How Israel Out-Foxed US Presidents

From the Archive: President Trump hosts Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu this week with the new U.S. administration expected to fall in line as so many “out-foxed” predecessors have, as Morgan Strong described in 2010.

By Morgan Strong (Originally published May 31, 2010)

At the end of a news conference on April 13, 2010, President Barack Obama made the seemingly obvious point that the continuing Middle East conflict pitting Israel against its Arab neighbors will end up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, 2015, in opposition to President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. (Screen shot from CNN broadcast)

Obama’s remark followed a similar statement in congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus on March 16, linking the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the challenges that U.S. troops face in the region.

“The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” Petraeus said in prepared testimony. “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

[Petraeus later tried to back away from this implicit criticism of Israel, fearing that it would hurt his political standing with his neoconservative allies. He began insisting that the analysis was only part of his written testimony, not his oral remarks.]

Yet, the truth behind the assessments from Obama and Petraeus is self-evident to anyone who has spent time observing the Middle East for the past six decades. Even the staunchly pro-Israeli Bush administration made similar observations.

In 2007 in Jerusalem, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice termed the Israeli/Palestinian peace process of “strategic interest” to the United States and expressed empathy for the beleaguered Palestinian people. “The prolonged experience of deprivation and humiliation can radicalize even normal people,” Rice said, referring to acts of Palestinian violence.

But the recent statement by Obama and Petraeus aroused alarm among some Israeli supporters who reject any suggestion that Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinians might be a factor in the anti-Americanism surging through the Islamic world.

After Petraeus’s comment, the pro-Israeli Anti-Defamation League said linking the Palestinian plight and Muslim anger was “dangerous and counterproductive.”

“Gen. Petraeus has simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the U.S. and coalition forces in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and blaming extremist activities on the absence of peace and the perceived U.S. favoritism for Israel,” ADL national director Abraham Foxman said.

However, the U.S. government’s widespread (though often unstated) recognition of the truth behind the assessment in Petraeus’s testimony has colored how the Obama administration has reacted to the intransigence of Israel’s Likud government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The U.S. government realizes how much it has done on Israel’s behalf, even to the extent of making Americans the targets of Islamic terrorism such as the 9/11 attacks (as the 9/11 Commission discovered but played down) and sacrificing the lives of thousands of U.S. troops fighting in Middle East conflicts.

That was the backdrop in March 2009 for President Obama’s outrage over the decision of the Netanyahu government to continue building Jewish housing in Arab East Jerusalem despite the fact that the move complicated U.S. peace initiatives and was announced as Vice President Joe Biden arrived to reaffirm American support for Israel.

However, another little-acknowledged truth about the U.S.-Israeli relationship is that Israeli leaders have frequently manipulated and misled American presidents out of a confidence that U.S. politicians deeply fear the political fallout from any public battle with Israel.

Given that history, few analysts who have followed the arc of U.S.-Israeli relations since Israel’s founding in 1948 believe that the Israeli government is likely to retreat very much in its confrontation with President Obama. [Now, nearly seven years into Obama’s presidency after Netanyahu’s persistent obstruction of Palestinian peace talks and his steady expansion of Jewish settlements that assessment has proved out.]

Manipulating Eisenhower

In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower was a strong supporter of the fledgling Jewish state and had supplied Israel with advanced U.S. weaponry. Yet, despite Eisenhower’s generosity and good intentions, Israel sided with the British and French in 1956 in a conspiracy against him. Israeli leaders joined a secret arrangement that involved Israel invading Egypt’s Sinai, which then allowed France and Great Britain to introduce their own forces and reclaim control of the Suez Canal.

In reaction to the invasion, the Soviet Union threatened to intervene on the side of Egypt by sending ground troops. With Cold War tensions already stretched thin by the crises in Hungary and elsewhere, Eisenhower faced the possibility of a showdown between nuclear-armed adversaries. Eisenhower demanded that the Israeli-spearheaded invasion of the Sinai be stopped, and he brought financial and political pressures to bear on Great Britain and France.

A ceasefire soon was declared, and the British and French departed, but the Israelis dragged their heels. Eisenhower finally presented Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion with an ultimatum, a threat to cut off all U.S. aid. Finally, in March 1957, the Israelis withdrew. [For details, see Eisenhower and Israel by Isaac Alteras.]

Even as it backed down in the Sinai, Israel was involved in another monumental deception, a plan for building its own nuclear arsenal. In 1956, Israel had concluded an agreement with France to build a nuclear reactor in the Negev desert. Israel also signed a secret agreement with France to build an adjacent plutonium reprocessing plant.

Israel began constructing its nuclear plant in 1958. However, French President Charles de Gaulle was worried about nuclear weapons destabilizing the Middle East and insisted that Israel not develop a nuclear bomb from the plutonium processing plant. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion assured de Gaulle that the processing plant was for peaceful purposes only.

After John F. Kennedy became President, he also wrote to Ben-Gurion explicitly calling on Israel not to join the nuclear-weapons club, drawing another pledge from Ben-Gurion that Israel had no such intention. Nevertheless, Kennedy continued to press, forcing the Israelis to let U.S. scientists inspect the nuclear reactor at Dimona. But the Israelis first built a fake control room while bricking up and otherwise disguising parts of the building that housed the plutonium processing plant.

In return for allowing inspectors into Dimona, Ben-Gurion also demanded that the United States sell Hawk surface-to-air missiles to the Israeli military. Kennedy agreed to the sale as a show of good faith. Subsequently, however, the CIA got wind of the Dimona deception and leaked to the press that Israel was secretly building a nuclear bomb.

After Kennedy’s assassination, President Lyndon Johnson also grew concerned over Israel’s acquiring nuclear weapons. He asked then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Eshkol assured Johnson that Israel was studying the matter and would sign the treaty in due course. However, Israel has never signed the treaty and never has admitted that it developed nuclear weapons. [For details, see Israel and The Bomb by Avner Cohen.]

Trapping Johnson

As Israel grew more sophisticated and more confident in its dealings with U.S. presidents, it also sought to secure U.S. military assistance by exaggerating its vulnerability to Arab attacks. One such case occurred after the Egyptians closed off the Gulf of Aqaba to Israel in May 1967, denying the country its only access to the Red Sea. Israel threatened military action against Egypt if it did not re-open the Gulf.

President Lyndon Johnson

Israel then asked President Johnson for military assistance in the event war broke out against the Egyptians. Johnson directed Richard Helms, the newly appointed head of the CIA to evaluate Israel’s military capability in the event of war against the surrounding Arab states.

On May 26, 1967, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban met with Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and Helms. Eban presented a Mossad estimate of the capability of the Arab armies, claiming that Israel was seriously outgunned by the Arab armies which had been supplied with advanced Soviet weaponry. Israel believed that, owing to its special relationship with the United States, the Mossad intelligence assessment would be taken at face value.

However, Helms was asked to present the CIA estimate of the Arabs’ military capabilities versus the Israeli army. The CIA’s analysts concluded that Israel could “defend successfully against simultaneous Arab attacks on all fronts, or hold on any three fronts while mounting a successful major offensive on the fourth.” [See “C.I.A. Analysis of the 1967 Arab Israeli War,” Center for the Study of Intelligence.]

“We do not believe that the Israeli appreciation was a serious estimate of the sort they would submit to their own high officials,” the CIA report said. “It is probably a gambit intended to influence the U.S. to provide military supplies, make more public commitments to Israel, to approve Israeli military initiatives, and put more pressure on Egyptian President Nasser.” [See A Look Over My Shoulder by Richard Helms.]

The CIA report stated further that the Soviet Union would probably not interfere militarily on behalf of the Arab states and that Israel would defeat the combined Arab armies in a matter of days. As a consequence, Johnson refused to airlift special military supplies to Israel, or to promise public support for Israel if Israel went to war.

The Six-Day Success

Despite Johnson’s resistance, Israel launched an attack on its Arab neighbors on June 5, 1967, claiming that the conflict was provoked when Egyptian forces opened fire. (The CIA later concluded that it was Israel that had first fired upon Egyptian forces.)

USS Liberty (AGTR-5) receives assistance from units of the Sixth Fleet, after she was attacked and seriously damaged by Israeli forces off the Sinai Peninsula on June 8, 1967. (US Navy photo)

On June 8, at the height of the conflict, which would become known as the Six-Day War, Israeli fighter/bombers attacked the USS Liberty, a lightly armed communications vessel sent on a mission to relay information on the course of the war to U.S. naval intelligence.

The attack killed 34 Americans sailors, and wounded 171 others. Israeli leaders have always claimed that they had mistaken the U.S. vessel for an enemy ship, but a number of U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Dean Rusk, believed the attack was deliberate, possibly to prevent the United States from learning about Israel’s war plans. [See As I Saw It by Dean Rusk.]

