YouTube video

Col. Larry Wilkerson discusses the danger inherent in the U.S. aligning its interests entirely with Israel’s and how American support is creating an untenable future for the state

Story Transcript

JESSICA DESVARIEUX: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. And welcome to this edition of the Wilkerson Report. Now joining us is Larry Wilkerson. He is the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and an adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary. And of course, a regular contributor to The Real News. Thanks so much for being with us Larry. COL. LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Jessica. DESVARIEUX: So Larry, what are you tracking this week? WILKERSON: Uh, I’m tracking the U.S.-Israel situation. I spoke at the National Press Club on Friday 18 March and I spoke under the title of Israel: A Strategic Liability of the First Order. And I believe Israel has become just that, a strategic liability. There are of course, reasons other than grand strategy to maintain the relationship with Israel, and I would support most of those reasons–but I think it’s important that we begin a serious review of the relationship because Israel is becoming such a strategic liability for us, that it’s detrimental to our own national security. And this covers a whole gamut of actions both Israeli and U.S. that need to be reviewed. One of course is the massive amount of money we’ve been giving to Israel–over 3-plus billion dollars a year for a long time, over a generation. And the other 3 billion plus we’ve been giving to Egypt essentially as a bribe to keep Egypt in the peace treaty with Israel. This really limits discretionary spending for international relations by the State Department, and it ties the United States to Israel in a way it just shouldn’t be. It is one of the most successful economies in the Mediterranean, if not the world. And giving Israel this handout every year, year after year is just plain stupid. It’s dangerous too, because it gives the Israelis a lot of leeway and flexibility that as a state where they are today, wouldn’t be there otherwise. The other reason or the number of reasons, but the other significant reason we need to review it, is because all our hard power in the region is else where. It’s in Bahrain, with the largest fleet headquarters in the US arsenal. It’s in Qatar, with the largest air force complex in the US repertoire. It’s in Kuwait, the aircraft carrier for the United States in the region, as both Gulf Wars have proven. It’s in Egypt, It’s in Oman. It’s elsewhere than Israel. There’s no real hard power in Israel. And all of these other places where our hard power does exist, are jeopardized by our unbalanced relationship as Israel’s lawyer and unquestioning benefactor in the great power world. There are a number of reasons why we need to do this review. Not the least of which is the quagmire that is Southwest Asia right now–the civil war in Syria, the instability in Lebanon, the instability in Jordan, Iraq and so forth. The need for a rapprochement in Iran. And what all that mean in terms of our security with Israel and vice versa. Our security is not enhanced by the way we’re conducting this relationship. And Israel’s security as a matter a fact, is greatly endangered by the way we’re conducting this relationship. DESVARIEUX: Can you expand on that a bit? How is Israel more in danger? WILKERSON: The current ultra right wing leadership in Israel under Bibi Netanyahu–to give a historical context–actually probably contributed to the tension and the incredible shift in political momentum in Israel that lead to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. It’s not going too far to say that Netanyahu and his group created the circumstances that produced the assassin. This ended for all practical purposes and other purposes too, the peace effort. The effort to build a two stage, two viable stage, economically, financially, culturally, informationally and so forth, in the region-Israel and Palestine. It ended it. There is no more peace process. So the future for Israel, as contemplated by Netanyahu, is a greater Israel. Having secured the West Bank. Jerusalem as its capital, perhaps gotten Gaza back, parts of Lebanon, parts of Syria that’s now looking like it’s falling apart. And parts if not all of Jordan. This is Netanyahu’s ultimate goal. This is the Zionist ultimate goal. And so, that’s very dangerous because it’s not tenable. What you’re going to have is you’re going to have a one state solution. That state is going to be increasingly apartheid as the West Bank and Jerusalem are now. And as Israel proper is becoming more and more alike, that state’s going to be apartheid, it’s going to be untenable, it’s going to be eliminated by the international community if not the 350 to 400 million people around it who are opposed to it. So this is a situation that is okay for Israel’s short term security as Netanyahu conceives it, chaos in the region and so all of Israel’s enemies being in chaos can’t attack it, but it’s not very conducive, it’s not conducive at all, to the future security of Israel where it becomes this one state solution that is an apartheid state and is gradually forced to become something that will look very different from what it is today, even if it exists at all. That’s not good for Israel’s long-term security. DESVARIEUX: Larry, are you really that convinced that the international community would be so strongly against the quote unquote apartheid state that you mentioned Israel potentially becoming. What sort of signals do you see would actually support that? WILKERSON: Well my historical example there of course is South Africa which interestingly enough, intriguingly enough, Israel was aligned with strongly during its apartheid period. But more so that that historical example would be the untenable set of circumstances that this enclave in the middle east of about 5, 6 million Jews would wind up being to it’s Arab population, to it’s Palestine population, to the wider population in the region, as I said 300 to 400 million people. This is a situation that’s only supportable if the United States remains an unquestioning benefactor, arms provider, and technology provider for the Israeli State. I don’t think that’s- I just don’t think that’s going to happen because more and more people, perhaps begun on the Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer report on the Israel lobby-more and more people are having this discussion. More and more people are debating these issues. More and more people especially in the United States, but in the European Union and globally too, are questioning the relationship the United States has with Israel- are questioning the one-sided nature of that relationship, and even looking into and examining the history of the whole situation and finding out it’s very different than what the Israeli propagandists and public affairs people have told us. That it’s more akin to the US from 1866-1890 and the Indian wars when we ethnically cleansed our entire West virtually. It’s more akin to that than it is to the Jewish people having a home state in the middle east in the heart of Palestine. When you put these things together, when you put this deeper understanding of the history and a real codification of what the situation is today, no matter how much soul-felt heart you might have for Israel, no matter how much interest you might have in their democracy surviving, no matter how much you might feel you need to assuage your guilt over the Holocaust and so on, it’s very difficult to do the realpolitik of it and to justify what the United States has been doing. And what it increasingly looks like it’s going to do even more of. Netanyahu for example is, he’s arguing now for 5 or 6 billion a year. He’s arguing for more deeper relationships-military and intel to intel. This is a dangerous situation for the United States to get in on. I’ll remind the American people of what George Washington said, referring to France primarily at the time- of how dangerous it is for the United States to make it’s interests congruent with completely to another State’s interest. What we’ve done with Israel is make Israel’s interest our interest, as if we were the same state. People have said “Well Israel should just become the 51st state.” They’re not too far off in that in terms of the relationship we have with her today. The last time I spoke this way on your show, I compromised my ability to work for the Bernie Sanders Campaign. So now I’ve probably foreclosed my ability to work for anyone. It’s very hard to see how at present pace, this situation is going to change because the ultra right wing of Israel has captured AIPAC, and AIPAC has captured the United States Congress. And to a certain extent the oval office as well. DESVARIEUX: Well Larry, you’re always welcome here on The Real News. Thanks so much for being with us. WILKERSON: Thank you very much, Jessica. DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy

Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.