By Richard Edmondson
One of these days U.S. officials, fed up with being kicked around, humiliated, and insulted by their putative Israeli “allies,” are going to lash out in an explosion of genuine anger.
Whether we are approaching that point now or not, I can’t say, but we do seem to be at least one step closer to it.
Earlier this week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was quoted as accusing Secretary of State John Kerry of “acting out of misplaced obsession and messianic fervor,” and of describing a US-proposed Israeli-Palestinian security plan as “not worth the paper it’s written on.”
Ya’alon, whose comments were quoted in the January 14 edition of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, also questioned Kerry’s motives in trying to negotiate a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, implying that the secretary of state’s real objective, rather than obtaining an agreement, was to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
“The only thing that can ‘save us’ is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace,” Ya’alon said.
On the same day the Israeli defense minister’s comments were published, the US State Department issued what was described by the Jerusalem Post as “a rare and blistering response,” and by diplomatic standards I guess it was rare, although “blistering” (even by said diplomatic standards) might be a wee bit of an overstatement.
But in any event, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Ya’alon’s comments, if accurate, are “offensive and inappropriate especially given all that the US is doing to support Israel’s security needs.” She went on to add:
“Secretary Kerry and his team, including General John Allen, have been working day and night to try and promote a secure peace for Israel because of the secretary’s deep concern for Israel’s future. To question Secretary Kerry’s motives and distort his proposal is not something we would expect from the defense minister of a close ally.”
Actually, Psaki is a little short on the long perspective, if one might put it in those terms. This is not by any means the first time US officials have been slighted by their Israeli counterparts. In fact an interplanetary traveler arriving on earth for the first time would certainly be forgiven for thinking that it must be Israel who is giving the US $3 billion a year—rather than the other way around.
On March 9, 2010, just as Vice President Joe Biden was landing in Israel for a visit, the Israeli government announced the construction of 1,600 new homes in an East Jerusalem neighborhood. Timing is everything of course, particularly in international diplomacy. The announcement was viewed as a backhanded slap at Biden, and indeed Hilary Clinton, secretary of state at the time, referred to it as “deeply negative” for US-Israeli relations.
Coincidentally, simultaneous to the slight against Biden, the parents of Rachel Corrie were in Israel for the start of their civil trial charging the Israeli military in the wrongful death of their daughter.
Biden’s response to the announcement of the 1,600 new homes was to issue a servile statement in which he declared that “there is no space between the United States and Israel,” whereupon he boarded a plane and jetted home to America without offering any words of support to the Corrie family.
That of course was four years ago, but more recently tensions have also been rife over the Jewish state’s ongoing construction of new settlements, which Kerry has called “illegitimate” (they are in fact illegal, but Kerry so far hasn’t had the temerity to use that word), as well as the negotiations with Iran, and through it all, US officials keep taking it on the chin and smiling.
An agreement with Iran reached last November in Geneva, hailed by many observers as a diplomatic breakthrough, was denounced by an angry and growling Netanyahu as “a bad deal” and “a historic mistake.” The only thing noticeable from the American side by way of response was more smiling and an increasingly battered and discolored chin.
Grimm’s Fairy Tales?
I’m not sure what exactly Ya’alon meant by the words “messianic fervor.” Was he trying to imply Kerry is a Christian Zionist? Hard to say. But there is evidence to suggest the hostilities between the two countries are in fact running pretty deep at the moment—deeper, even, than what Ya’alon’s insult might imply.
As evidence of this we might consider the current state of affairs between the Israeli police and the FBI. The two are almost at open war at present over an FBI investigation into New York Republican Congressman Michael Grimm—an investigation which the Israeli police seem intent on thwarting.
Grimm is actually a former FBI agent himself, and spent time investigating the Gambino family, though reportedly he was himself the subject of an internal investigation at one point over charges that he had abused his authority. In 1999, while at a nightclub one night, Grimm became embroiled in confrontation with the husband of his date, reportedly vowing at one point, “I’ll f—king make him disappear where nobody will find him.” According to a former NYPD officer working as a bouncer at the club at the time, Grimm left peacefully but returned twice later in the evening, brandishing a gun, threatening to kill the man, accompanied at one point by another FBI agent and a group of NYPD officers. “I’m gonna f—kin’ kill him,” he is reported to have vowed. “I’m a f—king FBI agent, ain’t nobody gonna threaten me.”