However, in deference to Israel, the U.S. government did not aggressively pursue the matter of the Liberty attack and even issued misleading accounts in medal citations to crew members, leaving out the identity of the attackers.

Meanwhile, on land and in the air, Israel’s powerful military advanced, shredding the Arab defenses. Soon, the conflict escalated into another potential showdown between nuclear-armed superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States. On June 10, President Johnson received a “Hot Line” message from Soviet Premier Alexi Kosygin. The Kremlin warned of grave consequences if Israel continued its military campaign against Syria by entering and/or occupying that country.

Johnson dispatched the Sixth Fleet to the Mediterranean, in a move to convince the Soviets of American resolve. But a ceasefire was declared later the same day, with Israel ending up in control of Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Sinai, and Palestinian lands including Gaza and East Jerusalem.

But a wider war was averted. Johnson’s suspicions about Israel’s expansionist intent had kept the United States from making an even bigger commitment that might have led to the Soviets countering with an escalation of their own.

Nixon and Yom Kippur

Israeli occupation of those additional Arab lands set the stage for a resumption of hostilities six years later, on Oct. 6, 1973, with the Yom Kippur War, which began with a surprise attack by Egypt against Israeli forces in the Sinai.

Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States.

The offensive caught Israel off guard and Arab forces were close to overrunning Israel’s outer defenses and entering the country. According to later accounts based primarily on Israeli leaks, Prime Minister Golda Meir and her “kitchen cabinet” ordered the arming of 13 nuclear weapons, which were aimed at Egyptian and Syrian targets.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Simha Dintz warned President Richard Nixon that very serious repercussions would occur if the United States did not immediately begin an airlift of military equipment and personnel to Israel. Fearing that the Soviet Union might intervene and that nuclear war was possible, the U.S. military raised its alert level to DEFCON-3. U.S. Airborne units in Italy were put on full alert, and military aid was rushed to Israel.

Faced with a well-supplied Israeli counteroffensive and possible nuclear annihilation, the Arab forces fell back. The war ended on Oct. 26, 1973, but the United States had again been pushed to the brink of a possible superpower confrontation due to the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict.

Nuclear ‘Ambiguity’

On Sept. 22, 1979, after some clouds unexpectedly broke over the South Indian Ocean, a U.S. intelligence satellite detected two bright flashes of light that were quickly interpreted as evidence of a nuclear test. The explosion was apparently one of several nuclear tests that Israel had undertaken in collaboration with the white-supremacist government of South Africa. But President Jimmy Carter at the start of his reelection bid didn’t want a showdown with Israel, especially on a point as sensitive as its secret nuclear work with the pariah government in Pretoria.

So, after news of the nuclear test leaked a month later, the Carter administration followed Israel’s longstanding policy of “ambiguity” about the existence of its nuclear arsenal, a charade dating back to Richard Nixon’s presidency with the United States pretending not to know for sure that Israel possessed nuclear bombs.

The Carter administration quickly claimed that there was “no confirmation” of a nuclear test, and a panel was set up to conclude that the flashes were “probably not from a nuclear explosion.” However, as investigative reporter Seymour Hersh and various nuclear experts later concluded, the flashes were most certainly an explosion of a low-yield nuclear weapon. [For details, see Hersh’s Samson Option.]

Getting Carter

Despite Carter’s helpful cover-up of the Israeli-South African nuclear test, he was still viewed with disdain by Israel’s hard-line Likud leadership. Indeed, he arguably was the target of Israel’s most audacious intervention in U.S. politics.

Prime Minister Menachem Begin was furious at Carter over the 1978 Camp David accords in which the U.S. President pushed the Israelis into returning the Sinai to the Egyptians in exchange for a peace agreement. The next year, Carter failed to protect the Shah of Iran, an important Israeli regional ally who was forced from power by Islamic militants. Then, when Carter acceded to demands from the Shah’s supporters to admit him to New York for cancer treatment, Iranian radicals seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage.

In 1980, as Carter focused on his reelection campaign, Begin saw both dangers and opportunities. High-ranking Israeli diplomat/spy David Kimche described Begin’s thinking in the 1991 book, The Last Option, recounting how Begin feared that Carter might force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and accept a Palestinian state if he won a second term.

“Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,” Kimche wrote. “They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Begin’s alarm was driven by the prospect of Carter being freed from the pressure of having to face another election, according to Kimche.

“Unbeknownst to the Israeli negotiators, the Egyptians held an ace up their sleeves, and they were waiting to play it,” Kimche wrote. “The card was President Carter’s tacit agreement that after the American presidential elections in November 1980, when Carter expected to be re-elected for a second term, he would be free to compel Israel to accept a settlement of the Palestinian problem on his and Egyptian terms, without having to fear the backlash of the American Jewish lobby.”

So, by spring 1980, Begin had privately sided with Carter’s Republican rival, Ronald Reagan, a reality that Carter soon realized. Questioned by congressional investigators in 1992 regarding allegations about Israel conspiring with Republicans in 1980 to help unseat him, Carter said he knew by April 1980 that “Israel cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes found among the unpublished documents in the files of a House task force that looked into the so-called October Surprise case.

Carter traced the Israeli opposition to his reelection to a “lingering concern [among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.” [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Doing What Was Necessary

Begin was an Israeli leader committed to do whatever he felt necessary to advance Israeli security interests and the dream of a Greater Israel with Jews controlling the ancient Biblical lands. Before Israel’s independence in 1948, he had led a Zionist terrorist group, and he founded the right-wing Likud Party in 1973 with the goal of “changing the facts on the ground” by placing Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas.

President Jimmy Carter.

Begin’s anger over the Sinai deal and his fear of Carter’s reelection set the stage for secret collaboration between Begin and the Republicans, according to another former Israeli intelligence official, Ari Ben-Menashe.

“Begin loathed Carter for the peace agreement forced upon him at Camp David,” Ben-Menashe wrote in his 1992 memoir, Profits of War. “As Begin saw it, the agreement took away Sinai from Israel, did not create a comprehensive peace, and left the Palestinian issue hanging on Israel’s back.”

Ben-Menashe, an Iranian-born Jew who had immigrated to Israel as a teen-ager, became part of a secret Israeli program to reestablish its Iranian intelligence network that had been decimated by the Islamic revolution. Ben-Menashe wrote that Begin authorized shipments to Iran of small arms and some military spare parts, via South Africa, as early as September 1979 and continued them despite Iran’s seizure of the U.S. hostages in November 1979.

Extensive evidence also exists that Begin’s preference for Reagan led the Israelis to join in a covert operation with Republicans to contact Iranian leaders behind Carter’s back, interfering with the President’s efforts to free the 52 American hostages before the November 1980 elections.

That evidence includes statements from senior Iranian officials, international arms dealers, intelligence operatives (including Ben-Menashe), and Middle East political figures (including a cryptic confirmation from Begin’s successor Yitzhak Shamir). But the truth about the October Surprise case remains in dispute to this day. [For the latest details, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

It is clear that after Reagan defeated Carter, and the U.S. hostages were released immediately upon Reagan being sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981, Israeli-brokered weapons shipments flowed to Iran with the secret blessing of the new Republican administration.

Dealing with Reagan

The Israel Lobby had grown exponentially since its start in the Eisenhower years. Israel’s influential supporters were now positioned to use every political device imaginable to lobby Congress and to get the White House to acquiesce to whatever Israel felt it needed.

Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President

President Reagan also credentialed into the Executive Branch a new group of pro-Israeli American officials the likes of Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen and Jeane Kirkpatrick who became known as the neocons.

Yet, despite Reagan’s pro-Israel policies, the new U.S. President wasn’t immune from more Israeli deceptions and additional pressures. Indeed, whether because of the alleged collusion with Reagan during the 1980 campaign or because Israel sensed its greater clout within his administration, Begin demonstrated a new level of audacity.

In 1981, Israel recruited Jonathan Pollard, an American Navy intelligence analyst, as a spy to acquire American intelligence satellite photos. Eventually, Pollard purloined massive amounts of intelligence information, some of which was reportedly turned over to Soviet intelligence by Israel to win favors from Moscow.

Prime Minister Begin sensed, too, that the time was ripe to gain the upper hand on other Arab enemies. He turned his attention to Lebanon, where the Palestine Liberation Organization was based. When U.S. intelligence warned Reagan that Israel was massing troops along the border with Lebanon, Reagan sent a cable to Begin urging him not to invade. But Begin ignored Reagan’s plea and invaded Lebanon the following day, on June 6, 1982. [See Time, Aug. 16, 1982.]

As the offensive progressed, Reagan sought a cessation of hostilities between Israel and the PLO, but Israel was intent on killing as many PLO fighters as possible. Periodic U.S.-brokered ceasefires failed as Israel used the slightest provocation to resume fighting, supposedly in self-defense.

