Zbig says Israelis ‘buy influence’ in Congress and play Obama

US Politics
on 19 Comments

The discourse is opening up on the central political question involving Middle East policy-making: what is the influence of the Israel lobby? Tom Friedman’s “bought and paid for” column in the Times was huge. David Bromwich has a great piece about the Republicans up at the New York Review of Books that, echoing Friedman, speaks frankly about the role of conservative Jewish money in the Republican race.

Then there’s this from Jordan Michael Smith at Salon, interviewing Zbig Brzezinski:

He thinks the Obama administration “should have stuck to its guns in promoting a fair settlement” in the Middle East. A longtime foe of Israel’s partisans in the United States, he says the Obama team “fumbled by getting outmaneuvered by the Israelis.” Then he gets blunter: “Domestic politics interceded: The Israelis have a lot of influence with Congress, and in some cases they are able to buy influence.”Brzezinski is still a believer in the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and is hopeful that Obama will again take up the cause if he gets a second term. “He would have time and the historical immunity to do so, because he wouldn’t be facing an election.” He also thinks space has opened up in the United States to be more critical of Israel. “The American public is becoming more discriminating, and the Jewish public in America is becoming more discriminating,” he says.

The fascinating thing about this statement is that Brzezinski has always believed this stuff but he is now taking off his muzzle entirely. (I interviewed him a couple years back and sensed the self-censorship) Nothing can stop this conversation. The only question is how long the resistance to it will last. Brzezinski is right to focus on the Jewish community splitting. Walt and Mearsheimer’s analysis could not make headway till it was embraced by Jews (because we are a powerful community, because we license or delicense speech on grounds of anti-semitism). It has been embraced by Jews.

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19 Responses

  1. seafoid
    January 20, 2012, 9:00 am

    This is another good interview with him


    “Brzezinski admits he has voted Republican a couple of times in his life – notably in 1988 when he endorsed George HW Bush over Michael Dukakis. But in 2012 he would not dream of doing so. “A good election is one that would shape out in an intelligent victory by Obama,” he says. “There is no sign of that from the other side.” Which means Obama will win, I prompt? Not at all, says Brzezinski. “My fear is that two or three weeks before the election something will happen – an October surprise,” he continues. “If Iran was struck by Israelis during October, the negative effects would not be felt until late November and December. The first effect would be, ‘Ah, how wonderful. Let’s get behind the Israelis.’ Then all bets would be off.””

  2. seafoid
    January 20, 2012, 9:02 am

    The New York Review piece is superb

    “Republicans try to outbid each other in submissive postures of unconditional loyalty to Israel; the immediate pretext was Gingrich’s having said on December 9 to an interviewer for the Jewish Channel (a cable station) that the Palestinians are an “invented” people. Zakaria and his guests then passed on to the broader subject of avowals of love for Israel and unquestioning support for Likud policies:

    Zakaria: Michele Bachmann trumps them all by saying, “I went to a kibbutz when I was 18 years old.”

    David Remnick: A socialist experiment, I might remind her. A socialist experiment. You know, as a Jewish American I find it disgusting. And I know what he’s going after. He’s going after—he’s going after a small slice of Jewish Americans who donate to political funds—to campaigns and also to Christian Evangelicals. It’s—the signaling is obvious. What they’re doing is obvious. But what they’re describing in terms of the, say, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has no bearing on reality whatsoever. It’s ignorance combined with cynical politics and irrelevance. It’s really awful. It’s really awful.

    Zakaria: Do you agree?

    Peggy Noonan: Yes, I do.

    Zakaria: Gillian?

    Gillian Tett [of the Financial Times]: I do. And I think that actually given the current moves in Iran at the moment and what’s happening elsewhere in the region, that kind of rhetoric is likely to become more and more relevant going forward.

    Zakaria: And then the other place where I noticed that there is some traction is Iran. There’s this feeling, again, I think somewhat unrealistically that we’re going to be tougher on Iran. We’re going to be, so that Gingrich says he wouldn’t bomb Iran, but he would effect regime change. Good luck, you know?

    This was a breakthrough. Remnick’s comment is especially notable because it gives up the euphemism “Jewish voters” and refers frankly to Jewish donors. It is millions of dollars and not just a few thousand votes that the pandering Republicans are trawling for.”

