Romney and Obama battle it out in the primary for the Israel lobby

In Saturday night’s Republican debate, Mitt Romney gave a defiant statement about Iran: he will stop it from getting nukes by any means, Obama won’t. Yesterday Obama sought to parry Romney, saying that he is taking no option off the table. 

Are we witnessing a primary between Romney and Obama right now, for the support of the Israel lobby?

I think so. Romney’s braintrust includes neocons like Robert Kagan and Dan Senor, while David Brooks, David Frum and Bill Kristol have all said good things about Romney. Dennis Ross and Stuart Levey have both left the Obama administration, hurting his standing in the Israel lobby. Don’t forget, the lobby defected from Bush to Clinton in ’91 over settlements; and its fundraising abilities helped assure Clinton’s election over the incumbent (as Max Blumenthal’s post at AlAkhbar today points out).

Jews are sure to vote by a majority for Obama; but as a Forward package this week shows, Obama’s polling numbers are sliding among Jews– from 83 percent approval in early ’09 to 54 percent in September. (Compared to overall #s going from 66 to 41.)

Neocons call on hawkish Jews, who tend to be older (p. 3 of that poll: overwhelmingly opposing a Palestinian state), and therefore wealthier.  The fundraising question is crucial. Slate’s editor David Plotz has questioned the loyalty of Jewish donors. So have the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, talking about “Jewish donors–a major fundraising constituency for the president.” The Hill said that Obama’s big Wall Street fundraisers were turning to Romney, and I pointed out that most of the donors named by the Hill care about Israel.

New York Magazine’s John Heilemann echoes the point:

[A]mong the high-dollar Jewish donors who were essential to fueling the great Obama money machine last time around, stories of dismay and disaffection are legion. “There’s no question,” says one of the president’s most prolific fund-raisers. “We have a big-time Jewish problem.”

So again I ask, isn’t this what the dogfight over Iran policy is? Obama and Romney are squaring off in an Israel lobby primary, to try and gain Jewish financial support, anticipating the big race ahead. The neoconservatives and J Street are arguing over who can deliver that support. Politics never stays in the same place, but somehow I fear that hawkish voices will dominate my community once again.

About Philip Weiss

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Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 21 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. yourstruly says:

    since the public is on to the fact that america’s unconditional support for the settler entity israel is bad for america

    whoever wins the support of these israel-firsters gonna wish they hadn’t

    • yourstruly says:

      one way to defeat the israel firsters would be for the occupy everywhere movement to link the israel-firsters push for a war upon iran to wall street, thereby opening up a 2-pronged attack upon the ruling 1%

      preventing a war stops ongoing wars?

      being that nowthe 99% will be making history

  2. Dan Crowther says:

    I think my man Phil is giving waaaaaay to much credit to “The Lobby” here.
    The Lobby definitely constitutes “ground troops” in the American Empire’s foreign policy – but I think the policy was decided on first; ground troops came later.

    The US position in the Middle East is the same position it has taken in Indonesia, The Balkans, Central and South America etc.; no economic development outside the auspices of the US. Is the Lobby responsible for Suharto? Pinochet? The Khmer Rouge? Was the Lobby responsible for the overthrow of Mossadegh? To ask these questions is to answer them.

    The fact of the matter is, the Lobby parrots what is official US policy, the only difference is they use Israel as the tangible element or pretext. But pretext is near worthless as a means to understand the real goals of policy. Leaders can say whatever they want in pushing their agenda; what is really surprising is how so many in the “Jewish community” think what they do and say can really matter or affect change in this area. It can’t.

    But, please, continue to donate! What a sham…….

    • Are you saying that the US has its own legitimate and tangible interest in attacking Iran outside of the framework of benefiting Israel and that all this talk of “do it for Israel” is just pretext? If so, what are these interests, and how are they are own?

      • Dan Crowther says:

        Does the US have a “legitimate” interest in attacking Iran? Depends on what one thinks is legitimate. A “tangible” interest? Of course. Oil, natural gas – its also smack dab in the middle of the region that US state dept called 50 odd years ago ” a stupendous source of strategic power.”

        I would say the US’s interest’s in the region, like anywhere else in the “grand area,” are two-fold: the US is to (1) establish and maintain military and economic dominance and (2) thwart independent nationalism among the the populations of the countries the US dominates.

        In the ME, economic and military dominance is pretty well established.
        Big Oil is doing just fine, same with Big Guns. And this is very much in line with the policies of the US government: “protecting US interests,” but what are those interests other than corporate profits and military hegemony?
        The crushing of, in this case, secular arab nationalism is where Israel comes into play( along with other states as well: Saudi Arabia, Egypt under Mubarak, Tunisia etc). And they have been an excellent client state in this regard.