“When PLO sniper fire is followed by fourteen hours of Israeli bombardment that is stretching the definition of defensive action too far,” complained Reagan, who kept the picture of a horribly burned Lebanese child on his desk in the Oval Office as a reminder of the tragedy of Lebanon.

The American public nightly witnessed the Israeli bombardment of Beirut on television news broadcasts. The pictures of dead, mutilated children caught in the Israeli artillery barrages, were particularly wrenching. Repulsed by the carnage, the U.S. public decidedly favored forcing Israel to stop.

When Reagan warned Israel of possible sanctions if its forces continued to indiscriminately attack Beirut, Israel launched a major offensive against West Beirut the next day. In the United States, Israeli supporters demanded a meeting with Reagan to press Israel’s case. Though Reagan declined the meeting, one was set up for 40 leaders of various Jewish organizations with Vice President George H.W. Bush, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and Secretary of State George Shultz.

Reagan wrote once again to Begin, reminding him that Israel was allowed to use American weapons only for defensive purposes. He appealed to Begin’s humanitarianism to stop the bombardment.

The next day, in a meeting with Israeli supporters from the United States, Begin fumed that he would not be instructed by an American president or any other U.S. official. “Nobody is going to bring Israel to her knees. You must have forgotten that Jews do not kneel but to God,” Begin said. “Nobody is going to preach to us humanitarianism.”

More Tragedy

Begin’s government also used the tragedy in Lebanon as an opportunity to provide special favors for its American backers.

Bodies of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra camp in Lebanon, 1982. (Photo credit: U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees)

In From Beirut to Jerusalem, New York Times correspondent Thomas L. Freidman wrote that the Israeli Army conducted tours of the battlefront for influential U.S. donors. On one occasion, women from Hadassah were taken to the hills surrounding Beirut and were invited to look down on the city as Israeli artillery put on a display for them. The artillery began an enormous barrage, with shells landing throughout the densely populated city. The shells struck and destroyed apartments, shops, homes and shacks in the squalid refugee camps of the Palestinians.

A ceasefire was finally agreed upon by Israel and the PLO, requiring Yasser Arafat and all PLO fighters to leave Lebanon. The Palestinians were assured, as part of the agreement brokered by the United States, that their wives and children living in Lebanese refugee camps would be safe from harm. The PLO then left Lebanon by ship in August 1982, moving the PLO headquarters to Tunisia.

On Sept. 16, Israel’s Christian militia allies, with Israeli military support, entered the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, and conducted a three-day campaign of rape and murder. Most of the dead with estimates varying from Israel’s count of 400 to a Palestinian estimate of nearly 1,000 were women and children.

American Marines, who had been dispatched to Lebanon as peacekeepers to oversee the PLO evacuation but then had departed, hastily returned after the Sabra and Shatila massacres. They were housed in a large warehouse complex near Beirut’s airport.

Over the next year, American forces found themselves drawn into the worsening Lebanese civil war. A key moment occurred on Sept. 18, 1983, when Reagan’s national security adviser Robert McFarlane, who was considered a staunch supporter of Israel, ordered U.S. warships to bombard Muslim targets inside Lebanon.

As Gen. Colin Powell, then a top aide to Defense Secretary Weinberger, wrote in his memoir, “When the shells started falling on the Shiites, they assumed the American ‘referee’ had taken sides.” [See Powell’s My American Journey.]

Muslim attacks on the Marines in Beirut soon escalated. On Oct. 23, 1983, two Shiite Muslims drove explosives-laden trucks into two buildings in Beirut, one housing French forces and the other the Marines. The blasts killed 241 Americans and 58 French.

Over the ensuing weeks, American forces continued to suffer losses in skirmishes with Muslim militiamen near the Beirut airport and American civilians also became targets for execution and hostage-taking. On Feb. 7, 1984, Reagan announced that the Marines would be redeployed from Lebanon. Within a couple of weeks, the last of the Marines had departed Lebanon, having suffered a total of 268 killed.

However, the hostage-taking of Americans continued, ironically creating an opportunity for Israel to intercede again through its contacts in Iran to seek the help of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s regime in getting the Lebanese Shiite militants to release captured Americans.

Israeli arms dealers and neocon Americans, such as Michael Ledeen, were used as middlemen for the secret arms-for-hostages deals, which Reagan approved and McFarlane oversaw. However, the arms deliveries via Israel failed to reduce the overall number of Americans held hostage in Lebanon and were eventually exposed in November 1986, becoming Reagan’s worst scandal, the Iran-Contra Affair.

Noriega and Harari

Though Israel’s government had created some headaches for Reagan, it also provided some help, allowing its arms dealers and intelligence operatives to assist some of Reagan’s favorite covert operations, particularly in Central America where the U.S. Congress had objected to military assistance going to human rights violators, like the Guatemalan military, and to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.

Vice President George H.W. Bush meeting with Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega in the mid-1980s.

As Vice President, George H.W. Bush met with Panamanian dictator Manuel Noreiga and considered him a compliant partner. Noriega subsequently funneled financial and other help to Reagan’s beloved Contras and once even volunteered to arrange the assassinations of leaders of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

One of Noriega’s top operatives was Michael Harari, who had led Israeli assassination teams and who had served as the Israeli Mossad station chief in Mexico. In Panama, Harari became a key intermediary for Israeli contributions to the Contras, supplying them with arms and training, while Noriega handed over cash.

But Noriega and Harari were conducting other business in the region, allegedly working as middlemen and money launderers for the lucrative smuggling of cocaine into the United States. When that information surfaced in the U.S. news media and Noriega became notorious as an unstable thug George H.W. Bush as President found himself under enormous political pressure in 1989 to remove Noriega from power.

So, Bush prepared to invade Panama in December 1989. However, the Israeli government was concerned about the possible capture of Harari, whom U.S. prosecutors regarded as Noriega’s top co-conspirator but who also was someone possessing sensitive information about Israeli clandestine activities.

Six hours before U.S. troops were to invade Panama, Harari was warned of the impending attack, an alert that enabled him to flee and may have compromised the safety of American paratroopers and Special Forces units preparing to begin the assault, units that took surprisingly heavy casualties.

Tipped off by Israeli intelligence agents, Harari was whisked away by an Israeli embassy car, flying a diplomatic flag, with diplomatic license plates to ensure he would not be stopped and held, according to an interview that I had in January 1990 with Col. Edward Herrera Hassen, commander of Panama Defense Forces.

Harari soon was on his way back to Israel, where the government has since rebuffed U.S. requests that Harari be extradited to the United States to stand trial in connection with the Noriega case. For his part, Noriega was captured and brought to the United States where he was convicted of eight drug and racketeering charges. [Hariri died on Sept. 21, 2014, in Tel Aviv at the age of 87.]

The Lobby

The one constant in Israel’s endless maneuverings both with and against the U.S. government has been the effectiveness of the Israel Lobby and its many allies to fend off sustained criticism of Israel, sometimes by smearing critics as anti-Semitic or by mounting aggressive cover-ups when investigations threatened to expose ugly secrets.

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton debating with President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Given this long record of success, U.S. presidents and other politicians have demonstrated a declining capacity to press Israel into making concessions, the way Eisenhower, Kennedy and Carter tried to do. For instance, when President Bill Clinton first met with Netanyahu in 1996, Clinton was surprised to find himself getting a lecture from Israel’s Likud prime minister. “Who the f**k does he think he is? Who’s the superpower here?” a peeved Clinton was quoted as saying. [See The Much Too Promised Land, by Aaron Miller, an aide to Clinton.]

Joe Lockhart, then White House spokesman, told Clayton Swisher, author of The Truth About Camp David, that Netanyahu was “one of the most obnoxious individuals you’re going to come into just a liar and a cheat. He could open his mouth and you could have no confidence that anything that came out of it was the truth.”

Faced with these difficulties and fending off Republican attempts to drive him from office Clinton put off any serious push for a Middle East peace accord until the last part of his presidency. Clinton negotiated the Wye River memorandum with Netanyahu and Arafat on Sept. 23, 1999, calling for reciprocal undertakings by both sides. The agreement called for the freezing of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, but Netanyahu failed to stop the settlement activity. Demolition of Palestinian homes, restrictions on movement by Palestinians, and settlement building continued.

Ultimately, Clinton failed to achieve any breakthrough as his final efforts collapsed amid finger-pointing and distrust between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Handling Bush

Israel’s hopes were buoyed further when George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001. Unlike his father who looked on the Israelis with suspicion and felt some kinship with the Arab oil states, the younger Bush was unabashedly pro-Israel.

Though Reagan had credentialed many young neocons in the 1980s, he had kept them mostly away from Middle East policy, which usually fell to less ideological operatives such as Philip Habib and James Baker. However, George W. Bush installed the neocons in key jobs for Mideast policy, with the likes of Elliott Abrams at the National Security Council, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith at the Pentagon, and Lewis Libby inside Vice President Dick Cheney’s office.

