Overplaying Its Hand, Israel Still Holds Plenty of U.S. Cards

Netanyahu Opposes Iran DealMore than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.

In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.

While it’s unlikely that such muscle can undo the initial six-month nuclear deal reached with Iran last weekend, efforts are already underway to damage and destroy the negotiations down the road. On Capitol Hill the attacks are most intense from Republicans, and some leading Democrats have also sniped at the agreement reached in Geneva.

A widespread fear is that some political precedent might be set, undercutting “pro-Israel” leverage over U.S. government decisions. Such dread is inherent in the negative reactions from Netanyahu (“a historic mistake”), GOP lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers (“a permission slip to continue enrichment”) and Senator Saxby Chambliss (“we’ve let them out of the trap”), and Democratic lawmakers like Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez (“this agreement did not proportionately reduce Iran’s nuclear program”) and Senator Charles Schumer (“it does not seem proportional”).

Netanyahu and many other Israelis — as well as the powerhouse U.S. lobbying group AIPAC and many with similar outlooks in U.S. media and politics — fear that Israel’s capacity to hold sway over Washington policymakers has begun to slip away. “Our job is to be the ones to warn,” Israel’s powerful finance minister, Yair Lapid, told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday. “We need to make the Americans to listen to us like they have listened in the past.”

This winter and spring, the Israeli government and its allies are sure to strafe U.S. media and political realms with intense barrages of messaging. “Israel will supplement its public and private diplomacy with other tools,” the New York Times reported Monday from Jerusalem. “Several officials and analysts here said Israel would unleash its intelligence industry to highlight anticipated violations of the interim agreement.” Translation: Israel will do everything it can to undermine the next stage of negotiations and prevent a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program.

Looking ahead, as a practical political matter, can the U.S. government implement a major policy shift in the Middle East without at least grudging acceptance from the Israeli government? Such questions go to the core of the Israeli occupation now in its 47th year.

Israel keeps building illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank; suppression of the basic human rights of Palestinian people continues every day on a large scale in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no reason to expect otherwise unless Israel’s main political, military and economic patron, the United States, puts its foot down and refuses to backstop those reprehensible policies. They can end only when the “special relationship” between the USA and Israel becomes less special, in keeping with a single standard for human rights and against military aggression.

Such talk is abhorrent to those who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies. But in every way that those policies are wrong, the U.S. government should stop enabling them.

The longstanding obstacles to such a halt stand a bit less tall today, but they remain huge. No less than before, as William Faulkner said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” This certainly applies to the history of gaining and maintaining unequivocal U.S. support for Israel.

Today’s high-impact American groups such as AIPAC (which calls itself “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”), Christians United for Israel (“the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., with more than a million members,” according to the Jerusalem Post) and similar outfits have built on 65 years of broad and successful Israel advocacy in the United States.

Baked into the foundation of their work was the premise of mutuality and compatibility of Israeli and American interests. Until the end of the Cold War, routine spin portrayed aid to Israel as a way to stymie Soviet power in the region. Especially since 9/11, U.S. support for Israel has been equated with support for a precious bulwark against terrorism.

Ever since the successful 1947 campaign to press for UN General Assembly approval of Palestine partition, Israel’s leaders have closely coordinated with American Jewish organizations. Israeli government representatives in the United States regularly meet with top officers of American Jewish groups to convey what Israel wants and to identify the key U.S. officials who handle relevant issues. Those meetings have included discussions about images of Israel to promote for the American public, with phrases familiar to us, such as “making the desert bloom” and “outpost of democracy.”

As any member of Congress is well aware, campaign donations and media messaging continue to nurture public officials cooperative and sympathetic to Israel. For the rare officeholders and office seekers who stand out as uncooperative and insufficiently sympathetic, a formulaic remedy has been applied: withholding campaign donations, backing opponents and launching of media vilification. Those political correctives have proved effective — along the way, serving as cautionary tales for politicians who might be tempted to step too far out of line.

The mainstream American Jewish Committee decided in 1953 that for its pro-Israel advocacy, “To the utmost extent, non-Jewish and non-sectarian organizations should be used as spokesmen.” Such a strategic approach has borne fruit for the overall Israel advocacy project in the USA. It is time-tested and mature; broadly distributing messages through organizations of most political flavors; and adept at touching almost all sizable media.

This year, Israeli leaders have intensified their lurid casting of Iran as the next genocidal Third Reich, and Israel as the protector absent for Jews during the Holocaust. For some, the theme is emotionally powerful. But it must not be allowed to prevent a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear dispute with Iran.

From now till next summer, the struggle over talks with Iran will be fierce and fateful. All signs point to determined efforts by Israel — and its many allies in the United States — to wreck prospects for a peaceful solution.

Norman Solomon and Abba A. Solomon

Norman Solomon is the founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Abba A. Solomon is the author of “The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews,’ Given to the Baltimore Chapter American Jewish Committee, February 15, 1948.”


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    This article is quite biased – against Israel, Netanyahu, AIPAC and Americans who support the continued existence of Israel. No matter what these parties do or don’t do, they can’t win.

    As its tools for pushing bias, the article blithely tosses around threatening-sounding words like ‘illegal’ and ‘war’ and ‘leverage’ as if they have single, definite and always equally bad or underhanded meanings.

