President Barack Obama’s four-day visit to Israel, the first since his first election in 2008, began March 20. Worldwide media attention was focused on what the powerful U.S. leader would tell its client regime and settler state. Overall, reports indicated worse news for the beleaguered Palestinian people and for sovereign Syria.
Obama took the gravest step against Syria just before boarding his plane to fly to Jordan on March 22, when he met privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During that meeting Obama succeeded in pressuring Netanyahu to call Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and apologize for the 2010 Israeli attack on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. In that raid Israeli troops killed eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish U.S. citizen who were trying to bring supplies to the blockaded people of Gaza.
Until his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu had strongly resisted any apology or compensation to Turkey. For its part Turkey had withdrawn its diplomats from Israel and brought criminal charges against four Israeli military officers involved in the action. Obama forced the Israeli apology to ensure continued Turkish-Israeli cooperation in the war against Syria’s government and people. The New York Times admitted this on March 23 when it wrote that it “would help a fragile region confront Syria’s civil war.”
Military aid to Israel
Right off the plane on March 20, Obama inspected a battery of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. This high-tech weaponry, designed to shoot down short-range missiles, was paid for by $1 billion from U.S. tax dollars. Recent reports by experts challenge Israel’s claims that the weaponry is 86 percent effective. An extensive report in the March 21 New York Times questions whether the actual figure is closer to 10 percent.
Obama also told the Israelis that he was open to a new 10-year military agreement. The U.S. has financed Israel to the tune of billions of dollars every year since the Zionist state’s creation in 1948.
On March 21, Obama spoke to Israeli students and then visited Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. In a sharp slap in the face to the Palestinian people, Obama “urged Palestinians to drop their demand for a freeze in Israeli settlement-building as a precondition for peace talks.” (bbc.com, March 23) Instead the U.S. president told the Palestinians to return to negotiations with the Israelis while more and more Palestinian land falls under Zionist control.
The Palestinian response was heard in several ways. Abbas refused to withdraw the demand for an end to new settlement construction in remarks to reporters with Obama standing next to him. When Obama spoke to a crowd of young Israelis, an Arab-Israeli student in the crowd shouted out for an end to occupation and for the liberation of Palestine, before being dragged out of the auditorium. Meanwhile, several rockets from Gaza exploded in the town of Sderot in southern Israel.
On March 22, his final day in Israel, Obama laid a wreath at the grave of Theodore Herzl (1860-1904), the founder of the Zionist movement. This action by Obama, as the leader of U.S. imperialism and modern neocolonialism, was appropriate since Herzl had spent years meeting with every colonial leader in his effort to get backing for his movement. Zionism was never envisioned as a progressive movement to fight anti-Semitism and racism. It was sold to colonial powers as a force that could help keep down oppressed colonized peoples.
Encouraged by Obama’s public support for Israeli oppression and occupation, WAFA, Palestine News & Information Agency, reported March 23, “Israeli settlers Saturday smashed windows of cars belonging to Palestinians travelling on roads near Nablus” on the West Bank.
Imperialist assault on Syria
On March 22, Obama moved on to visit Jordan’s King Abdullah II as part of strengthening the imperialist front in the war against the Syrian government. Jordan has taken in an estimated 460,000 Syrian refugees from the fighting, which has severely stressed the small nation’s economy. To keep this ally happy, Obama pledged to give Abdullah an additional $200 million in aid.
The U.S. has been training anti-Syrian rebels in a CIA training camp on the Jordanian side of the Syrian border. On March 14, a Reuters article published comments by a “senior” officer of the counterrevolutionaries that “most of the first contingent of Syrian rebels taught by U.S. army and intelligence officers in Jordan to use anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry have finished their training and are now returning to Syria to fight.”
Official U.S. policy — obviously constructed on lies — has been that it will not directly intervene in Syria. Following charges by the Syrian government that counterrevolutionary terrorists had used chemical weapons in fighting near Aleppo, Obama tried to turn the charges against the Damascus government. While in Israel on March 20, he hypocritically said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “game changer” and could provoke open U.S. intervention.
The U.S. had just succeeded in getting a Syrian-born, long-time U.S. citizen, Ghassan Hitto, named as the “rebel” coalition’s prime minister at a meeting in Istanbul on March 18. Far from cementing together the dozens of disparate contra fighters, many of whom are extremist terrorists who kill people based on religious affiliations, it provoked the resignation of coalition president Moaz Khatib on March 24.
In addition, the commanders of the killers in the so-called Free Syrian Army said they would not fight under Hitto.
The disarray among the contras makes it even more likely that the imperialists — the U.S. and some of the NATO military powers including Turkey and also Israel — will intervene directly.