I was surprised to read that AIPAC, the so-called “Israel lobby” in the US (full disclosure: to which I am a contributor) has come out squarely in favor of an American strike against the Assad regime.
The powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is planning to launch a major lobbying campaign to push wayward lawmakers to back the resolution authorizing U.S. strikes against Syria, sources said Thursday.
Officials say that some 250 Jewish leaders and AIPAC activists will storm the halls on Capitol Hill beginning next week to persuade lawmakers that Congress must adopt the resolution or risk emboldening Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon. They are expected to lobby virtually every member of Congress, arguing that “barbarism” by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated, and that failing to act would “send a message” to Tehran that the U.S. won’t stand up to hostile countries’ efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, according to a source with the group.
In the past AIPAC has generally stayed close to the official positions of the Government of Israel. Unlike some other Jewish organizations, it has not in general taken the attitude that American Jews know better than Israelis what’s good for Israel.
But the official Israeli position on an American strike on Syria is neutral. For example, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said this Tuesday:
We aren’t getting involved in what is happening in Syria. What happened there crossed a red line from the Americans’ perspective, but we aren’t supporting, or involved in, a possible strike…
NY Times bureau chief Jodi Rudoren published an article yesterday in which she claims that “Mr. Obama’s limited strike proposal has one crucial foreign ally: Israel.” But she provides little evidence for this. Rather, she argues that Israel is happy with the continued stalemate between the forces of Assad, Iran and Hizballah on one side, vs. Sunni Jihadists on the other. True or not, this does not imply support for Obama’s military initiative, which increasingly appears to be intended to tilt the conflict toward the rebels.
The Obama Administration has been working hard to get the support of US Jewish groups, whom it believes are influential with Congress:
The message from the two senior administration officials to Jewish leaders during a large conference call September 3 was clear: The Obama administration, said deputy national security advisors Ben Rhodes and Tony Blinken, believed that congressional approval of military action would send an important message to Iran, Israel’s most feared rival in the region.
“It is very important for us that we achieve a supportive vote in Congress,” said Blinken.
The two officials stopped short of directly calling on the Jewish community to put its weight behind President Obama’s request to authorize the use of military power against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. But the message was loud and clear, and at the call’s conclusion, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, promised his umbrella group would issue a supportive statement.
But he also cautioned the two advisors: “We don’t want to turn this into an Israel-centric issue.”…
A statement put out by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, shortly after made this point clear. “Simply put, barbarism on a mass scale must not be given a free pass,” the statement said. …
Other Jewish groups also quickly fell in line with the new consensus supporting an attack against Syria. The Anti Defamation League issued its own strong statement of support for Obama and urged Congress to “act swiftly” to approve the resolution. The Republican Jewish coalition, in a rare show of support for the president, issued a call to its members to reach out to their elected officials and “ask them to support the upcoming resolution.”
It seems that the administration got what it wanted — despite the fears of the Jewish establishment that it would be painted as calling for war, and blamed for any negative results of Obama’s actions, as was (unfairly) the case with the Iraq war.
I think that this is a mistake on the part of AIPAC and the other organizations. Although there are arguments for and against intervention in Syria, I don’t see this as an Israeli or Jewish issue. Rudoren said that,
On Syria, in fact, Israel pioneered the kind of limited strike Mr. Obama is now proposing: four times this year, it has bombed convoys of advanced weapons it suspected were being transferred to Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia that Israel considers a major threat.
But in fact Israel’s strikes — which were precisely targeted to achieve very specific objectives — were not at all like the planned American attack, which seems to be intended to teach a lesson about President Obama’s seriousness, and has no concrete military objective.
I am also not convinced that this will send a useful message to Iran. Surely the best message to Iran would be an ultimatum to stop its nuclear program or face military action. The involvement in Syria simply provides extra time to Iran to continue its progress toward a deliverable weapon, and conveys the inability of the administration to plan and carry out even a small action without an extended and public political process.
Israel is not responsible for the barbaric actions of the barbarians that it is unlucky enough to have as neighbors. Israel’s sole responsibility in this connection is to take steps to protect its people, which it will do regardless of whether the US decides to punish the regime or not.
Israel simply does not have a dog in this fight.
This administration has pushed a ‘peace process’ that is both in opposition to the rights of the Jewish people in international law and highly dangerous to Israel’s security. It has supported Islamic radicals in Turkey and Egypt, also to the detriment of Israeli security. Despite promising to prevent Iran from going nuclear, it has allowed it to delay a reckoning to the point that it may already be impossible to stop the regime. It has even prevented Israel from taking action to protect itself! There is ample proof by now that the Obama administration is no friend to Israel or the Jewish people.
Now it has decided that Jewish support can be useful against the embarrassing possibility that Congress may make Obama look even more indecisive and unleaderly than he already does — and we fall all over ourselves to help him!
Keep in mind that if anything ugly hits the fan, then despite the care that AIPAC et al are taking to not make it appear that this as an “Israel-centric” issue, that is how it will be spun, even by administration officials (who will speak anonymously, of course).
I simply don’t understand — and this isn’t the first time — why US Jews and Jewish organizations seem to be so anxious to support this administration, even when there is absolutely no reason to do so.