        So, the question remains, why attack Iran if your the US?

        They sell oil in Euro’s – big, big crime – probably what got Saddam taken out
        They are developing outside of US auspices, and with the help of China and Russia
        They deliberately mock US power and authority, fckin up our “narrative”
        They overthrew our coup. Big, big crime.
        They are, in a word, independent. This is not to be tolerated. And there is a very detailed history of the US doing everything in its power to stop the spread of this “contagion.”

        • yourstruly says:

          dan, spot-on analysis

          empire doing whatever it takes to bring down independent states

          empire doing whatever it takes to squash independent thought

          fascist foreign policy begetting fascism at home

          with an iran war serving as the ultimate game-changer*?

          & given, time’s running out, what with perpetual war + global warming = doomsday?

          like it or not

          aren’t we** at now or never?

          how fortunate, then, that the occupy everywhere movement is on the case

          it’s significance being that (1) it exists, (2) is expanding & has momentum & (3) there’s no other contender(s) in sight

          with a suggested magic formula for success being occupyws + occupy the warmongers + occupy foreclosed houses = the 99% takeover

          *from terminal democracy to perpetual fascism

          **we, as in leaderless yet everyone a leader

        • America can not afford another war.
          The “Empire”, called America ,is crumbling, falling apart and maybe, maybe that’s the whole point??
          Who needs strong America?? Who needs strong Europe??
          ( Once “strong” Europe is crumbling, lies down on its back ,as we speak ,as well).
          The power , the money is in the hands of a few. In the hands of so called, Power Elite.
          Apart from good ,loyal police , faithful security forces, well armed private army of mercenaries, they DON’T NEED a strong “American Empire”.
          What for?? They crave a strong, GLOBAL Empire.
          Strong America is just a “chain and a ball” at their legs.
          Who needs that??

        • Theo says:

          You are correct and you can see it from outside even better.
          In the USA the MSM, politicians and the government do their utmost to cover up the miserable conditions of the country.
          The romans had the circus with the gladiators to take their attantion from the facts that they are hungry and have no place to sleep.
          In the USA we have 500 channels working 24 hours a day to make you as dumb as possible. Are you hungry, have no job? No problem, stick your nose to the screen and forget all your needs.

        • seafoid says:

          Iraq was the ultimate game changer.
          Clean Break and PNAC are all washed up as a result
          The US debt crisis is the outcome.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          If only that was true in American politics, seafoid. I remember telling myself about Obama, “The war, the war, the war. All he has to do is talk about the war and Republicans lying to get us into Iraq.” But Obama still nearly lost to McCain — the main reason Obama got an edge is that McCain made himself out to be a clueless, vacillating twit during the 2008 economic crisis. On the issue of the war alone, McCain would have won. (Mostly, in my opinion, because Obama was tepid about the war topic and ultimately did exactly what McCain would have done with the Iraqi occupation.)

          The United States lives in a bubble of delusion. And I’m sorry to say this but the vast majority of Americans are totally clueless — I don’t think it’s over half any more, but a shocking number of Americans probably still believe we did find nukes in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein was working with al-Qaeda.

          Truth is no longer a virtue in the United States.

          Also? I’m pretty sure Dan was being critical of US attitudes, Witty, those aren’t actually good reasons to invade a country and kill civilians.

        • Dan Crowther says:

          “Also I’m pretty sure Dan was being critical of US attitudes, Witty, those aren’t actually good reasons to invade a country and kill civilians.”

          HAHAHAAAA!! Yes, I was indeed being critical. I think Witty got that as well, at least I hope.

          I don’t mean to let the Lobby off the hook entirely, and I do think that in terms of domestic campaign fundraising and political class verbiage they have enormous influence, but the US – and I’m talking Americans here- wants to blow up Iran independent of the Israel Lobby. The Lobby is a symptom of the problem, or more accurately, a more developed stage of the cancer – but we all have it. The agenda is the agenda, the Lobby represents one method of achieving the overall goal – but in no way are Obama and Romney selling off american foreign policy to the Lobby or anyone else.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          That is true. I remember being in grade school during the first Gulf War and wondering quietly to myself why we were being taught to hate Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis. And why so many of my classmates took to it so easily. There is something deeply ingrained in American culture, I think unfortunately, where we have to reduce who populations to a figurehead, who then gets demonized. We did it to England, way back when (the British Parliament was at least as responsible for American woes as King George but it was the latter who was almost exclusively vilified in public), we did it to Spain, we did it to Japan and Germany, in Vietnam we invented “Charlie” so that we could do it, Osama bin Laden stood for Afghanistan even though he was Saudi, Saddam Hussein for Iraq and now, Ahmedinejad for Iran.