The incident is told of in a New Yorker article, which includes a denial of any wrongdoing by Grimm. It also includes the information that NYPD has refused to release the police report of the incident, and that likewise the Justice Department has denied a Freedom of Information request that it turn over files on Grimm.
At any rate, Grimm left the FBI in 2006, and in 2010 he ran for Congress, managing to win election in New York’s 11th district, an area which includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. And here is where it starts getting really interesting. Campaign donations totaling more than $500,000 were reportedly funneled into Grimm’s campaign by followers of Israeli rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, the donations allegedly being solicited by one of the rabbi’s top aids, Ofer Biton, also an Israeli. Pinto is listed as one of the richest rabbis in Israel.
In 2012 the Justice Department opened an investigation into whether some of the donations may have been in violation of federal law, and in August that year Biton was arrested on charges of immigration fraud. Notably Biton and Pinto seem to have had a falling out by this time, and the arrest may have been an attempt to pressure Biton into testifying against Grimm. It didn’t work. Biton had apparently switched allegiances—from the rabbi to the congressman. Not only did he refuse to turn state’s evidence, but a former business partner of Grimm’s reportedly paid Biton’s $1.5 million bail. Meanwhile Pinto was placed under house arrest in Israel, where he has been charged with bribing a police commander.
But there is even a further twist. It seems Biton and another Israeli, Ron Torossian, may have been involved in a plot to extort money from Pinto. This at any rate is reported by the New York Times, which relies on accounts given by Pinto’s supporters. Torossian, by the way, runs a public relations firm in Manhattan, while Biton reportedly owns a shop which sells pornography.
The case has been discussed extensively in a series of posts by blogger Richard Silverstein, who reports that “Grimm is known as a political intimate of Bibi Netanyahu” and also that Israeli media were banned from reporting on the story, that is until today, when the ban was lifted by an Israeli judge. Also noteworthy is that the FBI did a wiretap in which Israeli police can be heard plotting to physically harm Pinto. Furthermore, apparently, the FBI sent the recordings to the Israeli police—just to let them know they had them. (Maybe the NSA actually provides a useful service after all.) But perhaps the following passage is the line which connects all the dots, or a lot of them:
He (Grimm) was especially vocal in Congress against U.S. aid to the PA and in favor of a more aggressive posture toward Iran. Grimm, as one of Barack Obama’s strongest foreign policy critics, was an ace in the hole for Bibi in the Cold War he experienced when the President virtually shut him out of foreign policy deliberations on Iran.
The above is taken from an article posted by Silverstein on January 10 headlined FBI Accuses Israeli Police, Cabinet Minister of Sabotaging Congressional Corruption Investigation. That same day I quoted an excerpt along with a link to the full article on Silverstein’s website. You can find my own post here, where it appears under the slightly modified (and shortened) headline, “FBI, Israeli Police, Clash Over Sabotaged Corruption Investigation.”
The following day, January 11, I received, here at my own blog, 84 hits from Israel. Most if not all of them seemed to be interested in Silverstein’s article. On January 14, the number of hits from Israel surged to a whopping 372—and again Silverstein’s article seemed to be what was drawing them in. This is quite striking because never before had I, on any given day, had more than a small trickle of hits from the Jewish state, usually 10 or less. My guess, although I don’t know, is that a substantial number of these hits were from Israeli police or other government officials.