The neocons arrived with a plan to transform the Middle East based on a scheme prepared by a group of American neocons, including Perle and Feith, for Netanyahu in 1996. Called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” the idea was to bring to heel all the antagonistic states confronting Israel.

The “clean break” was to abandon the idea of achieving peace in the region through mutual understanding and compromise. Instead, there would be “peace through strength,” including violent removal of leaders who were viewed as hostile to Israel’s interests.

The plan sought the ouster of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, which was called “an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” After Hussein’s ouster, the plan envisioned destabilizing the Assad dynasty in Syria with hopes of replacing it with regime more favorable to Israel. That, in turn, would push Lebanon into Israel’s arms and contribute to the destruction of Hezbollah, Israel’s tenacious foe in South Lebanon.

The removal of Hezbollah in Lebanon would, in turn, weaken Iran’s influence, both in Lebanon and in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank, where Hamas and other Palestinian militants would find themselves cornered.

But what the “clean break” needed was the military might of the United States, since some of the targets like Iraq were too far away and too powerful to be overwhelmed even by Israel’s highly efficient military. The cost in Israeli lives and to Israel’s economy from such overreach would have been staggering.

The only way to implement the strategy was to enlist a U.S. president, his administration and the Congress to join Israel in this audacious undertaking. That opportunity presented itself when Bush ascended to the White House and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, created a receptive political climate in the United States.

Turning to Iraq

After a quick strike against al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan, the Bush administration turned its attention to conquering Iraq. However, even after the 9/11 attacks, the neocons and President Bush had to come up with rationales that were sellable to the American people, while playing down any suggestion that the coming conflicts were partially designed to advance Israel’s interests.

At the start of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to conduct a devastating aerial assault on Baghdad, known as “shock and awe.”

So, the Bush administration put together tales about Iraqi stockpiles of WMD, its “reconstituted” nuclear weapons program, and its alleged ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorists determined to strike at the United States. The PR operation worked like a charm. Bush rallied Congress and much of the American public behind an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, which began on March 19, 2003, and drove Saddam Hussein’s government from power three weeks later.

At the time, the joke circulating among neocons was where to go next, Syria or Iran, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”

Meanwhile, Israel continued collecting as much intelligence as possible from the United States about the next desired target, Iran. On Aug. 27, 2004, CBS News broke a story about an FBI investigation into a possible spy working for Israel as a policy analyst for Under Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz. The official was identified as Lawrence Franklin.

Franklin pled guilty to passing a classified Presidential Directive and other sensitive documents pertaining to U.S. foreign policy regarding Iran to the powerful Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which shared the information with Israel.

According to FBI surveillance tapes, Franklin relayed top secret information to Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s policy director, and Keith Weissman, a senior policy analyst with AIPAC.  On Aug. 30, 2004, Israeli officials admitted that Franklin had met repeatedly with Naor Gilon, head of the political department at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, and a specialist on Iran’s nuclear programs.

Franklin was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison for passing classified information to a pro-Israel lobby group and an Israeli diplomat. No charges were brought against the AIPAC executives or the Israeli diplomat.

Bloody Chaos

Meanwhile, back in the Middle East, it turned out that occupying Iraq was more difficult than the Bush administration had anticipated. Ultimately, more than 4,400 American soldiers died in the conflict along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

President George W. Bush in a flight suit after landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln to give his “Mission Accomplished” speech about the Iraq War on May 1, 2003.

The bloody chaos in Iraq also meant that the neocon “real men” couldn’t go either to Syria or Iran, at least not right away. They were forced into a waiting game, counting on the short memories of the American people before revving up the fear machine again to justify moving to the next phase.

When the U.S. death toll finally began to decline in Iraq, the neocons stepped up their alarms about Iran becoming a danger to the world by developing nuclear weapons (although Iran has disavowed any desire to have nukes and U.S. intelligence expressed confidence in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a warhead four years earlier).

Still, while trying to keep the focus away from its own nuclear arsenal, Israel has pushed the international community to bring pressure on Iran, in part by threatening to mount its own military attack on Iran if the U.S. government and other leading powers don’t act aggressively.

The neocon anti-Iran plans were complicated by the victory of Barack Obama, who promised to reach out in a more respectful way to the Muslim world. Inside Israel and in U.S. neocon circles, complaints quickly spread about Obama’s coziness with Muslims (even claims that he was a secret Muslim or anti-Semitic). Obama further antagonized the neocons and Israeli hardliners by suggesting a linkage between the festering Palestinian problem and dangers to U.S. national security, including violence against U.S. troops in the Middle East.

Netanyahu, who again had assumed the post of prime minister, and the neocons wanted U.S. policy refocused on Iran, with little attention on Israel as it continued its longstanding policy of building more and more Jewish settlements on what was once Palestinian land.

In reaction to Netanyahu’s unwillingness to curb those settlements and with the announcement of more housing units during Biden’s visit Obama retaliated by subjecting Netanyahu to several slights, including refusing to have photographs taken of the two of them meeting at the White House.

Obama walked out of one meeting with Netanyahu after failing to get his written promise for a concession on halting further settlement construction. Obama went to dinner alone, a very pointed insult to Netanyahu. As Obama left the meeting, he said, “Let me know if there is anything new,” according to a member of Congress who was present.

Secret Pacts

For his part, Netanyahu has claimed that secret agreements with the Bush administration allow for the continued building of settlements. However, Obama said on National Public Radio that he does not consider himself bound by secret oral agreements that may have been made by President Bush.

Instead, Obama claims Israel is bound by the 2003 “Road Map” agreement which prohibits building more settlements. “I’ve said clearly to the Israelis both privately and publicly that a freeze on settlements, including natural growth, is part of these obligations,” Obama said.

President Barack Obama talking on the phone in the Oval Office , Oct. 5, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Still, Obama has shied away from publicly challenging Israel on some of its most sensitive issues, such as its undeclared nuclear-weapons arsenal. Like presidents back to Nixon, Obama has participated in the charade of “ambiguity.” Even as he demanded “transparency” from other countries, Obama continued to dance around questions regarding whether Israel has nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu and Israel surely have vulnerabilities. Without America’s military, diplomatic and economic support, Israel could not exist in its present form. One-quarter of Israeli wage incomes are derived from American aid money, German reparations and various charities. Without that outside assistance, Israel’s standard of living would sink dramatically.

According to the Congressional Research Service, Israel receives $2.4 billion a year in U.S. government grants, military assistance, loan guarantees, and sundry other sources. The United States also pays Egypt another $2 billion to keep the peace with Israel. The combined assistance to both countries comprises nearly one half of all U.S. foreign aid assistance worldwide.

In a sense, Israel can’t be blamed for standing up for itself, especially given the long history of brutality and oppression directed against Jews. However, Israeli leaders have used this tragic history to justify their own harsh treatment of others, especially the Palestinians, many of whom were uprooted from their ancestral homes.

Over the past six decades, Israeli leaders also have refined their strategies for taking advantage of their staunchest ally, the United States. Today, with many powerful friends inside the United States and with Obama facing intense political pressure over his domestic and national security policies the Israeli government has plenty of reasons to believe that it can out-fox and outlast the current U.S. president as it did many of his predecessors.

Morgan Strong is a former professor of Middle Eastern history, and was an advisor to CBS News “60 Minutes” on the Middle East. He is author of ebook, The Israeli Lobby and Me, Bush Family History, and Hoodwinking American Presidents.

38 comments for “How Israel Out-Foxed US Presidents

  1. bill
    February 16, 2017 at 14:07

    great post / So now with trump in Israel has succeeded to COMPLETLY own the USA frew AIPAC.

  2. brent
    February 15, 2017 at 20:39

    My take today is Trump outfoxed the Israeli colonial project by putting the question of one state or two on the table and did so in the presence of Netanyahu….. keeping him smiling To me this was brilliant. Because giving up on a Jewish State is so unacceptable to many Jews, there will be serious/plausible proposals put forth for the two state deal.

  3. February 15, 2017 at 16:46

    How can USA think giving Israel tons of weapons can help them in the long run? Just adds to the strife and violence and Israel can then kill 1000s of Palestinians and talk pointedly of terrorist Arab atrocities (bad but on a quite small scale). Does help US arms industry though. Yuk.

    Cld not Israel consider a fresh solution i.e the 3 State Solution? Palestine to be a state, Israel to stop grabbing land and a New Israel to be created somewhere else eg S. America where there’s lots of space. This New Israel would have strong ties to the State of Israel and belong to Jews who might, with all their industriousness and imagination build a lovely enclave for themselves where any Jew could immigrate and feel safe. Herzl in the 20th C was serious about a colony in Uganda and even asked for help from the UK and US. But at the time Palestine was thinly populated and there seemed no reason to consider another continent.