    The right-wing coalition government of Israel is trying to secure support, with the help of an American party in an election year, for an act of war that it could not hope to accomplish unassisted; while an American opposition party complies with the demand of support by a foreign power, in an election year, to gain financial backing and popular leverage that it could not acquire unassisted.

  3. Dan Crowther
    January 20, 2012, 9:04 am

    On behalf of the other 97% of the US population: Thanks. I guess.

    • Charon
      January 20, 2012, 11:54 am

      LOL! Coming from Brzezinski of all people, perhaps his posse will actually try and do something. Or perhaps they are just words. Words run out when people stop talking, and there is a pattern of no action taken to back up their words.

    • Leper Colonialist
      January 20, 2012, 1:12 pm

      I keep getting emails about a nascent “Occupy AIPAC” movement [I think it’s from Americans to End The Occupation.]

      Your comment could be it’s tagline – “We Are The 97%.”

  4. Sin Nombre
    January 20, 2012, 9:33 am

    Apropos Walt & Mearsheimer’s analysis apparently, Phil Weiss wrote:

    “It has been embraced by Jews.”

    Well, maybe nodded to a bit here and there, but I think there’s a devilish limit on just how much they might nod to it or embrace it, and how long.

    That limit is essentially where Israel starts to really feel the hurt from its policies.

    It’s fine, that is, to nod at or even, as Tom Friedman does, endorse W&M’s hypothesis when things are just simmering, as they have been.

    Not yet tested however is when the rubber starts meeting the actual road. When, say, Israel or the U.S. attacks Iran and some missiles start coming over Israel’s borders. Or when the next intifada starts. Or when BDS really starts to bite. Or when the Palestinians finally give up their two-state fantasy and start talking one-state with equal rights.

    Yes, there’s a chance that the jewish community world-wide and esp. in the U.S. will say “Well Walt & Mearsheimer told you so,” or “you should have thought of this before pushing the U.S. into supporting your policies that got Israel into this.”

    But who believes that’s gonna happen?

    It’ll be like J-Street: Make a few mewing noises, but, say, start to talk anything like real turkey like … cutting the U.S. subsidy to Israel and forget it. Or even cutting it in proportion to the amount of new settlement expansion that’s going on. Or even just voting against Israel in the U.N.

    Nor, I predict, will it even stop there if it gets real bad for Israel. Aside from the hoards of nodders and embracers who will somehow forget their nodding or embracing of W&M and positively blaming the U.S. for Israel’s fix, the other few will still be righteously standing up at that point and saying that regardless, the U.S. *still* has some inexplicable moral obligation to save its bacon. (E.g., “because otherwise you’ll be repeating the immense sin that we have some right of declaring of you not stopping the Holocaust!”)

  5. Ramzi Jaber
    January 20, 2012, 9:51 am

    If there ever was truly intelligent foreign/world affairs statesmen in the past few decades, they have to be Pres. Carter, Pres. Nixon, and Dr. Brzezinski.

    It’s always a learning moment when I hear or read what Dr. Brzezinski has to say. His position on the Palestine issues has been a lightning rod. But since it is seen by AIPAC and the zionist christians as “anti-israel” (which it is NOT at all), he always get muzzled (or self-muzzled) in one way or another.

    True, one can see the tide turning with what Dr. Brzezinski says, with the posting of Robert Fisk, with the work of Walt & Mearsheimer, with the advocacy of Norm Finkelstein. But I can see the tide really turning when I read Jesse Lieberfeld’s essay.

    Now that’s change coming!

    • RoHa
      January 21, 2012, 6:59 pm

      If there ever were truly intelligent American foreign/world affairs statesmen in the past few decades, they have to be Pres. Carter, Pres. Nixon, and Dr. Brzezinski.

  6. dahoit
    January 20, 2012, 10:14 am

    When he says their is no hope from the other side,he tellingly ignores Dr.Paul,but what can you expect from a globalist Polish expatriate who has a history of intervention and possibly anti Russian agenda,a historical nightmare laden victim of persecution and paranoia,and everything Dr.Paul rails against with his policy of national interests trumping globalism.
    We can’t get policy from native born Americans,we have to mine old European cold war figures,or Israeli moles like Kissinger?

    • GalenSword
      January 21, 2012, 5:44 am

      For the record, the greatest hostility towards Russians are found among Poles that can trace their origins to Czarist Poland. Poles from former German Poland have greater animosity toward Germans and ethnic Ashkenazim, who often acted as native collaborators while Poles with origins in the (Catholic) Austrian Empire are less like to evince such prejudices.

