Archive for June 24th, 2010

Over at the Realistic Peace blog, Moshe Yaroni looks at the distasteful letters AIPAC directed members of Congress to send to the President. Just more evidence that politics comes ahead of national interests, but that’s one thing most people, on the left or the right, can agree upon.

He also discusses the whole “Israel Lobby” question, which you can find a lot of my writing about on this blog.

Here we are in an election year, and once again, AIPAC is able to turn screws like crazy in Congress. Some wonder why.

The two big "lobbies"

Some wonder whether all the polls which show that most Jews welcome a robust American peace effort that includes pressure on both sides are smoke and mirrors.

Even Israelis in significant numbers recognize that their government depends on outside pressure to take the risks necessary for peace.

Let’s confront this for what it really is: a small minority in the Jewish community drives the so-called “Jewish vote.”

It’s not a vote at all, in fact. It is that small number of wealthy Jews who are willing to put up a great deal of money in campaign contributions to create a specific dynamic: ongoing American financial, military and diplomatic support that remains consistent no matter what actions Israel takes and whether or not those actions serve American interests. (more…)

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I was reminiscing recently about a very pleasant conversation I had with Stephen Walt, who, along with John Mearsheimer, wrote the explosive book “The Israel Lobby.” Both authors are aware that I disagree with their thesis, and yet Stephen and I were always able to have respectful conversations about it. Would that more conversations about Israel could be conducted in that manner.

But I also disagree with what I call the Chomsky Thesis. Chomsky, and some other analysts, believe that “The Lobby’s” power derives from its essential rapport with American policy aims, and that if it diverges from those aims, it would not prove much of an obstacle.

Saying “The Lobby” is not a considerable force is as false as saying it is the determinative element in US policy. It

Hillary Clinton and AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg at this year's AIPAC policy conference

clearly plays a serious role in American politics, and the more prominently domestic concerns play into an American President’s foreign policy decisions, the more powerful it is. (In fairness, I should note that Walt’s and Mearsheimer’s book is rarely understood to encompass this view, though it can certainly be read that way)

“The Lobby’s” field of play is Congress. To the extent Congress can and will push back against a president on foreign policy, “The Lobby” will get it to do so when they disagree with that president’s policies.

It has often been the case that “The Lobby” tries to push the US into a harder line than Israel takes. It has done so again this week.

Letters to Obama

The Senate, almost as a body, has written to the President in full support of Israel’s version of the events aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla over Memorial Day Weekend. It re-states the position that the siege on Gaza is legal and was imposed to stop the import of weapons to Hamas, while ignoring the question of how children’s toys, coriander, mayonnaise and ketchup could be classified as weapons. It also asks the President to consider putting the IHH, the Turkish organization which is most certainly supportive of Hamas, on the list of terrorist organizations.

The letter, at this writing, was signed by 86 senators, and a similar letter is up to 322 signatures in the House. (more…)

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