    Now that the pop’n of Israel and Palestine is far too big for a country so tiny, a change of policy is long overdue. I do feel sorry for the Jews who for centuries had no country to call their own. But can’t they see their cruelty and racism can give them no sense of security? I think Herzl was on to something and his cunning plan should be resurrected for the good of all and wee Palestine should have their state asap. Any reactions to this idea? UN could be asked, UK, US govt. and of course the Israelis need to be consulted (backed up with threats of withdrawal of aid) if they don’t like the idea!

    • bill
      February 16, 2017 at 14:13

      withdrawal of aid? hell if that happened the USA would be great again, Imagine the billions the US could spend on infrastructure, jobs ,no I’m afraid Israel would not let that happen because they own the USA=AIPAC.Pity nice thought though. I think the last president that tried that was JFK ,hmm.

  4. Cal
    February 14, 2017 at 17:49

    Here’s the hit list–get them out of office.

    Pro Israel pact money received from Jan. 1, 2009 through Dec. 31, 2015.

    House: Career Totals

    Engel, Eliot L. (D-NY) $369,918
    Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana (R-FL) 321,240
    Hoyer, Steny H. (D-MD) 305,725
    Lowey, Nita M. (D-NY) 235,623
    Pelosi, Nancy (D-CA) 149,150
    Levin, Sander M. (D-MI) 135,827
    Boehner, John A. (R-OH) 129,200
    Sherman, Brad (D-CA) 115,930
    Hastings, Alcee L. (D-FL) 112,850
    Andrews, Robert E. (D-NJ) 112,025
    Senate: Career Totals
    McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $582,392
    Durbin, Richard J. (D-IL) 401,171
    Reid, Harry (D-NV) 394,001
    Kirk, Mark S. (R-IL) 380,436
    Wyden, Ronald L. (D-OR) 358,462
    Boxer, Barbara (D-CA) 279,044
    McCain, John S. (R-AZ) 237,700
    Sessions, Jefferson B. (R-AL) 229,325
    Feingold, Russell D. (D-WI) 215,938
    Menendez, Robert (D-NJ) 215,318

    • bill
      February 16, 2017 at 14:19

      McCain only 237,000 hmm thought that would have been more . In Sweden they out law any one with DUAL CITIZENSHIP from holding office, how can some one who signs a document that stats that you MUST put Israel ahead of any other nation to be an Israeli dual citizen and then pretend to vote for USAs writes against an Israeli vote in congress.

  5. Cal
    February 14, 2017 at 14:55

    The real story on Beirut. The Marines and the US drawn in and set up by the Israelis. If it was to me Israel would not exist.

    Israel Charged with Systematic Harassment of U.S. Marines

    Donald Neff has been a journalist for forty years. He spent 16 years in service for Time Magazine and is a regular contributor to Middle East International and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. He has written five excellent books on the Middle East.
    By Donald Neff
    Former Time Magazine Bureau Chief, Israel
    Washington Report, March 1995

    It was 12 years ago, on March 14, 1983, that the commandant of the Marine Corps sent a highly unusual letter to the secretary of defense expressing frustration and anger at Israel. General R.H. Barrow charged that Israeli troops were deliberately threatening the lives of Marines serving as peacekeepers in Lebanon. There was, he wrote, a systematic pattern of harassment by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that was resulting in “life-threatening situations, replete with verbal degradation of the officers, their uniform and country.”
    Barrow’s letter added: “It is inconceivable to me why Americans serving in peacekeeping roles must be harassed, endangered by an ally…It is evident to me, and the opinion of the U.S. commanders afloat and ashore, that the incidents between the Marines and the IDF are timed, orchestrated, and executed for obtuse Israeli political purposes.”1
    Israel’s motives were less obtuse than the diplomatic general pretended. It was widely believed then, and now, that Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, one of Israel’s most Machiavellian politician-generals, was creating the incidents deliberately in an effort to convince Washington that the two forces had to coordinate their actions in order to avoid such tensions. This, of course, would have been taken by the Arabs as proof that the Marines were not really in Lebanon as neutral peacekeepers but as allies of the Israelis, a perception that would have obvious advantages for Israel.2
    Barrow’s extraordinary letter was indicative of the frustrations and miseries the Marines suffered during their posting to Lebanon starting on Aug. 25, 1982, as a result of Israel’s invasion 11 weeks earlier. Initially a U.S. unit of 800 men was sent to Beirut harbor as part of a multinational force to monitor the evacuation of PLO guerrillas from Beirut. The Marines, President Reagan announced, “in no case… would stay longer than 30 days.”3 This turned out to be only partly true. They did withdraw on Sept. 10, but a reinforced unit of 1,200 was rushed back 15 days later after the massacres at the Palestinian refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila that accompanied the Israeli seizure of West Beirut. The U.S. forces remained until Feb. 26, 1984.4
    During their year-and-a-half posting in Lebanon, the Marines suffered 268 killed.5 The casualties started within a week of the return of the Marines in September 1982. On the 30th, a U.S.-made cluster bomb left behind by the Israelis exploded, killing Corporal David Reagan and wounding three other Marines.6
    Corporal Reagan’s death represented the dangers of the new mission of the Marines in Lebanon. While their first brief stay had been to separate Israeli forces from Palestinian fighters evacuating West Beirut, their new mission was as part of a multinational force sent to prevent Israeli troops from attacking the Palestinian civilians left defenseless there after the withdrawal of PLO forces. As President Reagan said: “For this multinational force to succeed, it is essential that Israel withdraw from Beirut.”7

    “Incidents are timed, orchestrated, and executed for Israeli political purposes.”
    Israel’s siege of Beirut during the summer of 1982 had been brutal and bloody, reaching a peak of horror on Aug. 12, quickly known as Black Thursday. On that day, Sharon’s forces launched at dawn a massive artillery barrage that lasted for 11 straight hours and was accompanied by saturation air bombardment.8 As many as 500 persons, mainly Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, were killed.9
    On top of the bombardment came the massacres the next month at Sabra and Shatila, where Sharon’s troops allowed Lebanese Maronite killers to enter the camps filled with defenseless civilians. The massacres sickened the international community and pressure from Western capitals finally forced Israel to withdraw from Beirut in late September. Troops from Britain, France, Italy and the United States were interposed between the Israeli army and Beirut, with U.S. Marines deployed in the most sensitive area south of Beirut at the International Airport, directly between Israeli troops and West Beirut.

    It was at the airport that the Marines would suffer their Calvary over the next year. Starting in January 1983, small Israeli units began probing the Marine lines. At first the effort appeared aimed at discovering the extent of Marine determination to resist penetration. The lines proved solid and the Marines’ determination strong. Israeli troops were politely but firmly turned away. Soon the incidents escalated, with both sides pointing loaded weapons at each other but no firing taking place. Tensions were high enough by late January that a special meeting between U.S. and Israeli officers was held in Beirut to try to agree on precise boundaries beyond which the IDF would not penetrate.10
    No Stranger to the Marines
    However, on Feb. 2 a unit of three Israeli tanks, led by Israeli Lt. Col. Rafi Landsberg, tried to pass through Marine/Lebanese Army lines at Rayan University Library in south Lebanon. By this time, Landsberg was no stranger to the Marines. Since the beginning of January he had been leading small Israeli units in probes against the Marine lines, although such units would normally have a commander no higher than a sergeant or lieutenant. The suspicion grew that Sharon’s troops were deliberately provoking the Marines and Landsberg was there to see that things did not get out of hand. The Israeli tactics were aimed more at forcing a joint U.S.-Israeli strategy than merely probing lines.
    In the Feb. 2 incident, the checkpoint was commanded by Marine Capt. Charles Johnson, who firmly refused permission for Landsberg to advance. When two of the Israeli tanks ignored his warning to halt, Johnson leaped on Landsberg’s tank with pistol drawn and demanded Landsberg and his tanks withdraw. They did.11
    Landsberg and the Israeli embassy in Washington tried to laugh off the incident, implying that Johnson was a trigger-happy John Wayne type and that the media were exaggerating a routine event. Landsberg even went so far as to claim that he smelled alcohol on Johnson’s breath and that drunkenness must have clouded his reason. Marines were infuriated because Johnson was well known as a teetotaler. Americans flocked to Johnson’s side. He received hundreds of letters from school children, former Marines and from Commandant Barrow.12 It was a losing battle for the Israelis and Landsberg soon dropped from sight.
    But the incidents did not stop. These now included “helicopter harassment,” by which U.S.-made helicopters with glaring spotlights were flown by the Israelis over Marine positions at night, illuminating Marine outposts and exposing them to potential attack. As reports of these incidents piled up, Gen. Barrow received a letter on March 12 from a U.S. Army major stationed in Lebanon with the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO). The letter described a systematic pattern of Israeli attacks and provocations against UNTSO troops, including instances in which U.S. officers were singled out for “near-miss” shootings, abuse and detention.13 That same day two Marine patrols were challenged and cursed by Israeli soldiers.14

