The right-wing government of Israel has embarked on a novel foreign policy, one that seeks to develop close relations with sub-national state and provincial governments, thus by-passing national governments and avoiding the increasing hostility of national foreign ministries and local grass roots movements to Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
The establishment of state-to-state relations between Israel and such sub-national governments as American states, Canadian provinces, and even Native American tribal nations has increased under the ultra-nationalist Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The new aggressive policy by Israel to seek allies at sub-national levels results in internal pressure on national governments to take a less critical approach to Israeli policies on the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel has developed a number of “formal partnership agreements” with American states. These agreements cover a number of areas, including economic and business relations, cultural ties, exchange trips by American state and Israeli government officials, technology exchange and research, and education. With some local jurisdictions and university and college campuses advancing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) initiatives against Israel, the Israeli government is confident that any attempts to take such proposals to the state level will be stopped dead in their tracks.
Virginia is one example of a state that has established a number of formal agreements with Israel. A number of joint operations have been created, including the Virginia Israel Advisory Board (VIAB), the Virginia Israel Partnership – created by Governor George Allen in 1995, and the Virginia Israel Technology Alliance. In September 2008, Virginia and Israel established a formal government-to-government partnership agreement when Governor Tim Kaine and Israeli ambassador Sallai Meridor signed a formal research and development agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Israel. The agreement, like many between Israel and the states, includes military and security technology exchange. The important factor is that the agreement was signed between Richmond and Jerusalem, by-passing the U.S. Department of State, the federal department that has overall authority over the foreign relations of the United States and other nations.
Defense links between the United States and foreign nations are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Defense. In 2003, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich and the Israeli government signed the Maryland-Israel Partnership in Homeland Security, the first of its kind among America’s states.
Formal agreements have been established between Israel and Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (Governor Rick Perry received the “Defender of Jerusalem” and “Friend of Zion” awards from Israel), Virginia, and Wisconsin. Most of the state agreements with Israel have been concluded over the past five years.
Some state legislatures have passed joint Senate-House/General Assembly resolutions supporting a continued strong relationship between the United States and Israel, which also by-pass the State Department’s responsibilities to sign agreements with foreign nations. On March 18, 2011, one such resolution, which called for “continued support” by the Colorado legislature for a strong relationship between the United States and Israel, was enacted by the Colorado Senate and General Assembly.
Even more peculiar is Israel’s government-to-government agreements with Native American tribes, which enjoy varying degrees of sovereignty from the U.S. federal government. Israel has established close links to the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. The Coushatta Tribe was the first U.S. tribe to recognize the State of Israel and officially welcome an Israeli delegation to the reservation. Israeli companies have staked a claim in the 700-acre Coushatta reservation in Louisiana. In 2008, the Coushatta Tribe issued an “Affirmation of Friendship” with Israel, recognizing May 14, the Israeli date of independence, as a Coushatta national holiday. The Israeli Consulate General in Houston maintains contact with the tribe and it has sought to expand trade and agricultural links between the Coushattas and Israel.
In 2001, the Coushatta Tribe retained the lobbying services of Republican Party lobbyist and noted Israel supporter Jack Abramoff. Abramoff squeezed money out of the tribe for himself and the Republicans by double-crossing the Coushattas into believing they would be spared from competing with native gambling casinos nearby in Texas if they donated money to anti-gambling GOP Christian conservatives.
One of the factors, in addition to casino interests, that are behind Israel’s interest in establishing state-to-state relations with U.S. tribes may be the application of pressure on the United States dissuading Washington’s recognition of a Palestinian state. Israel may believe that if the United States moves to formally recognize Palestine as independent, it can take similar steps toward the Native Tribal Nations of the United States.
By establishing relations with state governments, Israel is also free to involve itself in state-level politics. On January 13, the publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler, wrote a column in which he postulated that Israel’s Mossad might have to consider assassinating the President of the United States if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon and the U.S. president failed to take military action against Iran. Adler wrote that it may be necessary for Israel to “give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place, and forcefully dictate that the United States policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”
“Lone nut!” and “crazed lunatic!” proclaimed America’s Jewish political pressure groups about Adler’s column. However, Adler’s newspaper has close ties with Israel’s Consulate General in Atlanta and Jewish Republican Party officials in the state of Georgia. On December 30, 2011, the Atlanta Jewish Times featured a photograph of one of Adler’s chief columnists, Chuck Berk, who is also co-chair of Atlanta’s Republican Jewish Coalition, with Israeli Consul General in Atlanta Opher Aviran, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, and a few Georgia state senators. Shortly after his meeting with Deal and the Atlanta Jewish paper’s columnist, Aviran traveled from Atlanta to Jackson, Mississippi to be one of the very few foreign officials to attend the inauguration of Mississippi’s new Republican governor, Phil Bryant.
The threat by the Atlanta Jewish publisher coincided with a decision by a Georgia state administrative court judge in Atlanta named Michael M. Malihi to dismiss a motion brought by lawyers representing Obama to toss out a complaint to keep Obama’s name off the Georgia presidential ballot on the grounds that Obama’s Hawaii birth certificate is invalid and fails to establish his natural born U.S. citizenship status. One of the plaintiff attorneys in the case is Orly Taitz, a Moldavian SSR-born Israeli-American, who has sought to disprove Obama’s eligibility to serve as president and who has supported the goals of Israel’s right-wing government. Indeed, Atlanta has become every much a nexus for threats to President Obama as Dallas and New Orleans were for the safety of President John F. Kennedy. However, in Atlanta, there is a heavy Israeli and Jewish angle to radical anti-Obama activism.
Israel’s aggressive involvement in sub-national politics is also evident in Canada, Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and other nations. Quebec’s long drive for separation from Canada has been plagued by Israeli and Jewish Quebecker attempts to paint the Quebec independence movement as “anti-Semitic,” with Parti Quebecois (PQ) and Bloc Quebecois parliamentarians coming under attack for supporting Palestinians and Lebanese in attacks by Israel on their homelands. In 2000, PQ politician Yves Michaud cited Israeli involvement in Quebec’s push for independence by declaring B’nai Brith Canada the “enemy of Quebec nationalists and a phalanx of the Israeli government.”
As with American states, Israel has established direct ties with such Canadian provinces as Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Alberta.
Similar interference by pro-Israeli interests is being seen in Scotland’s current attempt to break free of the United Kingdom. Israel has joint ventures with Spain’s Basque Land (Euskadi) and Catalonia, Germany’s Bavaria, and Australia’s New South Wales and Queensland. In all the aforementioned states, the number one priority has been to derail BDS movements and ensure that local political leaders toe the pro-Israel line.