Romney brags to donors and Bill Kristol: I’m briefed by Israelis

The question must be asked, Why is Mitt Romney willing to adopt the most hawkish positions on Israel, now bragging about being briefed by Israeli officials on foreign policy? Because there is no political liability. Because he knows that Obama won’t attack him from the center, let alone the left, and maybe cause the issue to hurt him, because in fact Obama is trying to run on Romney’s right on the issue.

Ron Kampeas reports for JTA:

Mitt Romney told donors attending his campaign’s Utah retreat that he is briefed on the Middle East by Israeli government officials.

About 50 of the 700 donors who attended the retreat this weekend in Park City were Jewish, according to one in attendance.

..,Romney dropped in on the session, and said he had just been briefed by the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, speaking about, among other issues, the situation in Syria, the elections in Egypt and the effort to isolate Iran.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the Republican presidential nominee, said he has such conversations with Israeli officials to be kept up to date on the region.

Such briefings are not an unusual once it becomes clear who the major party candidates are…

Addressing the U.S.-Israel session were William Kristol, a founder of the Emergency Committee for Israel which recently ran ads accusing Obama of not doing enough to stop Iran; Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary, who is Jewish; and Norm Coleman, the former U.S. senator from Minnesota, who is also Jewish.

To attend the retreat, donors either had to have donated $50,000 to the campaign or had to have raised $250,000.

The answer to my question of why Obama can’t take Romney on but actually runs to Romney’s right is that the only political community either Romney or Obama believes cares about this issue is the Jewish community (and yes, for Romney, some evangelicals) and both candidates believe the Jewish community to be reactionary on the question, as I do. So Obama won’t attack Romney on the issue because he is afraid of losing Jews. Despite J Street’s organizing, and Peter Beinart’s bravery, there is no significant fracture inside the organized Jewish community to support even the mildest criticism of Israeli expansionism or militarism.

Years ago Jeff Halper explained this best. He said that Barney Frank came over to see the settlements and was deeply disturbed and said I agree with you but I can’t go public against it unless “you bring me the names of 5000 Jews in my district that support you… If you can’t do that…. I’m not going to commit political suicide for the sake of the Palestinians… “

One of the bravest most liberal Democrats is afraid of rightwing forces inside the overwhelmingly-Democratic Jewish community on the question. As Obama is afraid.

The politics of this issue won’t even begin to shift until people in the mainstream open their mouths. Chris Matthews has to begin to actively question our Israel policy. But Matthews is afraid to open his mouth the same way tenured Nobelist Paul Krugman is afraid.

As MJ Rosenberg explained years back, When Jerrold Nadler stands up at a press conference and says hawkish things about Israel, nobody, but nobody questions him. He never faces any political price. As any public person will tell you, getting sharply questioned on something at events makes you think there’s a constituency out there that is listening. But that’s not happening on Israel/Palestine.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, Media, Neocons, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

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

  1. getting sharply questioned on something at events makes you think there’s a constituency out there that is listening. But that’s not happening on Israel/Palestine.

    hmm. we have to change that.

  2. lysias says:

    Years ago Jeff Halper explained this best. He said that Barney Frank came over to see the settlements and was deeply disturbed and said I agree with you but I can’t go public against it unless “you bring me the names of 5000 Jews in my district that support you… If you can’t do that…. I’m not going to commit political suicide for the sake of the Palestinians… “

    If that’s what Barney Frank really believes, why did he do this, after he announced he was ending his political career: Barney Frank and Gary Ackerman push Obama to free Pollard?

    • ToivoS says:

      If that’s what Barney Frank really believes, why did he do this,

      Simple answer to simple question: Frank was telling Jeff Halper what Jeff Halper wanted to hear. That is what politicians do every day. Now that he is out of office he can say what he really believes and that is Frank is a Zionist. And as we know Pollard is one of their martyrs who deserves support.

  3. Ramzi Jaber says:

    “I’m not going to commit political suicide for the sake of the Palestinians… “ and “Matthews is afraid to open his mouth the same way tenure Nobelist Paul Krugman is afraid.”.

    I doubt anyone needed yet another reminder of the massive and disproportionate influence that zionist money and power have over the lives of each and every US citizen. But here it is again, thank you Phil!

