Posts Tagged ‘CUFI’


This article originally appeared at LobeLog. Check out the new look of this outstanding site for foreign policy analysis you won’t find anywhere else. 

 

In recent weeks, a few incidents have begun to raise questions about the vaunted power of the so-called “Israel Lobby” and whether its influence might be waning. First there

Bibi might have to do more listening to Obama and future Presidents

Bibi might have to do more listening to Obama and future Presidents

were the AIPAC-backed congressional bills that sought to level sanctions on the Palestinian Authority to punish it for having gone to the United Nations in seeking and winning an upgrade in their status to one that implied statehood and granted it a few more rights in the international system. Those bills both died before reaching the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives. More recently, there was the row over Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Secretary of Defense. That nomination went forward and it has since become evident that, despite some disparaging comments from a few Senators, Hagel is likely to be confirmed.

Those aren’t small failures for “the Lobby”, but the circumstances around them should be examined to put them in context. The two events do indicate the potential beginnings of a shift in the discourse around US policy in the Middle East, but it’s important not to make more out of this than there is. (more…)

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This article was published at Alternet.

The former head of Israel’s General Security Service, commonly known as the Shin Bet, has caused quite a stir with an interview that roasts Prime Minister Benjamin

Former Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin

Former Shin Bet chief, Yuval Diskin

Netanyahu alive. Yuval Diskin paints a disturbing picture of Netanyahu as a leader who, far more than most, is motivated by personal political gain rather than by strategy. Cynically, and one might even say appropriately, most of us routinely ascribe such motives to most politicians, but Diskin’s point is that Netanyahu leans much more toward this motivation than most.

When one considers the amount of power an Israeli Prime Minister holds, and the impact Israeli actions have on world events, having someone like the man Diskin describes in that office is alarming even while it explains much about why, even for Middle East affairs, the current status quo is so bleak. But here in the United States, it should also give us pause as we consider who this man is that our Congress, led by the Israel Lobby, is so enthralled with.

Diskin describes all the other Prime Ministers he worked under since Menachem Begin as ultimately being driven by their view of Israel’s best interests. He does not suggest they were immune to personal interest, but that when it came to the really crucial security decisions, it was not their primary motivation. But Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak, are different, says Diskin: “Unfortunately the feeling that I have, and that many senior security officials have, is that when we talk about Netanyahu and Barak, that with them the personal, opportunistic and current interests, are the thing that take precedence over anything else.  And I emphasize that I am reflecting here something that not only I feel, but also many of the colleagues at my level with whom I spoke.” Whether Diskin’s assessment of historical Israeli leadership is on target, the fact remains that he obviously sees a huge difference in the extent to which personal gain motivates the current government’s top decision-makers. (more…)

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With the year ending, many writers will do their reviews of 2012. I look at where we are and what that might mean for 2013 for Israel and the Palestinians and the outside players, the US and EU.

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The United States may be easing up its customary pressure on Europe to go along with it in its blanket protection of Israel no matter how far Israel pushes the envelope. Early indications are that Europe just doesn’t need the pressure, they’re not going to pressure Israel anyway, despite the recent arrogant comments by both Bibi Netanyahu and Yvet Lieberman. But in the long term, maybe there’s a little more hope down the European road than the US one. I explore this in this week’s piece at Souciant.

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I wrote a piece last week criticizing Americans for Peace Now for their stance on the Presbyterian divestment motion. But my criticism was as nothing compared to MJ Rosenberg’s, and he has now written a few piecesexploring this topic.

Protests against the Gaza War/Operation Cast Lead, in 2009

One difference between myself and MJ is that I spend little time worrying about the stance of J Street on this issue. I’m glad J Street is there; it’s a useful organization and I support it for what it does. But that’s not very much.

J Street is unalterably opposed to any sort of pressure on Israel. They are under the mistaken belief that if they prove they represent the majority of American Jews (compared to AIPAC, they do, but that majority is largely apathetic or lukewarm at best on Israel, while AIPAC’s backers, and those farther right, are zealously passionate and have a LOT more money devoted to their cause), this will convince Israel to change its policies. That’s well-intentioned, but naïve doesn’t begin to describe that view, one which is also completely insulated against political realities and, yes, pragmatism.

APN has a more nuanced approach, but as I pointed out, they still resist any real pressure on Israel, and ultimately, this is a strategy that has no hope to make the slightest dent in either US or Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians.

I must point out here that APN issued a clarification of their statement on the Presbyterian vote. I still think they have it wrong, but it does at least acknowledge that APN recognizes that the Presbyterians were trying to carefully target the occupation and not Israel as a whole.

I have no doubt that MJ is right in saying that keeping their donors from sending their dollars elsewhere is a big factor for APN. But I think there’s more here. I think there is truly a dedication to the notion that by publicizing the spread of Israeli settlements and of their impact; and by raising a Jewish, and Zionist, voice against them that they can get Israel to change its behavior.

To me, this stems from a basic misunderstanding of the words of Frederick Douglass, who said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

There are important truths in Douglass’ statement, but also some misleading wording.

By using the word “tyrant,” Douglass allows his American, and later Israeli, listeners to believe he is talking about some other people, not our own Liberal, democratic governments whom we love. He also equates “words” and “blows,” a grave error for inspiring social change, implying that words alone might be sufficient to make “power concede.” Doesn’t happen that way, I’m afraid. (more…)

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This week’s Souciant piece is up. It’s the first of what is likely to be many pieces over the next few months on Obama’s first term, his possible second one and just how bad things could be with a Republican president. In this piece, while I remind folks that things would have been much worse with McCain and will be much worse if Romney wins in November, Obama’s policy, or lack thereof, in the Middle East has been a disaster.

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In response to my article today, a long-time reader commented as follows:

“What’s needed is an Eliot-Ness-type figure to bring down this AIPAC mafia. But where is one to be found in this post-heroic era?”

US elected officials treat Israel as a sensitive domestic issue, not a foreign policy matter. Must it be so?

I thought it was worth bringing my response over here, because I think this sort of thinking, while certainly based on being well-informed and thoughtful, is ultimately self-defeating and unnecessary.

My response:

I don’t think that’s what’s needed. in fact, I think that approach is part of the problem. Sure, AIPAC has done some shady things in its history. That’s also true of other lobbying groups, incidentally. But the bulk of their success is due to things that are perfectly legal–propagandizing, badgering their opponents, and directing campaign funds. Most of all, straightforward lobbying of elected officials.

Even if AIPAC was less connected to the Israeli government per se, they’d still have a lot of the effect they do. In part, that is due to the fact that they capitalize on the sorts of things I describe in the article above–American idealization, almost deification, of Israel as a military power, American anti-Muslim/anti-Arab bigotry, and the stability of Israel as a country and an ally. While Israel often spits in the face of US desires, the Israeli government knows exactly when it needs to stand by the US–usually when no one else will.  (more…)

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