    Two days later Barrow wrote his letter to Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger, who endorsed it and sent it along to the State Department. High-level meetings were arranged and the incidents abated, perhaps largely because by this time Ariel Sharon had been fired as defense minister. He had been found by an Israeli commission to have had “personal responsibility” for the Sabra and Shatila massacres.15
    Despite the bad taste left from the clashes with the Israelis, in fact no Marines had been killed in the incidents and their lines had been secure up to the end of winter in 1983. Then Islamic guerrillas, backed by Iran, became active. On the night of April 17, 1983, an unknown sniper fired a shot that went through the trousers of a Marine sentry but did not harm him. For the first time, the Marines returned fire.16
    The next day, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was blown up by a massive bomb, with the loss of 63 lives. Among the 17 Americans killed were CIA Mideast specialists, including Robert C. Ames, the agency’s top Middle East expert.17 Disaffected former Israeli Mossad case officer Victor Ostrovsky later claimed that Israel had advance information about the bombing plan but had decided not to inform the United States, a claim denied by Israel.18 The Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. Veteran correspondent John Cooley considered the attack “the day [Iranian leader Ayatollah] Khomeini’s offensive against America in Lebanon began in earnest.”19
    Still, it was not until four months later, on Aug. 28, that Marines came under direct fire by rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at International Airport. They returned fire with M-16 rifles and M-60 machine guns. The firefight resumed the next day with Marines firing 155mm artillery, 81mm mortars and rockets from Cobra helicopter gunships against Shi’i Muslim positions. Two Marines were killed and 14 wounded in the exchange, the first casualties in actual combat since the Marines had landed the previous year.20
    From this time on, the combat involvement of the Marines grew. Their actions were generally seen as siding with Israel against Muslims, slowly changing the status of the Marines as neutral peacekeepers to opponents of the Muslims.21 Israel could hardly have wished for more. The polarization meant that increasingly the conflict was being perceived in terms of the U.S., Israel and Lebanon’s Christians against Iran, Islam and Lebanon’s Shi’i Muslims.
    Accelerating the Conflict
    Israel accelerated the building conflict on Sept. 3, 1993 by unilaterally withdrawing its troops southward, leaving the Marines exposed behind their thin lines at the airport. The United States had asked the Israeli government to delay its withdrawal until the Marines could be replaced by units of the Lebanese army, but Israel refused.22 The result was as feared. Heavy fighting immediately broke out between the Christian Lebanese Forces and the pro-Syrian Druze units, both seeking to occupy positions evacuated by Israel, while the Marines were left in the crossfire.23 On Sept. 5, two Marines were killed and three wounded as fighting escalated between Christian and Muslim militias.24
    In an ill-considered effort to subdue the combat, the Sixth Fleet frigate Bowen fired several five-inch naval guns, hitting Druze artillery positions in the Chouf Mountains that were firing into the Marine compound at Beirut airport.25 It was the first time U.S. ships had fired into Lebanon, dramatically raising the level of combat. But the Marines’ exposed location on the flat terrain of the airport left them in an impossible position. On Sept. 12, three more Marines were wounded.26
    On Sept. 13, President Reagan authorized what was called aggressive self-defense for the Marines, including air and naval strikes.27 Five days later the United States essentially joined the war against the Muslims when four U.S. warships unleashed the heaviest naval bombardment since Vietnam into Syrian and Druze positions in eastern Lebanon in support of the Lebanese Christians.28 The bombardment lasted for three days and was personally ordered by National Security Council director Robert McFarlane, a Marine Corps officer detailed to the White House who was in Lebanon at the time and was also a strong supporter of Israel and its Lebanese Maronite Christian allies. McFarlane issued the order despite the fact that the Marine commander at the airport, Colonel Timothy Geraghty, strenuously argued against it because, in the words of correspondent Thomas L. Friedman, “he knew that it would make his soldiers party to what was now clearly an intra-Lebanese fight, and that the Lebanese Muslims would not retaliate against the Navy’s ships at sea but against the Marines on shore.”29
    By now, the Marines were under daily attack and Muslims were charging they were no longer neutral.30 At the same time the battleship USS New Jersey, with 16-inch guns, arrived off Lebanon, increasing the number of U.S. warships offshore to 14. Similarly, the Marine contingent at Beirut airport was increased from 1,200 to 1,600.31
    A Tragic Climax
    The fight now was truly joined between the Shi’i Muslims and the Marines, who were essentially pinned down in their airport bunkers and under orders not to take offensive actions. The tragic climax of their predicament came on Oct. 23, when a Muslim guerrilla drove a truck past guards at the Marine airport compound and detonated an explosive with the force of 12,000 pounds of dynamite under a building housing Marines and other U.S. personnel. Almost simultaneously, a car-bomb exploded at the French compound in Beirut. Casualties were 241 Americans and 58 French troops killed. The bombings were the work of Hezbollah, made up of Shi’i Muslim guerrillas supported by Iran.;32
    America’s agony increased on Dec. 3, when two carrier planes were downed by Syrian missiles during heavy U.S. air raids on eastern Lebanon.;33 On the same day, eight Marines were killed in fighting with Muslim militiamen around the Beirut airport.;34
    By the start of 1984, an all-out Shi’i Muslim campaign to rid Lebanon of all Americans was underway. The highly respected president of the American University of Beirut, Dr. Malcolm Kerr, a distinguished scholar of the Arab world, was gunned down on Jan. 18 outside his office by Islamic militants aligned with Iran.;35 On Feb. 5, Reagan made one of his stand-tall speeches by saying that “the situation in Lebanon is difficult, frustrating and dangerous. But this is no reason to turn our backs on friends and to cut and run.”;36
    The next day Professor Frank Regier, a U.S. citizen teaching at AUB, was kidnapped by Muslim radicals.;37 Regier’s kidnapping was the beginning of a series of kidnappings of Americans in Beirut that would hound the Reagan and later the Bush administrations for years and lead to the eventual expulsion of nearly all Americans from Lebanon where they had prospered for more than a century. Even today Americans still are prohibited from traveling to Lebanon.
    The day after Regier’s kidnapping, on Feb. 7, 1984, Reagan suddenly reversed himself and announced that all U.S. Marines would shortly be “redeployed.” The next day the battleship USS New Jersey fired 290 rounds of one-ton shells from its 16-inch guns into Lebanon as a final act of U.S. frustration.;38 Reagan’s “redeployment” was completed by Feb. 26, when the last of the Marines retreated from Lebanon.
    The mission of the Marines had been a humiliating failurenot because they failed in their duty but because the political backbone in Washington was lacking. The Marines had arrived in 1982 with all sides welcoming them. They left in 1984 despised by many and the object of attacks by Muslims. Even relations with Israel were strained, if not in Washington where a sympathetic Congress granted increased aid to the Jewish state to compensate it for the costs of its bungled invasion, then between the Marines and Israeli troops who had confronted each other in a realpolitik battlefield that was beyond their competence or understanding. The Marine experience in Lebanon did not contribute toward a favorable impression of Israel among many Americans, especially since the Marines would not have been in Lebanon except for Israel’s unprovoked invasion.
    This negative result is perhaps one reason a number of Israelis and their supporters today oppose sending U.S. peacekeepers to the Golan Heights as part of a possible Israeli-Syrian peace treaty. A repeat of the 1982-84 experience would certainly not be in Israel’s interests at a time when its supporters are seeking to have a budget-conscious Congress continue unprecedented amounts of aid to Israel.

  6. Carol Quinn
    February 14, 2017 at 01:59

    A great synopsis, this article. A study of the accompanying propaganda to the events outlined here would be equally enlightening.
    And looking honestly at how the Holocaust is used to further Israeli interests would be an interesting exercise as well.

    • Cal
      February 14, 2017 at 13:19

      ” And looking honestly at how the Holocaust is used to further Israeli interests would be an interesting exercise as well”

      Spend a lot of money on propaganda, buy a lot of politicians and have their minions in the media and press constantly parrot that the Jewish holocaust was the ‘Only or Worst’ genocide in history and the entire world is responsible for not saving the Jews.
      The culmination of the ‘eternal persecution of the Jews.’
      Therefore the Jews and Israel are special and deserving of exceptional treatment.

      Its bullsh@t of course There have been dozens of worse genocides–10 million Congolese murdered by Belgian colonists during the latter part of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries by King Leopold for example and etc etc.

  7. tina
    February 13, 2017 at 23:52

    okay. I am educated on everyone’s perspective. Just 4 questions to all you who know everything and are so clever. Should the Jews rule the world? Should the Muslims rule the world? Should the Christians rule the world? There could be an alternative . Should religion rule the world ? Do not ask about financial systems, that is a different discussion.

    • MEexpert
      February 14, 2017 at 02:06

      Only Jews want to own the world. No one else does.