    The foundation of US democracy – one person, one vote – is seriously threatened when a tiny group of people yield a huge amount of power OUTSIDE the ballot due to their money. It is not sustainable to have 2% of the population control the majority through money. That majority will one day wake up.

    Palestinians, Arabs, and Moslems are not really into this US “political” game. We don’t understand it. We never grew with it. We don’t really relate to it… yet. The criminal zionist regime, on the other hand, was born into this US political game, they have its DNA… that’s just because the founders of the zionist criminal regime came from western regions, mainly ashkenazi jews with western ideas and democratic lineage. So they played well into that western system and have exploited it to the hilt.

    BUT fundamental change is happening now… the zionist criminal regime is being flooded by “non-ashkenazi, easterner” zionists (sephardic, mizrahi, maghrebi, and of course over 1 million russian jews who live in the zionist entity today) who have not grown up in democratic/western/liberal countries. These are less and less adept at playing the western game (exhibits: the bouncer lieberman and the fanatic ovadia). On the other hand, Palestinians/Arabs/Moslems are learning the western game and are increasingly starting to play it. In the US, there are almost 3 millions moslems (about 1% of the US and less than 0.2% of the world total) while there are 5 million jews (about 2% of the US and almost 40% of the world total). The global influence in favor of the Palestinian cause is clear and evident, and will start seriously impacting US policies due to increased globalization and commerecial imperatives of a non-white world population and a non-white US majority expected by 2050. Coupled with the Arab Spring that has just started (and will not be complete for a decade), more change and “re-balancing” will occur in favor of Palestinians especially as more criminal Arab dictatorships fall just like Mubarak’s did, soon to be followed by Jordan, Saudi, and the others, opening the door for the people to truly support the causes they care about as opposed to enriching the personnal accounts of the criminal rulers.

    • ColinWright says:

      ‘…The foundation of US democracy – one person, one vote – is seriously threatened when a tiny group of people yield a huge amount of power OUTSIDE the ballot due to their money. It is not sustainable to have 2% of the population control the majority through money. That majority will one day wake up…’

      For starters here, you’re mistaking the enemy. Whatever one thinks of Jewish Neo-Cons and wealthy donors, the electoral locus of support for Israel lies with Evangelical Christians, not Jews. That can readily be ascertained from Congressional voting records. It is the representatives from districts with a lot of Evangelicals, not the representatives from districts with a lot of Jews, that offer knee-jerk support for Israel.

      This matters. Once one realizes that it is the Evangelical Christian community that is the backbone of US support for Israel, that affects both the target and the nature of the counter-argument one should offer. However irrelevant it may be to you, the crux of the matter is to break the notion that Scripture offers support for the Israel that exists today. As long as that notion is there, Evangelical support for Israel is going to be unwavering. Once it’s gone, Evangelical support for Israel will evaporate. They’ll go worry about abortion and school prayer.

      You want to win this fight, you have to wage it over the meaning and application of obscure passages from a text about a religion you probably don’t even believe in. That may not appeal, but you have to decide: are you in this for its recreational value, or to win?

    • ColinWright says:

      “…BUT fundamental change is happening now… the zionist criminal regime is being flooded by “non-ashkenazi, easterner” zionists (sephardic, mizrahi, maghrebi, and of course over 1 million russian jews who live in the zionist entity today) who have not grown up in democratic/western/liberal countries. These are less and less adept at playing the western game (exhibits: the bouncer lieberman and the fanatic ovadia)…”

      Your understanding of the historical distribution of Ashkenazim leaves something to be desired — but what you claim about the shift in Israeli tactics ties into something I’ve noticed.

      If one goes back to about the beginning of the Second Intifada, Israel used to be really deft. I recall being constantly infuriated by her ability to devise courses of behavior that would at one and the same time both appear to be perfectly reasonable to the casual external observer and be certain to goad the Palestinians into a white-hot fury. I might not have liked her, but I had to admit — Israel was good at what she did.

      No more. Now it’s just naked, brute oppression. It’s like the change from watching a skilled butcher to seeing somebody just go after the carcass with an axe. The roots of this change are uncertain — but your explanation’s as good as any I’ve come up with.

      Anyway — while I’m sure the recipients of the axe blows feel differently — it’s all to the good. At the end of the day, Israel is incredibly vulnerable. If everyone’s snouts can just be firmly rubbed in what she really is, it’ll all be over.

