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Sabotaging Washington's foreign policy on Iran isn't the only way that Israel harms US interests

Whether it's with friend or foe, Israel bears no cost for its extreme political brazenness. Such chutzpah is normally the privilege of superpowers, which are able to pursue national interests with bare-faced conceit. Though it's usually not the most effective way to wield power and influence, superpower status grants a licence to approach political relations in a way that treats friend and foe with equal disdain.

Israel, though, is not a superpower, but it has enough influence over the world's only remaining superpower to behave like one. What Israel lacks in power it more than makes up for in influence through the powerful pro-Israel lobby and donors keen to advance "the rise of pro Israelism in American politics".

Such influence, rarely seen in its naked form, was on open display last week. The audacity of Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the US Congress took some people by surprise for its theatricals, even though we've grown used to conceited Israeli politicians treating Palestinians with contempt; in fact, we'd be surprised if they didn't, given the massive disparity in power and influence between Israelis and Palestinians. However, this is not the case with the US, a country which lavishes $3 billion worth of military aid on Israel every year, along with unswerving political support.

When the audacious actually happens, especially with the regularity we've seen over the past seven years of the Obama administration, the very least we must ask is this: who is doing whose bidding when it comes to the US and Israel? Obama and his officials have been embarrassed time after time on issues such as Israel's settlement construction; the embarrassment culminated with last week's power-play speech orchestrated by the Israeli Prime Minister against the US president.

By any measure, it's an unprecedented turnaround for Israel which, from the post-World War Two period, was viewed initially as an obstacle to US interests in the region, notably unfettered access to oil. No foreign policy professional of the day believed that a Jewish state in Palestine would do anything but complicate that goal. The then Secretary of State George Marshall, Under Secretary of State Robert Lovett, Policy Planning Staff head George F. Kennan, the regional specialists from the state department's Near East Division and Secretary of Defence James Forrestal all feared that the creation of Israel would prejudice and harm American interests throughout the Muslim world. They worried that Israel would require the US military to protect it.

Have their fears materialised? Is Israel harming US interests? At the very least, the political pantomime surrounding this unconventional marriage between America and Israel has damaged Washington's image in the Muslim world. Likewise, Israel's uninhibited squeezing of political benefits from Washington has endangered US security. This is a view that's gaining prominence, and the question as to why the US has been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state is a question that many realists like Professors of International Relations and Political Science Stephen M Walt and John J Mearsheimer have been asking.

Netanyahu also hijacked US foreign policy back in 2003 when he was cheerleading with prominent neoconservatives for the invasion of Iraq, a calamitous mistake for which he has been rebuked by the current US Secretary of State John Kerry. In a speech to the US Congress at that time, Netanyahu said: "if you take out Saddam's regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region… The task and the great opportunity and challenge is not merely to effect the ouster of the regime, but also to transform the region."

Lesser mistakes have caused irreparable political rifts, but in this undying political romance, an unrepentant Netanyahu has again been handed the opportunity to sabotage US foreign policy by attacking President Obama's sensible attempt to strike a nuclear deal with Iran. That the Israeli prime minister should also receive 39 ovations from an obsequious congress, a feat of which actual US presidents can only dream, is further confirmation that when it comes to foreign policy in the Middle East, the US is perversely beholden to Israel.

The destabilising power of this iniquitous alliance and Israeli leaders' unapologetic temerity in undermining US policy, has made it possible to speak out about the issue more candidly. This is an undertaking carried out brilliantly by Philip Weiss, the co-founder of a "progressive" web-based news site devoted to covering American policy in the Middle East. His article on the American-Jewish condition reveals daringly how a "post-traumatic community" wields unrivalled influence in US politics.

Palestinians more than anyone else have been on the receiving end of this powerful union; the damage caused by the US-Israel alliance has arrested their progress as a nation and as a state. In the latest instalment of the anti-Palestinian catalogue of woes, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been sued in a US court for $655.5 million. This is a stark reminder of the degree of cooperation between Israeli organisations and a compliant US legal system for the purpose of blocking Palestinians as they seek an alternative to the broken "peace process" offered by the US and Israel as a means to end the Israeli occupation.

The details of the case are intriguing. Its timing is not accidental; it has been driven by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli lawfare organisation with ties to the spy and assassination agency Mossad; the PA was not granted immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which bars lawsuits against foreign states in US courts, despite the fact that 135 countries recognise the state of Palestine; nor has the Obama administration granted the PA immunity, which it has the power to do. These are all clear signs that the decision to allow the case to go ahead will be used to pressure the PA against joining the International Criminal Court and hinder its diplomatic efforts for the recognition of a Palestinian State.

It is also another example of Israeli exceptionalism and exploitation of the US Congress in the furtherance of Israel's interests. Despite the fact that the PA has been kept afloat artificially largely through US aid money as a stabiliser of American and Israeli policy in Palestine, the lack of a sufficient sense of servitude on the part of the Palestinians has prompted the congress to step in and allow American citizens to sue the authority.

The same American courts are of course closed to Palestinians, and no Palestinian-American will ever be able to sue the Israeli government for the much greater number of people killed, maimed and rendered homeless by the Israelis. Some did try, though, with an attempt to take legal action against Israeli General Avi Dichter, who authorised the dropping of a one-ton bomb on a block of flats in Gaza in 2002, killing 15 people, including children, and injuring 150 others. Dichter moved to dismiss the case, arguing that he is entitled to immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA).

A similar case was also unsuccessful in bringing to court those responsible for the killing of 19 year-old Furkan Dogan, a Turkish-American who was one of nine people killed by Israeli forces during their assault on the aid ship Mavi Marmara in 2010. Dogan's father also opened a compensation case against Israel for "murdering [his] son on international waters". In both cases, The US courts closed themselves to US citizens trying to take action against Israel's state terrorism.

The PA has been under immense financial pressure recently due to tax revenue worth $127 million being withheld by Israel, which collects the taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. A number of US senators are also pushing to strip the PA of the $400 million it receives annually from America. The latest in a lengthy, concerted campaign in this regard is a piece of legislation called the "Defend Israel by Defunding Palestinian Foreign Aid Act of 2015" which was introduced by the Republican Senator Rand Paul.

This law is not seeking to enforce the rights of victims of terrorism to pursue justice; it is a shameful and opportunistic political attempt to pile greater pressure on the PA by withholding essential funds with the hope of retrieving some of the $655.5 million claimed by the aforementioned lawsuit which the PA is incapable of paying. It is also another example of the manipulation and hijacking of America's democratic process and foreign policy solely in the interests of an alien state, Israel.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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