Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO – It may be time to pull the plug. Not in the sense of taking life support away from someone dependent upon it, but rather because the once-threatened life has flourished and no longer needs support.
It is arguable that Israel no longer needs artificial life support from the US. It has turned the desert into fertile lands – Brazilians dream of turning the arid Northeast into a land of milk and honey. It has developed an export-based technology center that is the envy of most countries – Brazil imports lots of “security” products, meaning cameras and other gadgets for the police. It is the only nuclear power in the Middle East – Brazil is the only (potential?) nuclear power in South America. It has expanded its borders to occupy tactically important protective locations (most formerly belonging to other countries).
It has cynically thumbed its nose at the UN, which was its midwife if not its progenitor, not to mention making an idiot out of the US Vice President, one of its biggest supporters. All this while receiving artificial life support from the United States of America—billions and billions of dollars, more than all the countries in South America combined.
Formerly, and probably still today, Israel acted as the surrogate spy for the US in the Middle East, ensuring that the turbaned oil magnates didn’t get too uppity without their knowing about it. But does it even need Middle East oil, with Brazil’s immense ‘pre-salt’ fields waiting in the wings?
The nuclear stand-off, whereby Israel’s weapons were stand-ins for the US, is also unnecessary. The Cold War ended over 20 years ago. The “defensive” shield set up in Eastern Europe has been officially baptized as having Iran in its sights. An attack upon Israel by Iran would result in Iran’s own obliteration and the incineration of its nuclear aspirations.
Egypt and Turkey used to be more or less neutral, occasionally even friendly to Israel and the US. That’s ancient history after the latest bit of chutzpah on the high seas, following hard on the heels of the purposeful bombing of civilians in Gaza. Turkey has just joined with Brazil to try to settle the Iran fuel enrichment question without the interference of the US. Egypt… well, Egypt keeps very quiet these days because, after Israel, it is the next biggest recipient of American largesse. But it buys a lot of Brazilian exports with some of that money.
So, why is Itamaraty so cautious? One would have expected screams of outrage in support of the Turkish position. But Lula has played this one surprisingly close to the vest, he’s just issued the perfunctory sympathy for the victims and then reiterated (again) Brazil’s opposition to the blockade of Gaza. Why so low key? Quite possibly because he heard from the leaders of Israel, Palestine and Egypt that Israel is NOT going to back down until Hamas pledges to stop bombing Israel, which is not going to happen before the 2016 Olympics.
The Curmudgeon submits that President Obama, even if he doesn’t pull the plug, should at least start to wean Israel off the great American teat, and use some of the billions he saves there to either help the US economy recover, or perhaps invest in deep water oil spill disaster technology that will benefit Brazil if one of those vital pre-salt wells, a few miles below the surface, blows its stack.