Foreign Policy CEO David Rothkopf doesn’t believe there’s an Israel lobby but he says that this year’s presidential election will damage it, and he’s right. His logic: There is no Israel lobby, it’s just a bogey man invented by prejudiced people (read, anti-Semites); but for some darn reason Romney believes that the Israel lobby has influence, and by playing to it so crudely, he’s about to demolish the perceptions of the Israel lobby’s power, because Obama’s going to win bigtime, and Obama defied the so-called lobby.
Rothkopf’s best points involve Obama’s defying the lobby on Iran:
the Obama administration bravely kicked off last week with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s outright rejection of the idea of red lines, a strong message that they would not be bullied, even in an election year, regardless of the political consequences. This was further underscored later in the week when the Obama administration allegedly rejected a meeting with Netanyahu. The rejection was leaked by the Israelis hoping the lobby would be outraged. The administration held its ground, in part because they knew something that Netanyahu did not: American Jews do not vote as a monolith, they don’t vote Israel’s interests first, they don’t like foreign leaders trying to meddle in U.S. elections, and the polling results show it. Since Romney and Netanyahu first started making their play to harness the power of “the lobby,” their standing in the polls has slipped. In Florida, Obama has gained ground since this effort started
But Rothkopf denies that there is a lobby:
And here we see the perils of believing your own hype — apparently Bibi and friends actually believed the idea of the all-powerful Israel Lobby. Whether through Romney’s bald-faced pandering to that perceived lobby with his ugly comments about the cultural inferiority of Palestinians or, more shockingly, through Netanyahu’s decision to take sides in the 2012 presidential campaign, they seem to think that if they can portray Obama as “weak on Israel” they will materially advance their own causes…
In short, this year is getting off to a good start for those of us who have always found the notion of some dark Jewish conspiracy of super-K Streeters to be laughable. Jews are just as divided, just as sometimes impotent and sometimes successful as anyone else…
…when it is none other than the prime minister of Israel who proves once and for all the limitations of the lobby and, by November, will have proved that estimations of Jewish political influence of all types are overstated, well, then that’s something worth celebrating….
And if the myth [all you bigots who believe the lobby exists] survives the drubbing the facts are giving it this fall, well, then it will at least prove once and for all that it is what many of us, like Jeff Goldberg and I, have been arguing for a long, long time: The Israel Lobby is just another boogie monster cooked up to serve the nasty agenda of people all too eager to sacrifice the truth on the altar of their prejudices.
This is horse manure. Yes, this will be a great defeat for the lobby. The extraordinary demonstration against the Jerusalem plank at this year’s Democratic Convention is also evidence that informed Americans don’t want what the lobby is selling. But Romney believed the lobby was important. He went to Jerusalem, he pandered. Why did he believe this? The man is a professional politician. George W. Bush believed the lobby was important; and he did the opposite of his father, who complained about the lobby and lost his job the next year– and the son appointed the lobby to countless positions. Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle. There is plenty of evidence that Netanyahu deployed the lobby to great effect. Obama once called for an end to settlements. Now he has backed away completely. Why? Because he believes the lobby must be placated. When the Jewish Week speaks openly of the battle between Romney and Obama for Jewish donors and “Israel-focused campaign cash”, it is describing a traditional source of political power that Rothkopf won’t mention.
Rothkopf is simply too empowered to be lecturing anyone else about how “impotent” Jews are. Yesterday he was on the front page of the New York Times, quoted in a puff piece about his friend and former roommate, Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., in which we learned lots of fun positive human facts about Oren. Jeffrey Goldberg, another Oren “friend” who like Oren moved to Israel from the States (he’s since come back), was also quoted. Rothkopf surely thinks this was good, straight journalism, because it serves his vanity to believe as much. No: it’s the Times bending over backwards to please a Zionist establishment constituency, as Antony Loewenstein said last night at the Brecht Forum, in smashing that piece to bits. If as Rothkopf claims in his piece, Jews are a neutral force in US politics– “Jews are just as divided, just as sometimes impotent and sometimes successful as anyone else” — then why is it that the most leftwing person the Times quoted was Jeremy Ben-Ami, the ardent Zionist and son of a former Irgun member who leads J Street? Does Rothkopf publish any anti-Zionist Jews at the site of which he is CEO, Foreign Policy? No; the only diversity on this question in the establishment is shades of vehement support for Israel, which is why the choice is between Romney’s kick-the-peace-process-can down the road versus Obama’s pretend not to do the same, but also kick the can down the road policy.