I want to be clear: I’m not taking credit for any of this. Silverstein did all the work, researching the story and writing articles on it. All I did was post a link. But at any event, in his most recent article, posted just today, Silverstein reports, as I say, that the media ban has been lifted, and he also names a high-ranking Israeli police commander who has been implicated in the case. There is also more on the relationship between Grimm and Netanyahu:
We know how critical Bibi Netanyahu has found having pro-Israel allies in Congress. During Obama’s presidency, he has regularly avoided the president where possible, and appealed over his head to the Congress, where he even addressed a joint session. Bibi would find it imperative to elect as many slavish pro-Israel ciphers like Grimm as possible. It’s like having insurance in the bank. Can I prove Bibi’s involvement in any way in this scheme? Of course not. He’s far too smart to have his fingerprints on this. But I’ve heard from an Israeli journalist that Sara Netanyahu is especially fond of Grimm. And what Sara wants, Sara gets. Is it possible that she recruited police officials and ministers to go to bat for Grimm? Again, this is speculation. But I’ve learned that regarding Israeli politics, the unlikely often turns out to be true.
Now, what if the pro-Israel caucus both in Israel and the GOP activates those donors for other candidates as well? The question I ask, which the FBI surely already knows the answer to, is this: has this strategem been used by other Republican candidates? To know this, we’d have to cross-check Grimm donors to those of other pro-Israel GOP candidates to see if there is overlap. If there is, then we have a pattern and something even more interesting than we have now.
How Wide is the FBI’s Investigation?
Silverstein seems to feel the FBI’s main concerns have been over Grimm’s alleged connections to organized crime. “The FBI doesn’t like putative members of the mob sitting in the halls of Congress,” he says. But I find myself wondering if the concerns don’t go wider than that. All this comes as Obama is engaged in sensitive negotiations with Iran…and also as Israel supporters in the Senate have introduced a resolution, S.1881, designed to sabotage and scuttle those negotiations and pave the way to war. In fact, almost as much was said recently by an Obama administration official.
“If certain members of Congress want the United States to take military action, they should be up front with the American public and say so,” said Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “Otherwise, it’s not clear why any member of Congress would support a bill that possibly closes the door on diplomacy and makes it more likely that the United States will have to choose between military options or allowing Iran’s nuclear program to proceed.”
Media columnist Pat Buchanan put it even more bluntly, calling S.1881 a “virtual blank check” to Israel—for war on Iran. The bill, he says, “virtually hands over the decision on war to Bibi Netanyahu who is on record saying: ‘This is 1938. Iran is Germany.’”
So the question then becomes: is the FBI concerned merely over Grimm’s connections to organized crime (his former business partner, the one who bailed Biton out of jail, reportedly has ties to the Gambino family), or are there apprehensions of an even far greater gravity than that? Is the FBI worried, for instance, about a treacherous cabal in Congress that may be about to plunge the nation into a ruinous war, a war that could easily escalate into a global conflict and draw in Russia and China? Hard to say, and the Obama administration has given plenty of indications of being part of the cabal itself—most recently with the nomination of Israeli dual-national Stanley Fischer to the number two spot at the Federal Reserve. But it would seem that the stakes are pretty high at this point. When Congress recessed for Christmas, S.1881 had 33 cosponsors. When it went back into session on January 6, the number jumped to 47. Now the number stands at 58. Only nine more senators are needed to override a promised Obama veto.
How wide is the FBI’s investigation? Does it focus on Grimm alone, or does it also include his ties to AIPAC and Netanyahu? Are any other members of Congress being investigated? Have other Israel supporters, as Silverstein suggests, been elected to Congress through campaign finance shenanigans similar to those which allegedly brought Grimm to power in 2010 (for specific violations that are believed to have occurred see his articles)? These are questions we can only speculate on at this point, but one thing is known: Senator Robert Menendez, the sponsor of S.1881, is one of the biggest recipients of pro-Israel PAC money in the Senate, and AIPAC is very much behind his bill.
As for the barrage of insults from Israel, we can only wonder how much longer US officials will continue suffering in silence, allowing their dignity to be ground up like sausage. All human beings, as we know, have a breaking point. Of course what our officials have yet to learn (although maybe they are now starting to figure it out) is that what they are experiencing in this regard is not so much insolence and ingratitude on the part of what is supposedly a “client state” and the top recipient of US aid. No. What they are encountering, more precisely, is the true face of Jewish supremacism.