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3/23/2006 BBC World Servicebbc_sm.jpg (2597 bytes)
The Israeli Elections and US Lobby

Transcript in Spanish

What is the significance of the Israeli elections for the US government?  The close relationship that has historically existed between the US and Israel means Israeli elections command Washington's attention.  BBC's Washington correspondent Carlos Chirinos, interviewed Grant Smith about this subject. Smith is the research director of IRmep (Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington, DC)

Carlos Chirinos: "What importance or repercussions will the Israeli general elections have for Washington?"

Grant Smith: "In Washington we've recently seen politicians, even president George W. Bush, reaffirming their promises to guarantee the security of Israel. We've see the commander in Chief of the US armed forces has just guaranteed that if there is any Iranian threat to Israel that the US will intervene with military force."

Carlos Chirinos: "Does it appear that Kadima, led by Ehud Olmert, could form a government with a majority in the Parliament?"

Grant Smith: "In this election, it does appear that Kadima, with the leadership of Ehud Olmert, could form a government with the majority in Parliament, giving it a free hand to implement Kadima's political program, which includes the illegal annexation of some territories outside of Israel and acting unilaterally in spite of Palestinian demands."

Carlos Chirinos: "Does it seem to you that the so-called "Roadmap for Peace" has become irrelevant?"

Grant Smith: "Neither side has achieved even the first phase of the plan, which requires Israel to cease expansion of illegal settlements or unilateral adjustment of borders, as well as complete cessation of terrorist attacks from the Palestinian side, although we should recognize that 2005 was a year of declining attacks.

In any case, neither side has complied even with the first phase of the Roadmap."

Carlos Chirinos: "Do you think Washington has been losing influence over the Middle East?"

Grant Smith: "We can see that see that other members of the "quartet" that were pushing the Roadmap, have recently been negotiating separately with the recent winner of the Palestinian elections. Russia, for example, during a visit of the Hamas leadership, received and broadcast Hamas' statement that they are still interested in the Arab Peace Plan (Beruit Declaration) which requires the Israelis to completely retreat to the pre-1967 borders.

Europe, of its own volition, is negotiating more foreign aid to Palestinians, although the US and Israel are both trying to put the brakes on most funding.

It is correct to say that there are more pronounced divisions over these issues."

Carlos Chirinos: "Can the US recover some of its influence in the region through the new Israeli elections?"

Grant Smith: "The only way the US is going to recover its influence is maintaining an impartial position in the peace negotiations. But unfortunately, the Bush administration has a strong inclination toward the Israelis.

For example, the Roadmap for Peace stipulates that negotiations must define the "final status" of Palestinian refugees, and that the final borders must not be unilaterally imposed by any side. Never the less, in a letter published in the year 2004, president Bush supported the idea that the Israelis need not return to 1949 borders, and also accepted the idea that Palestinian refugees expulsed from Israel would have no 'right of return.'

We've see the United States consistently taking Israel's side, and this has caused many problems for the Palestinians."

Carlos Chirinos: "But this attitude that you say that Bush is taking, is not exclusive to this administration, haven't other administrations done the same?"

Grant Smith: "This week, a report titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" has generated interest and controversy for revealing just that, the indisputable existence of a strong lobby that unconditionally supports Israel. This is something many people recognize even though others would like it to be considered "controversial".

We can see that most of the actions the Bush administration has recently taken have wound up benefiting only the Israelis."

Carlos Chirinos: "But is the Israeli lobby really so influential in Washington? Is the entire US foreign policy influenced by it?"

Grant Smith: "No, I think it is one of various factors. Never the less, last week, when vice president Cheney decided to hurl some invective and threats toward the Iranians, he did so from the pulpit of the biggest Israel lobby in the US (AIPAC).

Also, both major political parties in the United States have now begun their televised Congressional election campaigns with messages crafted to gain support of the Israel lobby in the US."

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