    • backwardsevolution
      February 14, 2017 at 02:10

      tina – those are four of the most important questions, aren’t they? How do you even begin to answer them? That might be above my pay grade.

      One thing seems apparent: I don’t think they can co-exist in the same area for any length of time without the lid blowing off. Was just reading about a lady from Lebanon who said that multiculturalism had destroyed her country because there were too many factions, too many religions, and they were all jockeying for position.

      And many who talk about the dangers of nationalism are themselves very religious. They fear nationalism because history has shown that that is a time when their religions can get trampled on, and yet don’t they in effect bring on the nationalism in a way by trampling on others, stifling speech, grabbing power, and building their own little nations (AIPAC, for instance) within a larger nation (USA, for instance)? Aren’t they nationalistic in a sense? I wonder.

      Their own little nations (their religions) become more important to them than the nation they live in, all energy is geared towards the survival of their little nation, and after awhile the big nation begins to suffer. Kind of like an ant farm filled with different kinds of ants, all working to protect and promote their own particular kind, but none of them really devoted to the integrity of the main structure. Might hold up for awhile, but probably not in the long run.

      I hope I am making some sense. Good questions, tina.

      • backwardsevolution
        February 14, 2017 at 03:02

        Mixing religions is probably okay at first. Lots of wide open space. But once populations grow and the different religions start butting into each other, or one is shown favoritism, well, pop goes the weasel.

        Certainly a country should not be going out of its way to invite a new religion in. To me, that’s just asking for trouble. Too many think short-term. If they really thought long-term, they’d see the potential for big problems down the road. But the Chamber of Commerce and the politicians they buy are not paid to think long-term, they just want more bodies/more consumers, so in comes another group. Very short-sighted thinking.

        This has nothing to do with racism. This dividing and fracturing of a country will continue until there’s really nothing left.

        • Rob Roy
          February 14, 2017 at 23:50

          Backwardsevolution: You say “Certainly a country should not be going out of its way to invite a new religion in.” I disagree.
          Your comment reminds me of the secular state of Syria and Bashar al Assad who encouraged all religions to live in harmony. Yes, he did and the USA can’t stand that he didn’t bow down to their demands. A Syrian woman the other day said her beautiful country lived in peace with Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, et. al., until outsiders decided, as Hillary once said, “Assad has to go,” a more arrogant statement doesn’t exist. Oh, yes, “Gaddaffi has to go,” same source. An Episcopalian missionary went to Syria to build a church there. Assad welcomed him and even gave him land for his church!
          BTW, the recent report from Amnesty International about of the hanging of thousands by the Assad regime was not true. I knew it when I heard it on Democracy Now! Amy is slipping. (Thus, I was pleased to see Rick Sterling’s article. Assad didn’t use sarin gas, nor carpet bomb either.)
          Syria was secular! Now look at it, another disaster created by the USA in its endless quest to own and control everything on earth as long as it doesn’t thwart the Jews. The fact is, only secular countries live in peace. Theocracies don’t usually work…as witnessed by Israel’s insistence on being called a “Jewish state.” How’s that working out for the Palestinians? Or for that matter, the Jews…because eventually they will be put down for their believing they are really “god’s chosen children.”

          • Rob Roy
            February 14, 2017 at 23:58

            addendum…except Iran is working just fine. My greatest fear (beside baiting Russia into war) is Israel forcing the USA into joining them in bombing Iran, a country full of warm, wonderful generous and kind people who, yes! elevate women above men, as a charming young man told me there, and other men around him nodded agreement. Nothing they dislike more than being asked if Iran (Persians!) is like Saudi Arabia, a place they feel to be the most ignorant and backward of all countries.

    • Realist
      February 14, 2017 at 03:36

      If you’re asking the question, “should religion rule the world and, if so, which one,” of the people who frequently post on this blog, the answer is an obvious “none of the above.” If you mean to ask the random person in the street, answers will vary… with the person and with the street. Same thing if you mean to ask the limited elites actually holding the power. Moreover, they will be quite unequivocal in their chosen response. Hence the bloody chaos that is planet Earth.

    • Cal
      February 14, 2017 at 13:05

      “”Should religion rule the world ? Do not ask about financial systems, that is a different discussion.”…tina

      The obvious answer is NO.
      But regarding Jewish Zionism, it is not a religion, it is a Cult”.
      The religion of ‘Judaism’ is just a tool for the Zionist to feed believers more myths about the Jewish people as a universal ‘Jewish nation’ and enlist them in Zionism. Just as the ‘financial systems’ and political systems are a tool or instrument Zionist to use to further their belief/goal that they should indeed rule the world.
      Zionism is no different than Nazi concept of the Master Race except instead of Aryan Germans being the superior race Zionist declare the Jews are the superior race, a ‘special people’ in the human world , not just a religious group.

      Jewishness, Judaism and Zionism is a big subject. But one clue to its beginnings that can be found in Judaism is the core belief in total Jewish innocence in all things throughout history and constant persecution by all the evil others for no reason. This persecution myth is used by Zionist as justification for any thing they do to others. In ancient times it was the Rabbis who promoted this belief, now it is the Zionist.
      There is a ‘pattern’ in Jewish history—a constant repeating of the same problems with the world.

  8. Cal
    February 13, 2017 at 20:51

    I wouldn’t call it ‘outfoxing’ —politicians knew—all the way back to Truman who knew the deal when Abraham Feinberg gave him a sack full of cash.
    The Isr fifth Column operates like a Mafia. they appeal to the fear and/or greed in politicians and government officials.

    The Good and The Evil Wolf in men —they one they feed is the evil one:

    • backwardsevolution
      February 14, 2017 at 03:34

      Cal – great link. Thanks.

  9. Gregory Herr
    February 13, 2017 at 18:17

    “You can’t get a job at CNN if you sympathize with the Palestinians or report how Israel has been stealing their land for 67 years. The minute you say something that is anathema or upsets the Israelis, you’re out. The people who enforce these ideological restraints are the editors and the publishers. For example, while covering the merciless Israeli bombardment of civilians in Gaza in 2014, Diana Magnay was harassed and threatened by a group of bloodthirsty Israelis who were cheering the slaughter. Disgusted, Magnay later referred to them as “scum” in a tweet. She was forced to apologize, transferred to Moscow, and banished forever from Israel. In a similar case, NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin was playing soccer with four young boys in Gaza when Israel shelled the playing field. Mohyeldin witnessed their murders, which he reported in a series of tweets. Without ever providing a reason, NBC pulled Mohyeldin from Gaza and prevented him from ever returning. NBC replace Mohyeldin with Israeli sympathizer Richard Engel.”

    Excerpted from Douglas Valentine’s new book on the C.I.A.

    • Cal
      February 13, 2017 at 19:47

      ”“You can’t get a job at CNN if you sympathize with the Palestinians or report how Israel has been stealing their land for 67 years. The minute you say something that is anathema or upsets the Israelis, you’re out. ”

      Exactly why most of the US public who dont work in the media and arent politicians have to be educated on ‘The Lobby and Israel’ and incited to speak out.
      Especially those of us who are older, dont need a job and are basically bullet proof–not a damn thing the Isr Fifth Column can do to us.
      And you have to not care about being called an anti semite by the Zio crowd and laugh at them when they do—just educate everyone you know on the ‘real story’ of Israel—tell them what its cost the US and them personally.

      ost them

  10. Herman
    February 13, 2017 at 09:35

    “Of the people, by the people, for the people.” I wonder if Lincoln really believed that. The Russian Revolution and ultimate control was achieved by a very small percentage of the population. One percent is probably much too high. It is obvious that controlling the flow of information and buying politicians is at play here and demonstrates how vulnerable the electorate is to manipulation. It also points out how the few who really care about a cause can prevail. On the matter of Israel, all the caring is on one side in America and Europe and those who are vexed with what is happening really don’t have the commitment or willingness to take risks that are required. Lots of preaching to the choir and tsk tsking to each other.

    Yes, it is a deplorable state of affairs. The author does a good summation, adding some things that everybody reading the article might not know.

  11. backwardsevolution
    February 13, 2017 at 06:11

    Morgan Strong – I am blown away by this incredible article. Unbelievable. Found this article re Strong:

    “Strong describes how, when he was a candidate for Federal Office, officials of the Democratic Party attempted to force him into withdrawing his nomination for the US Congress, because of his criticism of Israel. […]

    Then there was the address at the Jewish Temple which Strong will never forget. ‘Not a sound, not a smile came from the audience. There was no applause when I finished my brief speech affirming what I believed to be our shared political views. I left the synagogue walking out alone, without a civil word of parting.'”

    And all for daring to write a piece that was critical of Israel. And this all happened in the U.S., not even Israel. Cynthia McKinney too spoke about how the Jewish lobby worked against her in Georgia when she didn’t immediately sign a “pledge to Israel”. She was thrown to the curb, and the Jewish lobby set out to get her opponent elected.

