America obscuring its real intentions, renowned scholar tells Raw Story

Israel's construction of new permanent settlements in East Jerusalem has set off a series of public rebukes from the United States. But according to Noam Chomsky, America's primary concern lies with the Israeli leader's hawkish demeanor, not his actions.

Tensions between the two close allies escalated this month after Vice President Joe Biden claimed in a speech at Tel Aviv University that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's plans would "inflame" peace talks with Palestine. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during an AIPAC forum that it "undermines America's unique ability" to be an effective arbiter for the negotiations.

Chomsky alleged in an interview that the Obama officials don't truly mind the settlements but simply prefer that they be overseen by a gentler Israeli leader.

"President Obama, like every American president, has said that he’s opposed to settlement expansion," he told Raw Story. "But his administration has made it clear that the position is purely symbolic. They would not undertake even very mild steps toward sanctions."

Their main problem, Chomsky purported, is Netanyahu’s "insulting" posturing. Supporting an Israeli prime minister perceived as reluctant to meaningfully recognize a Palestinian state could damage America's credibility as a mediator for peace.

US foreign policy leaders "want to put in someone who’s more accommodating, who will carry out the same programs but not in an arrogant and insulting fashion," Chomsky said. "It’s the manner – not the facts – that they’re objecting to."

“What’s happening now is very similar to what happened twenty years ago," he continued, comparing the current clash to "when President George H. W. Bush and Secretary of State Baker were insulted by the arrogant behavior of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir."

Shamir’s attitude was too "brazen" for Bush to overlook, Chomsky noted, recalling that the former PM would “schedule settlement expansion for the day that Baker arrived for peace talks.” So “they compelled Israel to throw him out and put in a more accommodating prime minister, Shimon Perez, who did pretty much the same things, just more politely.”

Obama's current dilemma is very similar, Chomsky argued, claiming that the president would prefer the same outcome. The administration has sought to downplay the conflict, but it appears to remain unresolved.

Netanyahu has rebuffed US demands that he halt the new settlements, declaring in a speech Monday that "Jerusalem is not a settlement; It’s our capital." The New York Times noted that the prime minister "reiterated that Israel had no plans to freeze housing in Jerusalem."

On Tuesday evening, he met with President Obama in closed-door talks for the first time since tensions between the two nations elevated this year. The White House canceled the photo-op at the last minute. A "deafening silence" followed the meeting, Politico reported, and it yielded no apparent signs of an accord.

Chomsky has contended that America’s unmitigated support for Israel is destructive to the interests of both countries. His detractors accuse him of being unfairly critical of Israel and holding the country to a tougher standard than he applies to the Palestinian people and their leaders.

In the interview, he didn't sound optimistic about Obama's goal of achieving a workable peace treaty. Over the last 20 years, Israel "has moved very far to the right," he asserted. "There are ultra-nationalist forces that are much more powerful than before and also much more powerful religious elements, which have a very narrow and parochial view of the world."

Chomsky added that the "highly unpopular wars" the United States is waging in the Middle East further complicate the situation by exacerbating anti-American sentiments and further fueling anti-Semitism.

(Read Parts I and III of Chomsky's interview with Raw Story's Sahil Kapur, on health care reform and the government's allegiance to financial institutions, respectively.)