      The Austrian Polish Brzeziński family, to which Zbigniew belongs, in particular has a record of strong philosemitism.

  7. Avi_G.
    January 20, 2012, 10:55 am

    I don’t see this influence in Congress changing any time soon.

    The national discourse has been contaminated and polluted with rhetoric and nonsense that render an informed citizenry impossible. In other words, how is the average American supposed to distinguish between support for Israel and resisting the Threat of Creeping Sharia’™? For many, the two are analogous.

    Similarly, the American public has been conditioned to accept without question the convergence between US interests and Israeli interests. Sure, US government officials have in recent years made it clear that an attack on Iran is not in the interests of the United States, but those voices are few and far between.

    Israel is still seen as a wall that protects the West from the ‘hordes of barbarians’ in the East. And in that respect, Israeli Hasbara has succeeded.

    • Charon
      January 20, 2012, 12:28 pm

      Cover your wives and daughters, then take away their voting rights… Sharia™ is coming to an American city near you! HAHA!

      I agree, Avi_G. The majority of Americans are conditioned from childbirth to have very little, if any time to think for themselves. The typical cycle for many folks is sleep, wake, shower, eat, coffee, commute, work, eat some more, overtime, eat again, Jersey Shore, NFL, Modern Warfare 3, random Internet browsing nonsense, sleep, repeat, etc. Doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for independent thought. They’re at the mercy of what little media exposure they receive, and the majority of it is likely mainstream sources. The pro-Israeli rhetoric.

      Every American should be concerned about the convergence between US and Israeli interests. I’ve met people who are concerned about the convergence between US and Canadian interests, and this was before the Stephen Harper regime. Living next to the Canadian border most of my life, other than English/French packaging, currency, different brands, and the metric system, I pretty much thought Canada was the same thing as the US if it wasn’t for that whole border thing. When fear mongering over the “Amero” thing came up, I didn’t get it. Maybe the Mexico part, but not Canada. It would be nice to not exchange currency, I’m forever stuck with a glove box full of Canadian money I never spend and am too lazy to convert locally.

      Israel on the other hand people have to issue in treating like the 51st state except it is not the 51st state, is not a US common wealth, and is not the same as the Israel in scripture that several useful idiots have confused it for because they share the same name. The name Israel refers to a person, a people, and a place in scripture. Many people (Christians and Jews alike) believe they are the ‘children of Israel’ and therefore identify with the modern militarized Apartheid occupation of Palestine. Not the same thing, not at all. The confusion is killing people (literally)

  8. Krauss
    January 20, 2012, 11:29 am

    Has Walt & Mearsheimer been embraced by Jews? Not even close.

    But we’re reaching a critical mass in the intellectual class, among those Jews, who do. Joe Klein, Friedman, Remnick(to Haaretz, but not to his American audience).
    They know they cannot embrace them outright, it would be like embracing Soros on Israel, but they are using their language and thus implicitely endorsing their view vs the AIPAC crowd.

    I think this is happening in part because the book W&M released was true way back too but it was released very late, so the deterioation had taken a new, deep plunge after the 2nd intifada and this intensified with the twin occurance of Netanyahu coming to power and Gaza’s civilians being attacked.
    The effect was that you didn’t need 20 years for a sudden, quiet ‘a-ha moment’. The book was proven right not only by the ferocious debate and extraordinary smears thrown at them both, but also in the way Israel handled itself in the last 5 years and America’s total inability to do anything about it at all.

    I also think that the people getting involved here are folks like Adelson, a supremacist if I ever saw one. This isn’t your moderate liberal Zionist who rationalizes away the oppression of Palestinians by lying to himself. Adelson revels in the oppression and asks for more, and I think this lack of at least an appearance of morality, and the fact that Adelson is so close to Netanyahu rips away the liberal fig leaf for many Jews in the media who are both liberal and call themselves Zionist.

    It’s just harder for them to stand up for Israel when Bibi is in power and Adelson is the most powerful media figure there, and seeing him propping up the Republicans. Suddenly there is a shock: wait a moment, aren’t we all liberals here, or at least moderates? Nobody of us would vote for Gingrich, then why is the most powerful backer of the Israeli PM doing it?

    And after this thought, you get results like Friedman’s column and Remnick’s despair.

