"The press likes to say that those who ascribe power to the Israel lobby are conspiracy theorists ...
... Well, here’s your conspiracy to subvert U.S. policy. But it’s still the elephant in the room."
This article first appeared at Mondoweiss, an American news website written by liberal American Jews critical of Israeli foreign policy.
The big news today is that the Russiagate probe moved closer to the president: former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a Russian official in 2016 during the transition between the Obama and Trump presidencies.
But Israel’s influence is the heart of the matter. One of two conversations Flynn lied about was asking the then-Russian ambassador to stop the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation of international law.
According to the charge sheet, Flynn, on Dec. 22, 2016, asked [ambassador Sergey] Kislyak to use Moscow’s status as a permanent Security Council member to delay or defeat the pending resolution, and subsequently lied about those discussions with the FBI.
But as for Russia’s collusion with the Trump campaign — Russia did not agree to delay or defeat the U.N. resolution. No, the next day, December 23, Russia voted in favor of UN Security Council resolution 2334 to condemn the illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. The U.S. abstained, and the resolution went through 14-0. And Donald Trump tweeted that things would be very different when he became president.
It goes without saying that Israel’s influence is not the scandal here. Though the New York Times says that Israel will be an issue in the case going forward:
The possible involvement or knowledge of Israel in the case will be one of many questions that congressional investigators will pursue.
Buzzfeed’s report on the Flynn plea says that Flynn called Kislyak at the behest of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was also lobbying for Israel against the Security Council resolution.
In the run-up to the vote, both Flynn and [Jared] Kushner called several officials of Security Council member states in order to block or delay the resolution. Flynn personally called foreign ambassadors on the Security Council, including representatives of Uruguay and Malaysia, according to a February report by Foreign Policy.
And days earlier, Donald Trump himself had been successful in lobbying the Egyptian president to withdraw a similar resolution against the settlements, in what many then called an unprecedented intrusion into the sitting president’s policymaking.
But then Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela put the anti-settlements resolution forward, and New Zealand stuck to it despite intense pressure from Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on New Zealand and Britain.
The Flynn plea puts the focus now on Jared Kushner, whose own family has funded settlements in the West Bank. Buzzfeed:
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, called Michael Flynn in December 2016 and told him to call members of the UN Security Council in an effort to stop a vote on a resolution critical of Israeli settlement policy, according to a person who was present in the room when Flynn took the call.
Flynn then called Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States to seek his assistance, and later lied to the FBI about having done so, according to documents filed in federal court Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller that explained Flynn’s guilty plea on two counts of lying to federal agents.
The documents do not say on whose behalf Flynn contacted Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, identifying the person only as “a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team.”…
Buzzfeed’s source says Kushner called the issue a top priority.
“Jared called Flynn and told him you need to get on the phone to every member of the Security Council and tell them to delay the vote,” the person said….
Kushner, the source said, told Flynn during the phone call that “this was a top priority for the president.”
Two questions. Why would Flynn lie about this to federal agents? I.e., what was he protecting? Buzzfeed says, he was worried about the Logan Act. But was the interference on behalf of Russia — or Israel?
And more importantly, who were Trump and Kushner trying to please through these efforts? I believe the answer is Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israelis, through their proxies, the U.S. donors Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus and Paul Singer — three neoconservative billionaires behind Trump who are hugely supportive of Israel. It’s hard to believe Kushner pressing because his family foundation has given lots of money to illegal West Bank settlements…
Ali Abunimah reports that the Israel angle was downplayed in mainstream news coverage of Flynn’s guilty plea.
Donald Johnson raises the same question. What’s the real scandal here?
It is going to be amusing, irritating and fascinating to watch how people will continue to ignore that in one of the cases Trump was actually contacting Russia because the Israelis asked for it. He has surrounded himself with far-right pro-Israel people who hate Iran and also support the Saudis but the Russia connection is the politically safe one to screech about. They can’t criticize him on Israel since many Democrats were unhappy that Obama and Kerry were critical of Israel at the end in that settlements resolution.
Adam Johnson jokes about Kushner;
Man whose family funds West Bank settlements ordered Flynn to lobby Russia to protect West Bank settlements.
Johnson points out that Jack Abramoff was also brought down by his support for West Bank settlements, funding a “sniper school” with ill-gotten gains.
The second contact Flynn had with Kislyak that he lied about to the FBI and that is cited in the plea was actually to help out the Obama administration. Per The Times: “last December, before Mr. Trump’s inauguration, he [Flynn] asked … Kislyak, to refrain from reacting aggressively to sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia. Russia reportedly agreed.”
So all the Russian collusion is a lot less interesting than the Israel collusion. The press likes to say that those who ascribe power to the Israel lobby are conspiracy theorists. Well, here’s your conspiracy to subvert U.S. policy. But it’s still the elephant in the room. No one’s going to have a problem with that.