ANALYSIS: How can Israel keep biting the hand that feeds?
By Thalif Deen
There is an age-old axiom in politics, says a cynical Asian diplomat, that you don't bite the hand that feeds you.
But that longstanding adage never applied to Israel - which although sustained militarily by the United States - has had no compunction at lashing out at Washington if the US is ever critical of illegal settlements or human rights violations in the occupied territories.
Although its military survival depends largely on all the US weapon systems at its command, Israel lambasted the United States last week, unofficially describing US Secretary of State John Kerry's support for a peace plan in Gaza as "a strategic terrorist attack."
Angry at the remarks, State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki countered: "It's simply not the way partners and allies treat each other."
Still, the United States, per its usual norm, continued to absorb the punches thrown by Israel - right or wrong - in a veritable act of political masochism.
"If one is to parody a metaphor," the Asian diplomat told IPS, "while Israel continues to bite the hand that feeds, the United States continues to feed the hand that bites."
Despite the vitriol from Israel, the administration of President Barack Obama was quick to supply some $225 mn in ammunition and spares to Israel as emergency aid last week to bolster its defences in the month-long conflict with Hamas.
The conflict is now under an extended 72-hour truce.
William D. Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, told IPS: "If the Obama administration had wanted to exert leverage during the recent Israeli attacks on Gaza, it could have threatened to cut off military aid until the Israeli government ceased disproportionate attacks that killed large numbers of civilians."
Instead, he said, the US administration re-supplied Israel with ammunition in the midst of the conflict.
Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS: "The US government has continued to serve as an enabler for Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza."
He said the humane rhetoric from the Obama administration functions in tandem with huge US military and intelligence help from Washington.
Last month, as the latest Gaza crisis escalated, the White House flashed an unmistakable green light for Israel to massacre - and keep massacring, said Solomon, co-founder and coordinator of RootsAction.org, a 450,000-member online activist group based in the United States.
The bilateral relationship between the US and Israel has combined tragedy and farce in gruesome ways, he noted.
Both governments have regularised the matter-of-fact killing of civilians in Gaza as though they were nothing more than incidental to the geopolitical agendas of those two dominant military powers, said Solomon, author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death".
At last count, about 1,875 Palestinians, including 426 children, were killed in the conflict - virtually all of them with US supplied weapons.
In contrast, the Israeli death toll was 64 of its soldiers and three civilians.
A preliminary survey by international organisations says the Israeli bombings destroyed some 37 mosques, 167 schools, six universities and more than 10,000 homes in Gaza.
Addressing the General Assembly Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said international humanitarian law clearly requires protection by all parties of civilians and civilian facilities, including UN staff and UN premises.
Ban said perhaps nothing symbolised more the horror that was unleashed on the people of Gaza than the repeated shelling of UN facilities harbouring civilians who had been explicitly told to seek a safe haven there.
"These attacks were outrageous, unacceptable and unjustifiable," he added.
"Our UN flag must be respected and assure protection to those in need. UN shelters must be safe zones, not combat zones. Those who violate this sacred trust must be subject to accountability and justice," he added.
Ban also pointed out that in the most recent case of shelling of a UN facility, the Israelis were informed of the coordinates 33 times.
On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regretted the civilian casualties, but blamed it all on Hamas.
"Every civilian casualty is a tragedy, a tragedy of Hamas's own making, " he added.
Hartung told IPS although Israel has its own production capacity - particularly in areas like drones - the military is heavily dependent on US aid.
From F-16 fighter planes to bombs and ammunition, the Israeli attacks on Gaza prominently featured weapons made in the United States and paid for by US taxpayers, he pointed out.
In all, he said, the United States has provided over $25 bn in military assistance to Israel in the 2000s - all in the form of grants that do not need to be paid back.
And while countries like Canada, France, Italy and Germany have supplied some military equipment to Israel, their sales are dwarfed by the equipment provided by the United States, Hartung added.
Solomon told IPS: "From Obama, no amount of discreet handwringing or personal dislike of Netanyahu has made an appreciable difference to the Israeli government."
He said it can count on Washington to supply a steady stream of platitudes about seeking a broad solution via a peace process.
Directly aided and abetted by the US government, Israel has opted for an ongoing iron fist - truly terrifying for the civilian population of Gaza, said Solomon. This US-Israeli mode of operation remains highly functional in terms of diplomatic cover, military help and intelligence aid. In human terms, for Palestinians, the results continue to be catastrophic, he declared.
Before 9/11, he said, the scholar Eqbal Ahmad voiced a truth that is more cogent and crucial than ever: A superpower cannot promote terror in one place and reasonably expect to discourage terrorism in another place. It won't work in this shrunken world.
Ahmad has passed away, but those words from him remain very much alive. They are true, and they condemn the US role as enabler of Israel's mass killing, said Solomon.
More than a decade ago, as the war on terror was gaining momentum, Martin Luther King III spoke at a commemoration of his father's birth and asked: "When will the war end?...We all have to be concerned about terrorism, but you will never end terrorism by terrorising others."
Today, the wisdom of his statement serves as an indictment of what Israel does in Gaza - and what the United States does to help Israel do it, declared Solomon.