Interview with Dissident Israeli Intellectual Michel Warschawski: “Obama’s Priority Is Iran”


Israeli intellectual Michel Warschawski said yesterday, at the European Social Forum in Istanbul, that he is certain that US President Barack Obama’s priority is a war against Iran.  Warschawski was taking part in a seminar on how the international Palestine solidarity movement can challenge Israeli impunity.

Warschawski, founder of the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, shared with Rebelión his assessment of the current situation in the Middle East and the role that social movements can play in the task of undermining the foundations of the Israeli apartheid regime.

In the view of this Jewish dissident, the era of the George W. Bush administration was ideal for the Zionist state: never before had there existed so much symbiosis between the Israeli and US governments as during the global preventive war unleashed by the Bush administration, for which the two governments jointly planned, organized, and executed actions.

What differences exist between the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations?

Obama is pursuing the same objective as Bush, which is to reinforce US hegemony and buttress its interests in the whole world.  However, while Bush sought to achieve it through war, a global war everywhere, Obama wants to be more subtle, relying more on diplomacy than military force.

The problem for Obama is that his rhetoric of political changes has coincided with the arrival of extreme conservatives in power in Tel Aviv.

How are the relations between the two countries?

The United States and Israel maintain an essential and strategic alliance between them.  The so-called “New American Century,” however, presupposed the hegemony of Washington on a global scale and that of Israel on a regional scale; that was a politically disastrous vision and period for the United States — hence its decline.

Now the two governments have different points of view on how to do things since they have their own distinct interests.  Obama announced his goal of reorganizing the Middle East region, for which the key is solving the Palestine question and the essential step is to put an end to the policies of settlements.  And on this Netanyahu differs with Obama.

In any case, the priority is to do away with the regional power of Iran.

What are the priorities of the Obama administration regarding the Middle East?

Obama has understood that it is necessary to prioritize: the United States cannot strike everywhere at the same time.  That policy resulted in Bush’s failure for lack of military and financial means.  So, in order of preferences, Obama wants to extricate himself from the Iraq war, which will take time; put more pressure on the adversary in Afghanistan; and focus on Iran.

Among his goals, too, is what we could call “nationalization of war”: that is to say, withdraw the armed forces of the United States and replace them by local and regional contingents who do their war-fighting and repression, thus avoiding the appearance of direct US military involvement.

Can the United States, which is fighting war on so many fronts, attack Iran?

I don’t think so.  For Obama, the priority is Iran, but, for that, it is necessary to exit Iraq, reinforce the military capacity of the conservative Arab states, and, for the benefit of the regional Arab allies of the United States, compel Tel Aviv to adopt a less brutal and aggressive policy against the Palestinians.

How can we challenge Israeli impunity?

On the international level of governments and institutions, there will continue to be obstacles against imposing sanctions on Israel, despite the massacres that it has committed.  For that, we will have to strengthen and enhance actions of civil society.  The “Freedom Flotilla” case is a tragically paradigmatic one, but it shows that activist groups can bring to light the problem of Israeli policies.

Taking this opportunity, I’d like to thank the Turkish society for its action, taken at a high cost, which nevertheless has managed to tangibly change the situation in Gaza: forcing a tiny opening in the blockade, raising the level of the world public opinion, obligating governments to condemn the Israeli massacre, modifying certain things for the future. . . .

There are militant actions of civil society that can change the situation and policies not only in Gaza and Palestine but also in the entire region of the Middle East.

Antonio Cuesta is a Prensa Latina correspondent based in Turkey.  The original interview “Entrevista al intelectual disidente israelí Michel Warshawsky: ‘La prioridad de Obama es Irán'” was published by Rebelión on 3 July 2010.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at]

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