    Still, Tablet Mag smeared Mearsheimer as a quasi-Nazi. Jilani got booted.
    The conversation is moving, perhaps, but still very slowly.

    I don’t think it’ll be in time to save the 2SS, if it can even be saved by now, which is highly unlikely.

    • Danaa
      January 20, 2012, 2:20 pm

      Krauss: “I don’t think it’ll be in time to save the 2SS, if it can even be saved by now, which is highly unlikely.”

      It is well past midnight on that clock, alas. Liked your comment on W&M being both a little too early and a bit too late.

      Agree on the gist of what you say and will raise you one; I believe that we are going through a period of adjustment to the fact that the 2 state is out (and the 1 state is not yet allowed “in”). This realization is creeping in under the surface but the ones who most hung on to that “solution” have not yet come to terms with the repercussions of what that actually means.

      I am counting on Netanyahoo to hasten that realization, since he cannot but be triumphant. But I do wait with some dread for what’s to come next, when our dear liberal zionist friends can no longer hang to that fig leaf. Unfortunately, this intellectual class has not been trained in the ways of courage, moral or otherwise, and I wouldn’t expect most of them to find spine where the worms wriggle. So where will they find shelter from the gathering storm clouds?

      As I look out into the near future, peering through the clouds, I find little cause for optimism, human nature being what it is. Wish I could share Phil’s optimism. But history teaches us that schisms can be ugly indeed and a great one is in the offing, and many of us, entire countries even, may be caught in it.

      This, BTW, is one reason I find the Wittys of this world valuable as barometers – he who has nothing on anyone in the department of cowardice. Let’s watch him discombobulate as the ill winds blow in. It’ll be an interesting sight, if nothing else. BTW, I note that he started preparing whether he realizes or not. As is Wondering Jew (by his wandering absence he wonders and ponders). As are the likes of Bernard Avishai (busily dusting off his hebrew republic most furiously, as he slowly bids good-bye to the illustrious, “almost there” Olmert/Abbas “plan”). As is Larry Derfner, lamenting, tormented, licking his wounds.

      • ToivoS
        January 20, 2012, 6:23 pm

        I agree that MW might have been a bit too late, but not that they were too early. 2006 was a critical year with the neocons building momentum to go to war against Iran. MW successfully put the spot light on the lobby at that critical time. The case for war reached a peak in 2007 but when decision time came the entire Bush cabinet (excepting Cheney) were opposed to attacking Iran.

        Today we seem to be building up another Iran war hysteria but it is now being led quite openly by Israel and her American backers. They are completely out of the closet today. We can thank MW for this.

  9. Kathleen
    January 20, 2012, 3:12 pm

    Zbig has always been one of the more honest and out spoken heavy hitters on the I/P issue, Iran etc. Now his daughter is another issue. Mika just seems to go along. Clearly not as brilliant as her father.

    This morning she said that Gingrich’s response to Kings question about his former wifes allegations was a “hit out of the park” Chris Matthews said a similar thing about Gingrich’s arrogant and sociopathic attack. I felt like I was listening to a guy who had beat his wife blame his wife and the media for his actions and then the crowd applauded for heavens sake. Says a great deal about South Carolina (where I have spent a fair amount of time) Gingrich feeding the racism still alive and well in that state

  10. Kathleen
    January 20, 2012, 3:14 pm

    Lots of interviews with Zbig at Diane Rehm over the last 10 years where he really comes out on the I/P issue. The man was questioning the validity of the intelligence before the invasion of Iraq along with Ritter, McGovern, Hersh, El Baradei and a pack of other heavy hitters

  11. Real Jew
    January 20, 2012, 5:48 pm

    Ive been saying this for a loong time. Obama is much more logical and fair minded in regards to the I/P conflict than he has displayed in the past 3 years. Previously, I posted a comment here stating that Obama would conduct ME foreign policy in a brave and balanced manner had the current political climate (presidential race) allowed him to do so without sucking up to powerful and unavoidable pro Israel forces. But I was met with much skepticism from other commentators. Im glad others are starting to catch on.

  12. Justice Please
    January 22, 2012, 7:25 pm

    “The discourse is opening up”

    Still mostly in print. But Americans mostly watch TV, so that medium has to be next. Glenn Greenwald needs a regular show on a major channel, Steve Walt, maybe even Phil Weiss. Then you have the attention of enough people. I hope the day comes.

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