AIPAC does not speak for most American Jews
The recent mini-crisis in U.S. Israel relations is probably, given the needs of both parties, going to fade from the headlines but behind the scenes the issues will still fester. It was shameful that right wing lobbyists for Israel in the United States, ignored the main points in contention. AIPAC, the largest and wealthiest such lobby, viewed the announcement of 1600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, as only a “bureaucratic error” and stuck to their tired line that the United States and Israel have identical interests. It was the Obama administration that they faulted, for allowing the unfortunately timed announcement to create a rift between the two nations.
AIPAC, and Abe Foxman of the ADL, mouth their usual platitudes: that the U.S. has no firmer ally in the Middle East, that the Palestinians do not really want peace, and that the United States and Israel have identical foreign policy interests. It is this last assertion, often cited as an axiom by the right wing lobbyists, that is becoming ever more irksome to Washington. First, as has long been noted, - - Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic politics, meaning that aligning with Israel really means support for the right-wing expansionist policies of the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Yishai government. Israelis are, in fact, rather evenly divided between settlement advocates and opponents. Thus, the so-called Israel Lobby should be more properly termed -- the Likud lobby
It may be useful for AIPAC to perpetuate the myth that Israel and the United States have identical interests but it is not accepted by the Obama team, including Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod (previously labeled by Bibi as Obama’s “court Jews”). Second, it is now politically possible to challenge that venerable “axiom” of the right because the Washington administration has been given cover by its own military establishment.
On January 16 Admiral Mike Mullen the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was briefed by a team of senior officers on the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on American security interests in the Middle East. Admiral Mullen was told, by this team, dispatched by General David Petraeus, that the security of his troops was being jeopardized by Israeli intransigence. Mullen subsequently insisted that Israel had to see its own actions vis a vis the Palestinians “in a larger regional context.” This was the background for what Biden is said to have told Netanyahu: “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.” Apart from the timing of the new settlement announcement, there was a blunt warning to Israel, that her settlement activity constituted a direct threat to American Middle East security.
It is interesting to note that the Israel lobbyists, in this diplomatic crisis, focused only on the supposed errors of the Obama administration and had nothing to say to Israel’s government regarding American security needs. Nor have they suggested to Bibi that Israel’s error was not in the inopportune announcement of new settlement building but in pursuing a settlement policy which earns Israel not merely Arab enmity and world disapproval but can also cost Israel the full support of her most cherished American ally. AIPAC does not speak for most American Jews, who are opposed to further settlements, and it certainly does not speak for me.
P.S. The Washington Post (March 23) carried Dana Milbank’s excellent report on the AIPAC conference. Milbank leads off his article with an item about a man who stood outside the meetings “handing out copies of what he called ‘today’s statement’.” Using what seemed to be AIPAC letterhead, the statement declared “AIPAC Calls on the Israeli Government to Immediately Defuse Tensions with United States; Urges Israel to Freeze All Settlements.” Of course this was news and was immediately picked up by National Public Radio and ABC news. Well, I am sorry to say that the document was a hoax and quickly denied by AIPAC.
Of course it was just what one would hope an American Jewish organization would say, if it cared as much about American security needs, as it did those of Israel.
March 24, 2010
Secretary Clinton speaks to the 2010 AIPAC Policy Conference, at the Washington Convention Center, March 22, 2010. Image :http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/pix/2010/aipac/index.htm