    “In a sense, Israel can’t be blamed for standing up for itself, especially given the long history of brutality and oppression directed against Jews.”

    I wonder why. All money needs to be taken out of politics, and this would end. No way a particular group of people should be dictating foreign and domestic policy the way this group does. Talk about a dictatorship! Time for a great big slap down.

    • Bill Bodden
      February 13, 2017 at 12:51

      “In a sense, Israel can’t be blamed for standing up for itself, especially given the long history of brutality and oppression directed against Jews.”

      The problem isn’t Israel “standing up for itself.” It is how it goes about that challenge that shouldn’t mean applying another “final solution” this time with the Palestinians as the victims. But ethnic cleansing was part of the program the Zionists brought to Palestine eventually spreading more moral corruption to the United States.

      • backwardsevolution
        February 13, 2017 at 14:48

        Bill – what Israel is doing to the Palestinians (while all of us just stand around watching) is unconscionable. Israel wants more than the original contract allowed – more land, more water, more power. So typical of groups who get the upper hand: give them an inch, they take a mile. Millions dead because of their influence (through money). That’s the Middle East side.

        But over on the North American side, things are almost as bad. The Jewish lobby (and those who contribute to it) own the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch, lock, stock and bagel. The media is owned or controlled, along with the Federal Reserve, banking, Hollywood, telecommunications, academia. Sounds as if they owned the State Department too.

        They may not physically murder people, but they murder careers, livelihoods, bank accounts, law, speech, what you hear and what you don’t hear. They control the narrative. In their quest for power, American soldiers also lose their lives.

        They murder families, societies, cultures, countries. Slowly, but surely they turn the crank, quietly, covertly until they get their way. People are starting to realize they live in the United States of Israel. The only way to stop this is to stop all money entering politics. Heck, set up a national broadcasting system in order to get around the bought-and-paid-for media, and staff it with people like Robert Parry, just so some gall-darned truth gets told.

        The Jewish lobby have been instrumental in shutting down all voice by labeling anything they don’t like as being “politically incorrect”. People have had enough of this. If people are shunned by AIPAC and those who support these types of lobbies, then they should be shunned back.

        History just keeps repeating, doesn’t it?

        • Bill Bodden
          February 13, 2017 at 18:27

          Agreed. I don’t know how much good it will do, but I’m going to lean more on my senators. My (?) representative in the house is a lost cause so I won’t waste time on him.

        • Cal
          February 13, 2017 at 19:36

          Ditto…agree totally.

        • MEexpert
          February 14, 2017 at 02:04


          You said: “Heck, set up a national broadcasting system in order to get around the bought-and-paid-for media, and staff it with people like Robert Parry, just so some gall-darned truth gets told.”

          Just before that you said that they own everything. Then how do you expect to set up a National Broadcasting System without their influence? Pretty soon they will own it too.

          • backwardsevolution
            February 14, 2017 at 14:15

            MEexpert – you’re probably right, but there might be a short window of time where the truth does get out. Once it’s out, it’s out.

            Of course, along with a kind of National Broadcasting System you’d have to do other things, like break up the big banks, big media, etc. If you don’t allow things to get too big, so big they can start wielding influence with their money, then the country is always on firmer ground.

  12. Zachary Smith
    February 13, 2017 at 02:06

    Yet, despite Eisenhower’s generosity and good intentions, Israel sided with the British and French in 1956 in a conspiracy against him. Israeli leaders joined a secret arrangement that involved Israel invading Egypt’s Sinai, which then allowed France and Great Britain to introduce their own forces and reclaim control of the Suez Canal.

    The official tale is one of a heart-stopping drama only 8 years previously in 1948 when Poor Little Israel struggled for its life against a tide of evil Arab Armies trying to extinguish it. But a very short time later the murderous and thieving little crap-hole of a nation was pushing for yet another land grab.

    If there was any tension at all in 1948, it involved the sheer scale of the land-grab and ethic cleansing then. How much could they actually steal on the first pass? With WW2-tested Jewish troops and all the surplus weapons left over from that conflict, most of the Arab armies didn’t have a chance. I don’t have the slightest doubt that the plans for the Nakba were ready to go too, for the Zionists had known for many decades that the original inhabitants had to either be murdered or driven away. Combing these worked well – massacre a few towns, spread the word, and the Muslims ran for their lives. Fast forward to 1967, and the refugees were placed under the heel of the Zionist who are currently slowly crushing them. For most American Jews and American Protestant Fundies, this Nazi-like behavior is either something to ignore – or to cheer.

  13. Wm. Boyce
    February 13, 2017 at 00:31

    “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

  14. Katherine
    February 13, 2017 at 00:09

    While reading this, I couldn’t help wondering why there is no outrage about how Israel is able to so easily influence U.S. elections.
    There is a decent documentary on Amazon about the Israeli bomb:

    • Realist
      February 13, 2017 at 08:09

      Moreover, the Israelis are such great verbal prestidigitators that their puppets in the American establishment and its media have many voters believing that the “Russians stole the election.” Sounds like a preposterous story line from Seinfeld, does it not? If you’re dubious, you’re just a hater and a Putin puppet. I could laugh uproariously at the chutzpah of it all if I didn’t have ties to this planet.

  15. February 12, 2017 at 23:42

    While on a training exercise with the Canadian Forces, I was reading the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for dummies. A fellow Corporal tested me by commenting casually something like “it’s terrible what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.” I answered “it looks to me like they deserve every bit of it.” Parroting what i read, continued with “five Arab armies assaulted the newly declared nation of Israel, and they emerged victorious, clearly they deserve the spoils.”
    That ended the conversation, before walking away the good Cpl Kranenburg simply answered “maybe your right, you are the one reading the book.” I recall that Cpl Kranenburg was a university graduate, he also ran an extra curricular martial arts group for anyone interested. He was aware at a time when there was no youtube giving marginalized communities the means to communicate their point of view. He stands out in my memory.
    Cpl J. A. Reyes Canadian Forces voluntarily discharged from service February 2006.

    • Ausmar
      February 13, 2017 at 09:49

      What you read on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was indeed for dummies…

  16. fudmier
    February 12, 2017 at 22:10

    Americans are the victims of Israel occupied USA (IO_USA).
    Trump is right, foreigners and foreign made goods from anywhere and all places,
    should be stopped on the exterior of the Trump wall while commerce, trade and
    Americans should be stopped on the inside of the Trump wall.

    Only isolation will make America great again!

  17. Bill Bodden
    February 12, 2017 at 21:33

    What a squalid portrait Israel’s right-wing politicians and our “representatives” owned by or complicit with the Israel Lobby make of U.S.-Israel relations. The former have demonstrated they will not only lie, steal, cheat, and figuratively stab America in the back but will literally murder American sailors and try to sink their ship. In return, American politicians and top-ranking officials and admirals in our department of war will sell men serving their country down the Mediterranean. Then, when Israeli forces decide to slaughter unarmed Palestinian men, women and children by the thousands all but a miniscule number of politicians in Washington will approve of these crimes against humanity because they are the lobby’s courtesans or fellow racists of the same moral stature as members of the Ku Klux Klan in their more active years.

    Petraeus later tried to back away from this implicit criticism of Israel, fearing that it would hurt his political standing with his neoconservative allies.

    Nothing heroic there, but then he wasn’t the first general to place career advancement ahead of the truth.

    “Who the f**k does he think he is? Who’s the superpower here?” a peeved Clinton was quoted as saying. [See The Much Too Promised Land, by Aaron Miller, an aide to Clinton.]

    Who’s the superpower? It ain’t the nation whose political leaders have sold their souls to the Israel Lobby.

    Over the past six decades, Israeli leaders also have refined their strategies for taking advantage of their staunchest ally, the United States.

    Make that “Over the past six decades, Israeli leaders also have refined their strategies for taking advantage of their subservient lackey, the United States, whose politicians behave like slaves before the plantation’s whip-wielding master.”

    At the time, the joke circulating among neocons was where to go next, Syria or Iran, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”

    How about stopping by Arlington and other national cemeteries and VA hospitals and apologizing to the thousands of troops who died and were maimed in vain for your war on Iraq?

    Americans are having a hard time determining what to make of President Donald Trump, but it is a safe bet the Israelis and their lobby have his number and will manipulate him as they did his predecessors.

    • Joe J Tedesky
      February 12, 2017 at 23:27

      Good comment Bill. Morgan Strong’s brief history of U.S. Israeli relations should be standard reading for all Americans to read. Our American governments relationship with Israel gives credence to the old saying how, ‘with friends like these who needs enemies’. Probably one of the worst betrayals of the American military service people was when LBJ upon his learning of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty said, ‘he didn’t care if the ship sank, he wasn’t going to embarrass an ally’. It doesn’t get anymore treasonous than that, but apparently it is permissible when it’s our country’s good old parasitic Israel who’s ass is on the line.

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