When Donald Trump declared that 70-80% of the U.S. Jewish community (the percentage that is voting Democrat these days) suffered from “a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” it set off a firestorm of objections from most of that community. From the center-right leadership of the American Jewish Committee to the left wing, progressive Jewish Voice for Peace, a wide swath of Jews expressed their outrage at the obvious anti-Semitism in Trump’s words.
Of course, the far-right Jews in Trump’s corner supported him. The Republican Jewish Coalition said that Trump was “talking about the survival of the Jewish state,” an argument Trump himself debunked when he clarified his remarks.
But the right was simply playing its role. The real problem came from the reaction of some so-called “liberals,” a reaction rooted in the same dishonesty that frames the entire Israel debate in the United States. Read more at LobeLog
Speaking to an adoring audience at the annual summit of the far-right Christians United for Israel (CUFI), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assured the audience that the Trump administration was determined to continue ratcheting up pressure on Iran.
“The ayatollahs have grievously deprived the Iranian people of that most basic, simple, fundamental right, their right to worship,” Pompeo told the evangelical crowd. “That same twisted, intolerant doctrine that fuels persecution inside Iran has also led the ayatollah and his cronies to cry out, quote, ‘death to Israel’ for four decades now.”
Pompeo went on to tell the crowd that, were it not for the Trump administration’s efforts to strangle the economy, Iran would have greatly bolstered its efforts to destroy Israel, something it has never attempted in all those four decades. Ominously, he added, “You know the stories, but we’ve implemented the strongest pressure campaign in history against the Iranian regime, and we are not done.” Read more at LobeLog
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has drawn some criticism from the left for avoiding the topic of Israel-Palestine. It’s actually a wise decision on her part. It was obvious during her campaign that she is not well-versed on the issue. N ew members of Congress ought to avoid this dangerous minefield of an issue unless they are very clear about what they want to say and how they want to say it.
But AOC may be learning. Earlier this week, she was asked if she favored reducing aid to Israel and she replied that it is “…certainly on the table. I think it’s something that can be discussed.”
Reducing aid to Israel is perhaps the highest voltage third rail in Beltway politics. But in a marker of how much things have changed in Washington—as well as how far they still have to go—the reactions to AOC’s statement have been far less animated than usual. The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) issued a condescending but relatively mild statement, telling AOC to consult with three mainstream Democratic leaders—all prominent Jewish members with strong pro-Israel records—on the “correct” U.S. policy. “US-Israel ties must supersede politics,” the statement concluded. Surprisingly, the JDCA did not condemn AOC’s statement, despite its tired implication that support for Israel must be unconditional, unquestioned, and independent of any considerations except what is best for Israel. Read more at LobeLog
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
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. Continue reading →
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
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. Continue reading →