Being asked to address a joint session of Congress is something that is only offered to the world’s greatest statesmen. Winston Churchill was asked three times. Nelson Mandela and Yitzhak Rabin have also been honoured in this way. But things have changed. Ten days ago Benjamin Netanyahu, the obdurate, Arab hating, hard line prime minister of Israel who has done everything he can to scupper the peace process, was allowed this great privilege.
How could this have happened, and in a week when Netanyahu openly criticised President in front of television cameras in the White House? Because the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives wanted to send a message to the President that they were not going to support any peace settlement with the Palestinians.
Mr Netanyahu duly delivered the message loud and clear – in fact he went further. He said that he had absolutely no intention of making peace with the Palestinians.
So what should the rest of the world make of this? That American politics is unfathomable and corrupt? Pretty much. It also demonstrates just how powerful the Israeli lobby is in the US. Congress is completely within its control. Something that has been achieved through lobbying, ‘campaign contributions’ and by convincing the average Joe that to be anti-Israeli is to be anti-American – and that all Arabs are terrorists.
Congress has made an ass of itself. It has demonstrated just how corrupt it has become and sent a totally inappropriate message to the ‘new Middle East’. Every American should be ashamed of the feckless, corrupt lackeys who see fit to support a nation whose behaviour towards the Palestinians resembles that practiced by 20th century fascists.
Behind the scenes, war has been declared between Congress and the administration on this issue. Hilary Clinton is furious, Obama is spitting tacks and the State department is incandescent with rage. Because of the antics of Congress, America is going to find it impossible to be cast as the honest broker in any peace negotiations ever again.
So what does this mean? The peace process is dead, no question. In September Palestine will declare to the UN that it wishes to be recognised as an independent state. It has no other option. Congress has seen to that. The US reaction? It could use its veto in the Security Council, but if it did so it would lose friends and influence that it would never be able to restore, particularly in the Middle East – and that wouldn’t be very clever. The best hope is that common sense will prevail and that the US will abstain, but that’s by no means certain. All eyes are on President Obama. Which way will he go? His re-election campaign funds are already being used as leverage by AIPAC supporters. We will see the true measure of the man come September.