America’s Impotent Left

In Souciant this week, I examine the weakness of the Left in the US despite numbers that should mean it is much stronger. In times of economic stress like these, the left should be able to provide alternatives, and make them actionable. While liberals fight to hold the center and Tea Partiers push the country to a radical and self-destructive right, the left continues to eat itself. It need not be.

After Pro-Israel Conference, Gaps Remain Between Netanyahu and Obama

My wrap-up of reporting on the AIPAC conference and implications for war with Iran. Again, I ask, is this really something Mighty AIPAC needed to be afraid of? Oringinally appeared at Inter Press Service News

WASHINGTON, Mar 7, 2012 (IPS) – More than 10,000 U.S. citizens descended on Capitol Hill Tuesday under the direction of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the leading voice of the powerful Israel lobby here, to urge their congressional representatives to take a more

Mitt Romney addressed AIPAC's policy conference via satellite feed

aggressive stance towards Iran.

Their swarming of Congressional offices marked the final act of their annual three-day conference, which this year featured speeches by President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, three of the four leading Republican contenders for the White House this fall, and the top leaders of both parties in Congress.

The dominant theme of the conference was Iran’s presumed effort to develop nuclear weapons and what to do about it. The tone was heavily tilted toward actual or an increased threat of military action. This stands in stark contrast to Tuesday’s announcement that the U.S., United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany had agreed to resume talks with Iran in hopes of reaching a diplomatic resolution on the Iranian nuclear programme.

President Obama’s speech, at the conference’s opening plenary and ahead of his meeting with Netanyahu the following day, reaffirmed his administration’s policy of applying “crippling” economic sanctions on Iran and leaving the military option as a last resort.

For his part, Netanyahu, who has recently been increasingly vocal about the need for stronger action regarding Iran, tried to strike a balance between avoiding a confrontational tone with Obama similar to the one he took during his controversial trip to Washington for last year’s AIPAC conference, and holding fast to his position that sanctions and diplomacy are not succeeding in their aim to deter Iran from its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

One key area of disagreement between Netanyahu and Obama is where the critical “red line” would be drawn with Iran. Would it be at the point where Iran was about to actually acquire a nuclear weapon, or merely at it gaining the technical capability to do so, a point many analysts believe Iran has already reached.  Continue reading

Ahead Of AIPAC Conference, Israeli Pressure On US For Red Lines On Iran Picks Up Steam

This article originally appeared at LobeLog, a blog well worth following if you want up to date and incisive analysis of US foreign policy on the Mideast. 

With the annual policy convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) coming up in just a few days, many observers are expecting this to be the time when Israel pushes its hardest on the United States to take a more aggressive stance in its ongoing confrontation with Iran over the latter’s nuclear program.

With four days to go, it seems that the Israeli push is picking up steam.

Ha’aretz reports today that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to “publicly harden his line against Iran” before he meets with US President Barack Obama on March 5. This is an important piece of timing, as Obama will be speaking at the AIPAC conference on the 4th, the day before Netanyahu meets with him.

To an extent, then, Netanyahu is already making it clear to the AIPAC audience what they should be looking for in the President’s speech, as well as communicating a warning to Obama about what Netanyahu expects from him.

This is only one piece of the gathering pressure. Obama will be walking into something of a lion’s den at AIPAC, much more so than last year, when the President spent weeks after the conference dealing with the political fallout from wide, and often intentional, misinterpretations of his speech and his testy scenes with the Israeli Prime Minister. Continue reading

Gingrich Benefactor All In For Israel

Sheldon Adelson rode in like an apocalyptic horseman to save the campaign of Newt Gingrich with a $5 million donation to Newt’s super-PAC, Winning Our Future.

Adelson is perhaps the most well-known heavy hitter among contributors largely motivated by their extreme hawkish stances on Israel. He has been honored by the far-right Zionist Organization of America (ZOA, a group so extreme even AIPAC tends to try to keep its distance from them), but he has also been a major funder of AIPAC, making sure he keeps his hand in mainstream US politics on this issue and enabling him to exert a strong push of those politics toward the right.

