to the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict – as well as protecting US funding of Israel from budget cuts.
RT: The US has been Israel’s faithful ally since the foundation of the state. Why does it need to become official, why the formalization?
RN: Well, according to lobbyists associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, it has to do with the coming threat of budget cuts. Under this sequester… there’re supposed to be across-the-board cuts to the US budget. So that should mean that the US aid to Israel, which is substantial, billions of dollars a year, should also be cut – but the Israel lobby doesn’t want the aid to Israel to be cut. So their long game is that with this designation of ‘major strategic ally’ they would move things that are currently paid out of the US aid to Israel into the base Pentagon budget. They’ll argue, ‘well, this is about the national security needs...’
So their goal here is to exempt aid to Israel from the so-called across-the-board cuts. But of course they don’t want to announce that on the marquee, because Americans are going to be told: ‘oh, now we have to cut Head Start early childhood education because of the sequester cuts, but meanwhile aid to Israel is going to be protected.’ That’s going to make a lot of people in the United States very angry.
RT: It’s clear how Israel would benefit from this. But the US rubber-stamping the status of Israel as its ‘major strategic ally’ – how do they benefit from it?
RN: Well, they don’t – it has nothing to do with the benefit to the US. This is about what you can get away with if you’re lobbyist in Washington and the American people aren’t paying attention. If AIPAC and members of Congress are in a closed room, they’re going to agree on one thing. If the American people don’t find that out, it’s not reported in the press. This isn’t in the New York Times, it’s not in the Washington Post. It’s in the insider press that covers the stuff, Jewish telegraphic agency, for example, that covers AIPAC. So outside the people who follow such news, this is not in the mainstream American media yet.
RT: The conference will focus mainly on Iran, which is seen as the emerging threat. But the conflict with the Palestinians is very real and has been for decades. Why isn’t solving that on the agenda?
RN: Well, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee doesn’t want to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they’re completely content with the status quo. They want Israel to retain control of the West Bank, they want Israeli settlements in the West Bank to expand, so they’re completely happy with that. In fact, these are the people that do a lot to drive the focus on Iran, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Israeli government, which are like two twin brothers. This focus now actually helps them change the channel from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They don’t want anybody to think about or talk about… three million Palestinians who don’t get to vote for the government that rules their lives, while their neighbors can stir in the Israeli Knesset.