trump-aipac

Nazareth: The grubby underside of US electoral politics is on show once again as the Democratic and Republican candidates prepare to fight it out for the presidency. And it doesn’t get seamier than the battle to prove how loyal each candidate is to Israel.

New depths are likely to be plumbed this week at the Republican convention in Cleveland, as Donald Trump is crowned the party’s nominee. His platform breaks with decades of United States policy to effectively deny the Palestinians any hope of statehood.

The question now is whether the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, who positions herself as Israel’s greatest ally, will try to outbid Trump in cravenly submitting to the Israeli right.

It all started so differently. Through much of the primary season, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had reason to be worried about Israel’s “special relationship” with the next occupant of the White House.

Early on, Trump promised to be “neutral” and expressed doubts about whether it made sense to hand Israel billions of dollars annually in military aid. He backed a two-state solution and refused to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On the Democrat side, Clinton was challenged by outsider Bernie Sanders, who urged “even-handedness” towards Israel and the Palestinians. He too objected to the huge sums of aid the US bestows on Israel.

Sanders exploited his massive support among Democrats to force Clinton to include well-known supporters of Palestinian rights on the committee that drafts the party’s platform.

But any hopes of an imminent change in US policy in the Middle East have been dashed.

Last week, as the draft Republic platform was leaked, Trump proudly tweeted that it was the “most pro-Israel of all time!” Avoiding any mention of a two-state solution, it states: “Support for Israel is an expression of Americanism. … We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier.”

The capitulation was so complete that even the Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based apologist group for Israel, called the platform “disappointing” and urged the Republican convention to “reconsider”. After all, even Netanyahu pays lip service to the need for a Palestinian state.

But Trump is not signalling caution. His new advisers on Israel, David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, are fervent supporters of the settlements and annexation of Palestinian territory.

Trump’s running mate, announced at the weekend, is Indiana governor Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian and a stalwart of pro-Israel causes.

So why the dramatic turnaround?

Candidates for high office in the US need money – lots of it. Until now Trump has been chiefly relying on his own wealth. He has raised less than $70 million, a fifth of Clinton’s war-chest.

The Republican party’s most significant donor is Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate and close friend of Netanyahu. He has hinted that he will contribute more than $100 million to the Trump campaign if he likes what he sees.

Should Netanyahu offer implicit endorsement, as he did for Mitt Romney in the 2012 race, Christian Zionist preachers such as John Hagee will rally ten of millions of followers to Trump’s side too – and fill his coffers.

Similar indications that money is influencing policy are evident in the Democratic party.

Sanders funded his campaign through small donations, giving him the freedom to follow his conscience. Clinton, by contrast, has relied on mega-donors, including some, such as Haim Saban, who regard Israel as a key election issue.

That may explain why, despite the many concessions made to Sanders on the Democratic platform, Clinton’s team refused to budge on Israel issues. As a result, the draft platform fails to call for an end to the occupation or even mention the settlements.

According to The New York Times, Clinton’s advisers are vetting James Stavridis as a potential running mate. A former Nato commander, he is close to the Israeli defence establishment and known for his hawkish pro-Israel positions.

Clinton, meanwhile, has promised to use all her might to fight the growing boycott movement, which seeks to isolate Israel over its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory.

The two candidates’ fierce commitment to Israel appears to fly in the face of wider public sentiment, especially among Democrats.

A recent Pew poll found 57 per cent of young, more liberal Democrats sympathised with the Palestinians rather than Israel. Support for hawkish Israeli positions is weakening among American Jews too, a key Democratic constituency. About 61 per cent believe Israel can live peacefully next to an independent Palestinian state.

The toxic influence of money in the US presidential elections can be felt in many areas of policy, both domestic and foreign.

But the divorce between the candidates’ fervour on Israel and the growing doubts of many of their supporters is particularly stark.

It should be dawning on US politicians that a real debate about the nation’s relationship with Israel cannot be deferred much longer.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net

3 Comments

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Trump nomination as Republican candidate may be a shot in the arm for israeli Zionists as both need each other for carrying out their political and military agenda. Trump has spent his own money so far and is looking to recover interest with principal..

  2. JoAnn Perez says:

    I am a forty year democratic party supporter, until now. I realize that
    Trump is not controlled or influenced by lobbyists and wants to give Palestinians a fair shake. At the same time, I realize he is not anti-Muslim, antisemitic, anti-gay etc as the media likes to portray him by piecing together snippets of his comments regarding concerns for America’s safety. He also would re-assess who we fund and as he stated, work on fixing our country first and I appreciate what he has to say about that. On the other hand, Hillary’s allegiance to AIPAC and to lobbyists and power brokers in general, over the interest of the American people is nauseating. I want to see what an outsider like Trump could possibly do if given the chance. Tired of political puppets on strings. And as a Texan, I would say to Ted Cruz, you are an embarrassment to more of your constituents than you realize and your behavior was not brave but self aggrandizing. You will never be president in the USA and I hope, not senator again in Texas.

  3. Trump could have a lot of crossover votes if he would stand up and reaffirm that he would give Palestinians fair and equal consideration, and consider de-funding allies when their actions are barbaric and against what are supposed to be American values of freedom and justice,, such as they are under Netanyahu, Lieberman, Shaked, Rabbi Karim and others. Many Jewish Holocaust survivors called for a boycott of Israel as the assault on Gaza by Israel was being carried out in the summer of 2014. I hope Trump will look at writings by Dr. Mads Gilbert, Norwegian surgeon, Dr. Hajo Meyer, Jewish Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz and get an understanding of what is happening to Paestinians which American mainstream media is not coverin. Too many US soldiers are dying for the wrong reasons,