          I think you’re right. Being able to manipulate Americans so easily doesn’t let the Lobby off the hook, but we collectively have only ourselves to blame for being fools.

        • eljay says:

          >> Dan Crowther, November 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

          Solid post. Thanks!

        • Dan Crowther says:

          cheers eljay


          Yes, I was in 3rd grade at the time of the first gulf war, we would run around talking about how would were going to turn “I-rock” in a “A-rock” – meaning we( and we really thought it was a “we” thing) were going to make rubble out of the country. What a bunch of sick fucks. And this was Northampton, Massachusetts, bastion of liberalism.

        • Yeap. I forgot for a moment about that.
          Inventing a “boogieman”, a public “ENEMY of the global PEACE”.
          In communism, there was always an “ENEMY OF THE STATE”, or “ENEMY of the working class.”
          It was a very broad label, and basically EVERYBODY, at ANYTIME could receive, that oftentimes deadly, etiquette.
          It looks like in Americia “THE ENEMY” is usually called by First and Last name, (How lovely, so personal , oh). And it is usually the head of the country that was scheduled for military, peaceful attack, I mean “mission”.
          First you find the “ENEMY” ,and then you make sure that the MainStreamMedia work tirelessly, day and night, to make sure that every American citizen awoken right in the middle of the night ,can recite ,with no hesitation, the name of the “ENEMY OF THE PEACE”.

  3. Charon says:

    Romney even flat out said the other day he would take the US to war to prevent Iran from being nuclear. He was criticized by rational MSM journalists who know we cannot afford another war. The polls might show that Americans are concerned about Iran and nuclear weapons. Who are they polling though? Most Americans probably couldn’t find Iran on the map or otherwise know anything about it. My teenage cousin didn’t know there was a difference between Iran and Iraq. They can spin polls to suit their narrative. Wasn’t there a recent poll showing like 80% or 90% of Americans opposed to another war? The troops certainly don’t want any more. Even the masses know the wars are the reason we’re broke.

    Romney is shooting himself in the foot by saying he would go to war. It doesn’t matter if the lobby has flocked to endorse him. Donors are wasting their money, he is unelectable.

    • “Me teenage cousin didn’t know there was a difference beetween Iran and Iraq”.

      There is /was a great video on the you tube , where a guy a asked random Americans , why do they celebrate 4th of July? OMG.
      99.9 had NO fr….ench idea. Somebody even mentioned something about being freed from Germans:). It was hilarious, as well as very sad ,because it shows how deeply ignorant the average American is.
      The American, who knows how to read and write and have 100% access to all info in no time.
      Majority of Amerians don’t know geography, history languages……………etc.
      That’s why the Elite does not worry about their opinions.
      They know it is very easy to brain wash them even further.
      Then, how can you brain wash somebody ,whose brain has been already washed thoroughly.??

  4. Theo says:

    I wish no nation would have nuclear weapons, however let´s be fair:

    Which is the only nation that used such bombs to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians?
    Which nation asked the world community if they may have an A-bomb or not?
    Which nation has a lot of such weapons yet refuses an UN inspection?

    After those questions we must ask: who has the right to forbid Iran to build a nuclear arsenal? They are treatened since 60 years from all directions and they want to be in the same position as Israel, Pakistan, India and other nations, you just don´t attack a nation with such capabilities unless you are imbecil.

  5. chris o says:

    There’s something very galling about Ross departing the Administration (it was galling that Levey was part of it). I can only speculate, but it seems Ross is jumping ship for political reasons – namely, so Obama won’t use him for political purposes during campaign season. But over these years, Ross had his way and got what his side wanted: the status quo of continued settlements and permanent negotiations. The only offense Obama has given (besides having the middle name Hussein) is to reiterate the long-standing US policy regarding two states and the 1967 borders, give or take.

    Obama has been very loyal to Ross’ agenda. And now when Obama is going to want to use Ross for political purposes, Ross is gone. Since it seems the Lobby is rather harsh on Obama, is Ross under pressure to show where his true loyalties lie and thus his defection?

    Alternatively, and ominously, there is the fact that he had the Iran portfolio. With saber rattling for war with Iran in the air, it is plain that Israel wants a major military attack and the US does not. So I fear this omen of him leaving could mean Israel is going to go ahead with it.

  6. Cliff says:

    high-dollar Jewish donors

    Antisemitic! Quick, sound off the megaphone! ZioBots attack! Chargeeeeeeeeee