    ‘illegal’? The Israeli settlements are on centuries-vacant lands won in defensive war from powers who claimed to be occupying them temporarily on behalf of the Palestinians, yet which granted the Palestinians no home rule. These settlements are all on land which international treaties of the 1920s recognized was the ancient Jewish homeland and was held in trust by Great Britain for eventual establishment of a Jewish state. These settlements are if anything more ‘legal’ than the Euram settlement where I live, Long Beach, CA, or the next-door settlement once known as Puebla de Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles.
    By the way, the Solomons’ lamented ‘suppression of human rights’ in the West Bank and Gaza is being practiced by the actual Palestinian autonomy administrations there – the Palestine Authority and Hamas.

    ‘war’? The Solomons apparently equate any Israeli (or USA) military action, howbeit limited or premptive, to starting a grand-scale war. Deliberately or otherwise, the Solomons commit two fallacies. First, not noticing actual wars or who started them. Iran’s ayatollarchy has elected to be at clandestine war with the USA for over three decades: it arranged the killing of 200 Americans at one go in Beirut during the Reagan presidencey. Second, paying no heed to the difference between ten-year million-man operations (Bush and Obama’s Iraq and Afghanistan) and a one-day one-plane operation (Bill Clinton’s bombing of a Sudan chem factory): if Israel or the USA do the latter, the Solomons will call it a ‘war’. Of course, if the USA does it with drones, it will also be called ‘illegal’.

    ‘leverage’? For the Solomons, any time Congress or the President adopt a policy that happens to suit Netanyahu or AIPAC, it’s proof that Israel ‘controls’ or ‘has leverage over’ US policy. And it’s somehow especially nefarious when the same tactics – advancing or withholding campaign contributions – that Americans routinely use to induce legislators to support other foreign or domestic issues are also used in the case of issues involving Israel.

  2. says

    Pres. Obama can play Neville Chamberlain all he wants, but Israel is the Poland whose very existence is threatened if it goes bad. Does the slogan “Never again” mean anything to you? :)

    • JoeWeinstein says

      Unfortunately, Mr Winslow, you are correct. Between the Obama-worshiping Democrats and the snarling but incompetent Republicans, Obama will be able to play Neville Chamberlain for three more years. With Chamberlain, the sold-out losers were not merely the nominally allied and friendly countries he sold out – Czechoslovakia and then Poland – but his own country, Great Britain. And the same is in store for ‘peace in our time’ Obama. With the as-yet unimpeded aid of N Korea, the ayatollahs are developing longer as well as shorter-range missiles to carry the nuke weapons (that Obama pretends we don’t really know that they have been working to produce). First targets may be Riyadh and Tel Aviv, but those are small fry. Later (likely just after Obama is out of the White House) on to London – and Los Angeles.
      The Solomons have committed the usual fallacy of self-deceivers or unconditional pacifists: if people sign a paper and call it ‘peace’, then it’s a step toward actual peace. But in fact a bad agreement – entered into by politicians that want to pretend to achieving ‘peace in our time’ – is in fact a recipe for war – and a war that will thereby come harder.

      This agreement is Syria all over again. Remember when Obama said that Assad must go, and that chemical weapons were a red line. And so the actual result he settled for is that Assad stays, gets his embarrassing chem weapons out of the way (the ones we know about, anyhow) and is now de facto authorized to stay in power and use all other ‘conventional’ weapons for continuing to murder and displace Syrians en masse – with the help to Assad from Russia and Iran and Hezbollah now being just hunky dory with Obama.

      Now comes an agreement which stops and partly undoes the laborious enacted sanctions regime, in return for which Iran partially pauses certain aspects of its nuke program for which it likely needs catch-up pause time anyhow… just like when some years ago Rouhani was the Iranian nuke negotiator and – by his own admission – successfully hornswoggled the UN and the US by a deal where Iran got credit for ‘stopping’ its program then … in a pause that anyhow was built into their schedule.

      Deliberately forgotten by the Obamites in their rush to convenient self-deception (abetted by their sycophantic media friends in the NYTimes and elsewhere) was that the original idea of negotiations was to keep Iran from getting nukes. Now the leading idea is that negotiations and an agreement are good in themselves, no matter what they actually achieve. Especially because they SEEM to kick the Iran nuke can down the road. However, what is clear is that in six months the bent-on-nuke weapons Iranian ayatollahs (even if they do not successfully manage to cheat) will have LESS incentive than now to reach any further ‘final deal’ other than one that recognizes their ‘right’ to nukes.

      • Paul McDermott says

        Thank you, Norman and Abba, for speaking truth to power. Cracks have begun to appear in that parasitic hold that Israel holds on American foreign policy. And those rabid Zionists are practically foaming at the mouth in their fury at those who have the temerity to point out the crimes against humanity Israel has committed, its human rights violations, its military aggression, and the low regard the U.S. is now held in much of the world because of its support for Israel.

        Finally, people are beginning to put the pieces of the puzzle together and learning that Israel cares only in advancing its own interests at the expense of the U.S.

        Such talk is, of course, “abhorrent to those (like Weinstein and Winslow) who are steeped in the notion that the United States must serve as a reliable enabler of Israel’s policies”.

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