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Netanyahu and the U.S. Congress: A Love Fest

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OBAMA NETANYAHU

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress this week to outline his plans for peace. It was, as expected, a love fest. Congress reacted to him like teenagers do to Beyonce and Lady GaGa. They drooled all over him. I couldn't help thinking that if they salivated like that over their constituencies the U.S. would be in a much better place. Not one member seemed to notice or, more appropriately care, that Netanyahu just repeated the same old. He and his current government have no intention of pursuing peace.

However since Israel is, according to Netanyahu, the "only thing right thing in the Middle East," Congress continues to listen and smile. This is ironic because of his complete irreverence for U.S. policy, interests and arrogant behavior toward them and the U.S. president.

Israel's government did not even hesitate to defy the president. Minutes after Obama's speech about a long awaited agreement on borders, Israel's government announced a massive expansion of two settlements in East Jerusalem's much disputed territory. I truly believe Netanyahu now knows the real truth -- a two state solution is no solution. The peace process has been over for sometime and his speech to the U.S. Congress solidified that.

The Prime Minister's words were purely a charade. Of course Israel is more than happy to enter peace agreements with the entire Arab world as long as the agreements have nothing to do with Palestinians and are on Israel's terms. Despite this and the fact that U.S. policy was completely dismissed, the American Congress showed its approval through an endless standing ovation. As Nancy Pelosi said, "if the Congress agrees on one thing, it is Israel."

Israel will continue to get its over $3 billion a year so that it can buy more weapons, it will continue to get its debts paid courtesy of the Cranston Amendment and it will continue to build settlements with billions of dollars of U.S. loan guarantees ($10 billion approved in 1992 over 5 years and another $9 billion in 2003). In fact, despite Israel's announcement of new settlements post President Obama's speech, the U.S. has announced that its foreign military financing will be increased. Nothing like being rewarded for bad behavior.

Overall, as of 2005, the U.S. has given Israel more than $154 billion in economic and military assistance. That number is considerably higher when you take into account all the special circumstances the country is afforded as well as other monies appropriated including $1.6 billion to build housing solely for Israelis. If only Americans who recently lost their homes due to the financial crisis would have received the same courtesy.

As Netanyahu professes, Israel is the only democracy "in a region where gays are hanged and women are stoned." However apparently there is nothing wrong with bulldozing houses, using white phosphorus on children or blockading people so they starve.

After declaring that Israel does not need America's help with nation building or American troops on their soil (although he is perfectly happy that America continues to be Israel's benefactor), Netanyahu had no problem demanding that America use American tools, and our soldiers, to pacify Iran. Iran must not build nuclear weapons, but there is no reason Israel shouldn't have nukes or fail to declare them. Israel is always the exception to its own rules.

The Israeli government continues to reserve the right to do as it pleases despite U.S. policy or human suffering of both Palestinians and Israelis. And further, unlike any American constituency, it has the complete and total bi-partisan support, politically and financially, of the U.S. Congress. Both governments apparently agree that peace lies not with the body who purportedly has democracy, a massive military and a robust economy, but in the hands of those being subject to, yes, colonialism, control and repression and quite simply have no way of governing a partitioned non-State.

As Netanyahu said, there are over 650,000 Israelis settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank. All of which are going nowhere. He also reminded Congress that there is "an America beyond the beltway." It would do him to revisit that statement, because there is a world beyond Israel as well and it is changing rapidly. It is one that supports a new dynamic where people are demanding freedom, justice and civil rights while moving away from Hezbollah and Hamas not to them. Instead of seeing this and how both those organizations are entering the mainstream just to survive, Netanyahu is holding on to years of entrenched fears.

Netanyahu and his friends in Congress fail to see that this movement, now being termed the Arab Spring, is one that challenges the current prejudiced system and its status quo. Therefore he should not be professing Israel's "profound debt of gratitude" for those who are hanging tight to what is instead of what can be. He should be wary of them. As President Obama said, "societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder."

It would serve Israel and its leadership much better, and the U.S. Congress for that matter, to heed President Obama's message and join the regional movement beyond war. After all true security is never achieved through weapons and force, it is engagement, diplomacy and strong relationships that truly ensure a sustainable future and ultimately a secure one.