  4. Keith says:

    PHIL- It isn’t just Romney who boasts of his Israeli connections. During the South Ossetia war, Georgia’s US supported President Mikheil Saakashvili did the same. To a reporter’s question about Jews who have fled the fighting and come to Israel, he said: “We have two Israeli cabinet ministers, one deals with war [Defense Minister David Kezerashvili], and the other with negotiations [State Minister for Territorial Integration Temur Yakobashvili], and that is the Israeli involvement here: Both war and peace are in the hands of Israeli Jews.” The article later describes Yakobashvili as “A former Zionist leader who speaks fluent Hebrew.” link to haaretz.com

  5. Avi_G. says:

    Since Israel is part of the union, Netanyahu should simply run in the presidential elections.

  6. ColinWright says:

    Sigh. It’s not much, but I’d probably vote for Romney over Obama if it wasn’t for Israel and his position on Iran.

    So his position has cost Romney at least one vote. There is a distinction between policy that is simply unwise and actual evil. Whatever I think of Obama’s inanities, I can’t choose evil instead.

    Romney is a weak candidate. Sort of a Republican’s John Kerry — and Mormon to boot. I know conservative Christians who simply will not vote for him for that reason.

    However, Obama is even weaker. Watching these two and the American electorate is like watching a girl confronted with a choice between two hideously repulsive suitors. She has to pick one — but which?

    The real problem with this is that one of these days we’re likely to get a Prince Charming. Prince Charmings are actually pretty dangerous. They’ve a disastrous track record.

  7. radii says:

    Romney to israeli Fifth Columnist masters:
    I’m rich! So when you say ‘jump’ I don’t have to ask ‘How high?’ or ‘How fast?’ because I can afford a trampoline and rocket boots!

  8. Les says:

    For those who are left with any doubts that the Israel Lobby has grown up to be Israel’s fifth column in the US.

  9. Jimmy Carter, in a NY Times op-ed, writes that the U.S. Government now regularly violates the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and then includes a number of things that are obvious:

    The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

  10. radii says:

    welcome to the new normal

    brought to you by the War On Terror

    in order to Protect the Homeland

  11. ColinWright says:

    The horrible thing about Romney’s adoption of the position that he should ask Israel’s advice when it comes to the Middle East is that he’ll probably do just that.

    It’s an out for him. He’ll never seriously look at an issue in the Middle East. He’ll just ask Israel.

    And given Israel’s needs and track record, that’s an ominous prospect. In fact, I can’t think of a policy more fraught with danger for us.

    • lysias says:

      He says the same thing about military matters like Afghanistan: he’ll ask the generals.

      • ColinWright says:

        I wouldn’t go so far as to say I trust generals — but I do indeed believe that they have America’s best interests at heart, even if only according to their own lights.

        It’s almost absurd to believe the same of Israel.

  12. piotr says:

    This is a really challenging question: how one should structure the relationship between the only remaining superpower and its most cherished, if somewhat diminutive ally. I think that the current model is well described in the famous aria “Miya sama” (I skip the initial gibrish):

    Mikado.
    From every kind of man
    Obedience I expect;
    I’m the Emperor of Japan —
    Katisha.
    And I’m his daughter-in-law elect!
    He’ll marry his son
    (He’s only got one)
    To his daughter-in-law elect!
    Mikado.
    My morals have been declared
    Particularly correct;
    Katisha.
    But they’re nothing at all, compared
    With those of his daughter-in-law elect!
    Bow — Bow —
    To his daughter-in-law elect!
    Chorus (they bow and sing)
    Bow — Bow —
    To his daughter-in-law elect.
    Mikado.
    In a fatherly kind of way
    I govern each tribe and sect,
    All cheerfully own my sway —
    Katisha.
    Except his daughter-in-law elect!
    As tough as a bone,
    With a will of her own,
    Is his daughter-in-law elect!
    Mikado.
    My nature is love and light —
    My freedom from all defect —
    Katisha.
    Is insignificant quite,
    Compared with his daughter-in-law elect!
    Bow — Bow —
    To his daughter-in-law elect!
    Chorus (they bow and sing)
    Bow — Bow —
    To his daughter-in-law elect.