Something curious and practically unnoticed occurred in the South Pacific that calls to attention the immense power the Israel Lobby has over issues far removed from the Middle East. On June 1, the island nation of Vanuatu announced that it was the fifth nation to recognize the independence of the Republic of Abkhazia, a breakaway region of the Republic of Georgia.In 2008, after a war between Russia and Georgia, Abkhazia and another secessionist region, South Ossetia, declared their independence. The independence of the two republics was recognized by Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.
The Georgian government of President Mikheil Saakashvili, supported by Israel and its neo-conservative allies in the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, immediately set out to pressure other nations into not recognizing either Abkhazia or South Ossetia.On June 1, the diplomatic ice was broken with the recognition of Abkhazia’s independence by Vanuatu…
Vanuatu was already on the radar screen of Israel, which, according to classified diplomatic cables leaked from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, headed by the war hawk and rabid anti-Palestinian Avigdor Lieberman, a native of Moldova, was applying a full-court press on almost every member of the UN General Assembly to vote against a resolution this September that would recognize the independence of Palestine within its 1967 borders. Vanuatu, along with Tonga, Nauru, and other South Pacific states were seen by the Israelis as prime candidates to vote no on the Palestine independence resolution.
For years, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the “ADL,” has bird dogged the United Nations over charges the world body is “anti-Semitic.” Before it moved its headquarters to Second Avenue in Manhattan, the ADL headquarters was located on First Avenue at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, a stone’s throw from UN Headquarters and the various diplomatic missions to the UN. Issues like the UN resolution that equated Zionism with racism served as rallying points for the ADL and its allied Israel Lobby organizations. Ultimately, the power of “The Lobby,” working with its allies at the UN, including the United States, managed to overturn the Zionism resolution. Ever since, “The Lobby” has applied severe pressure on the UN to ensure that Israel’s position is not undermined by the international organization.
When Vanuatu, which was already under pressure from Israel to vote no on the Palestine independence resolution in the General Assembly, announced that it was recognizing the independence of Abkhazia, a diplomatic blow to Israel’s close ally Georgia.Vanuatu’s permanent representative to the UN, Donald Kalpokas, said the recognition was not true. Kalpokas cited information from government officials in the Vanuatu capital of Port-Vila. Vanuatu opposition leader Joe Natuman, a former Foreign Minister, decried Vanuatu’s recognition of Abkhazia and called it an “embarrassment.” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who is closer to the Israeli line than his predecessor Helen Clark, made some Cold War-era noise about Russian influence in the south Pacific.
Two other nations were reported to be close to making a deal on recognizing Abkhazia: Fiji and the tiny European republic of San Marino. Both nations were also under intense pressure from Tel Aviv and the Israel Lobby to vote no on the Palestine independence resolution.Officials of both nations quickly denied that their countries were discussing diplomatic recognition with Abkhazia.
However, the director-general of Vanuatu’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that his nation had recognized Abkhazia. Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister Maxim Gundjia confirmed that the mutual recognition document had been air freighted between Port-Vila and the Abkhazian capital of Sukhumi after a three-month period of negotiations. Indeed, the recognition document bore the signature of Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Sato Kilman. Vanuatu Foreign Minister Alfred Carlot further confirmed that relations had been established with Abkhazia.
All of a sudden, Vanuatu Prime Minister Kilman was sacked from his job. Vanuatu’s Chief Justice, Vincent Lunabek, ruled that Kilman’s election five months before was “null and void.” An interim prime minister and cabinet were appointed by the Chief Justice to replace Kilman, Carlot, and other ministers. In November, Kilman became prime minister after a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Edward Natapei. The speaker of parliament, Carlot, appointed Kilman prime minister. The chief justice ruled that according to the Constitution, Kilman was to have been elected by a secret ballot by parliament. The Georgian Foreign Ministry quickly announced that the new Vanuatu government had, in one of its first steps, annulled Vanuatu’s recognition of Abkhazia.
The confluence of the Israel Lobby with pressure groups such as those that support the Saakashvili regime in Georgia is not an isolated situation.
Before the rise to power of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Israel could rely on the support of successive Turkish governments. Turkey, in turn, established its own Washington-based lobbying group, the American Turkish Council, which was modeled on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It was recently learned from Turkish government officials in Washington that the secret network of Turkish military officers, politicians, intelligence officers, professors, and journalists known as “Ergenekon,” which plotted a series of coups against independent-minded Turkish governments, was a construct of the CIA and Mossad. An in-depth investigation of the Ergenekon network conducted by the Turkish intelligence service discovered that many of the key players in Ergenekon were Dönme, the descendants of Turkish Jews who converted to Islam and, to varying degrees, now practice a combination of Kabbalah Judaism and Islamic Sufism while remaining secular and Turkish nationalist in the mold of Turkish state founder Kemal Ataturk.
Similarly, the Israel Lobby has made common cause with the right-wing Cuban exile community in Florida, which has become as influential in the politics of south Florida as the many Jews and Israelis who live there. The convergence of interests of pro-Israelis and Cuban Gusano exiles can best be seen in the current chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represents a congressional district in south Florida. Ros-Lehtinen, who is of Cuban Jewish descent, is one of AIPAC’s and the ADL’s best friends in Congress. She is also a vociferous opponent of the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua, both of which have severed diplomatic relations with Israel and have recognized the independence of Abkhazia, to the dismay of Israel, AIPAC, and the ADL. While Ros-Lehtinen rattles sabers against Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, and other Latin American nations that have recognized Palestine within its 1967 borders, she supports continued U.S. military assistance to Colombia, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama, Israel’s last four remaining allies in Latin America. Ros-Lehtinen, while decrying alleged human rights “abuses” in Venezuela and Nicaragua, is silent on actual abuses in Colombia, where Israelis routinely supply weapons and advisers to the government in its inhumane war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), peasants, and labor unionists. The trial in New York of Russian air cargo services owner Viktor Bout for allegedly trying to sell weapons to the FARC is one outcome of the strategic alliance between Israel, its U.S. Lobby, and the right-wing Latin American exiles and intelligence operatives who call Miami their home.
The conviction and imprisonment of former Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, considered a major agent-of-influence for Israel in Russia and a one-time potential President of Russia, has placed Russia in the same category as Venezuela, Nicaragua, Abkhazia, Turkey, and other nations that have incurred the ire of the Israel Lobbyeither directly or via outsourcing deals made with strategic allies such as the Georgians, Cuban exiles, or, now, in the case of Turkey, the Armenians. In the past, AIPAC always ensured that “Armenian genocide” resolutions failed in the U.S. Congress, a payback for Turkey’s support for Israel. With Turkey adopting an independent foreign policy, AIPAC and the ADL are now strategically allied with the Armenian lobby to push for Armenian genocide resolutions in Washington and elsewhere.
From support for the government of Sri Lanka against the Tamils to support for the NATO campaign against Libya and the Libyan rebel movement, the Israel Lobby has established itself as a significant “non-state” actor on the world stage of international relations and diplomacy. And it can be expected that continued activity by “The Lobby” will continue to be at loggerheads with the best interests of the United States, Russia, Turkey, Abkhazia, Libya, Palestine, and the small island states of the south Pacific.