Adelson’s love of Gingrich is rooted in their mutual passion for crushing unions and privatizing Social Security, but it flowers in their mutual zeal for maintaining Israeli control of the West Bank and support for the farthest right wing of Israeli politics.

It is telling that Adelson is committing such extensive resources in a desperate attempt to hoist Gingrich above Republican front-runner, Mitt Romney, as Romney is very far from being a dove on Middle East matters.

Romney’s foreign policy team draws heavily from former Bush Administration figures, and six of the twenty-two were members of the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC), a key group in pressing for war with Iraq and advocating granting a much freer hand to Israel in dealing with the Palestinians.

All that, however, is not nearly radical enough for Adelson, who demonstrated his strong preference for Gingrich’s views which are more closely related to the Christian evangelicals (who still largely reject Gingrich for his personal history) than Romney’s anti-Islam but more strategically-oriented ideology.

Adelson underwrote AIPAC’s luxurious new office building in Washington. Having visited both the old and new AIPAC offices, I can testify that Adelson’s money was well-spent. The offices are as comfortable and luxurious as those of major corporations, and the security system there is almost as elaborate as the White House’s.

But Adelson broke with AIPAC over the organization’s tepid support for the Annapolis Conference in 2007, the Bush Administration’s program for maintaining talks toward a two-state solution which were exposed by the Palestine Papers as a sham serving as a cover for ongoing Israeli intransigence.

That remains too liberal a cause for Adelson. But the issue is not Adelson’s political views in and of themselves, but rather his willingness to put his money where his mouth is.

His huge gift to Gingrich might backfire, as it will undermine the attacks Newt has been launching on Romney for all of his “millionaire backing,” that Romney has garnered through his own super-PACs. But with his campaign in decline, Newt had little to lose.

Adelson is not a man to miss an opportunity. After the US Supreme Court opened a golden road to unlimited individual and corporate financing of political campaigns in its famed decision in the case of Citizens United v Federal Elections Commission, the so-called super-PACs came into being. Adelson, one of the wealthiest men in the US, recognizes an opportunity for him to have a powerful influence on US policy.

Adelson knows well how to do this. His efforts to influence young US Jews takes its most prominent form in the massive support Adelson gives to the Birthright program, which brings Jewish high school and college students to Israel for a carefully managed tour and vacation. And Adelson doesn’t stop there.

He founded and continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the Israeli daily, Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today), a right wing publication which strongly supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, thanks to Adelson’s funding, is distributed free not only throughout Israel, but also on flights into and out of the country.

Adelson has sometimes been referred to as the “George Soros of the right.” This might be a fair comparison in terms of each man putting his money into his politics, but Soros does not have any single issue on which he focuses, and on which he is determined to push influence, as Adelson does on Israel.

Adelson has cleverly used his vast resources to help push Israeli public opinion to the right and to influence US politics in the same direction. True, he is focusing strongly on trying to get the White House back for a Republican, and one with extreme views on Israel; but his massive funding is influencing the full political spectrum on this issue.

Adelson is the biggest donor to a wide spectrum of Jewish causes. As a result, he has an enormous influence in this community, as well as in Israel. Despite his favoring of the Likud coalition, that influence explains why he is also honored by Labor and Kadima politicians there.

Adelson was seen attending last year’s AIPAC conference, and whether he has truly abandoned that group is open to question. And it perhaps can be of some consolation that Adelson is pumping so much into Gingrich’s campaign, one which is not very likely to succeed.

But the massive donation does shine an important light on how a very few well-heeled individuals are influencing US policy in the Middle East. The easing of campaign financing regulations may have emboldened Adelson and others like him, but perhaps it will also make more US citizens stand up and notice how these important decisions are really being made.

The Fictitious Zionist

In my latest piece for Souciant, I take on Newt Gingrich’s extreme bigotry toward the Palestinians, and his faux support for Israel intertwined therein. Going up against Newt on an intellectual level may seem like shooting fish in a barrel, but it’s important and it gives us an opportunity to examine some myths and realities of the Israel-Palestine conflict.