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Former AIPAC official warns against US ‘retreat’ from Israel’s ‘permanent reality’– conflict

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The author of the famous statement that the Israel lobby is a “night flower,” former AIPAC official Steven J. Rosen at Foreign Policy explains how painful it is for the lobby to have to come into the sunlight on the Syria question. But the risk of silence was too great, losing a precedent for American military action against Iran:

Pesident Barack Obama’s decision to make Congress decide on the course of the Syrian intervention has put the pro-Israel camp just where it did not want to be: openly advocating American military involvement in the volatile Middle East. It’s a calculation based on the lesser of two evils, the greater being risking Washington’s withdrawal from leadership on global security just as Iran crosses the nuclear threshold. No one has a greater stake in a strong United States — and the credibility of America’s deterrent capability — than Israel and the Jewish people. Indeed, many of the arguments that motivate the president’s opponents on Syria could also apply in the event that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities becomes necessary.

Rosen is rightly fearful that the American public will see this as a war for Israel:

Yet this is a debate about the American national interest, and most American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) supporters do not want it to degenerate into a debate about Israel. Most agree with former Israeli Ambassador Itamar Rabinovitch that, “It’s bad for Israel [if] the average American gets it into his or her mind that boys are again sent to war for Israel.”

Paralyzed by these fears, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC supporters in Washington remained nearly silent for weeks,… [T]hey remained quiet even after Obama indicated that he was preparing a military strike. They did not want to be drawn into a political melee in a deeply divided Congress, risking strains in the bipartisan support for Israel that forms the bedrock of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

And though I often think our views at this site are marginalized, note how our drumbeat about the neoconservative and lobby support for the Iraq war has helped define the US discourse among Democrats, per Rosen:

…Israel’s detractors never cease asserting that the Iraq War was fought on Israel’s behalf, and that belief has eroded support for Israel on the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Rosen seeks to explain the power of the lobby, without talking about the money that it gives.

As a White House official told the New York Times, AIPAC is “the 800-pound gorilla in the room” because it has close relations with and access to a vast array of members on both sides of the aisle and on all sides of the debate. Simply put, the president has staked a lot of political capital on the gambit to sway Congress on his Syria plan — and he needs AIPAC’s support….[T]he main thing is the mobilization of AIPAC’s vast network of trusted “key contacts” to speak privately with members they know well.

Rosen is afraid of “isolationism” and “a wider U.S. retreat in the Middle East…. [that] would certainly undermine the campaign to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program.”

Apparently retreat is what most Americans want now. They don’t see any profit in our continuing engagement in unrest, one root of which is the lack of acceptance of Israel, an occupier.

Rosen is reduced to pro-Israel doctrine, it lives in a terrible neighborhood and doesn’t have security (Hey, who chose Palestine?):

Americans and Brits are far away, but Israel’s permanent reality is that it lives in that very bad neighborhood, faced with an existential crisis and a Syrian civil war in danger of spiraling out of control. That is why, while Americans are divided on the issue, an overwhelming majority of Israelis are hoping President Obama will prevail.


The permanent reality. So that means war after war after war. No wonder Americans are balking at this vision for the future.

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31 Responses

  1. Krauss
    September 5, 2013, 9:35 am

    Notice the spin though: Obama ‘pushed’ Israel into doing something it doesn’t want, and by extension AIPAC, but only because Israel is such a good little poodle it will obey it’s master.

    The reality is that Israel has been lobbying for this for a long time – but as usual it wants American blood and treasury to be spent, not it’s own – and Obama simply demanded that at least they expense political capital, and now the lobby is making great and dramatic gestures as if this is a huge problem for them.

    If you’ve been reading Israeli media, they’ve all been heckling Obama and demanding that he bombs Assad, and preferably yesterday.
    Obama’s merely asking the mere minimum from them and even this causes great anguish.

    There’s a good word for this, I can’t remember it right now…
    Ah, wait… chutzpah.

  2. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    September 5, 2013, 9:48 am

    So Rosen wrote this for Foreign Policy magazine. I have a question. Is Foreign Policy fact-checked? Because there’s a big brazen lie that leaps out at me: Rosen’s claim that Iran has a “nuclear weapons program”, that Iran “is crossing the nuclear threshold”, that Iran is “completing its nuclear weapons program”, etc etc.
    All lies. Iran has no nuclear weapons, nor a program for obtaining them.

    Iran has a program for enriching uranium, which they are entitled to do, under the non-proliferation treaty, a treat which Iran has signed and followed.

    Rosen cleverly refers to Iran’s “nuclear program”, deliberately blurring the difference between nuclear weapons and nuclear power for generating electricity.

    Iran has signed the non-proliferation treaty. Israel, on the other hand, has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. And Israel does have hundreds of nuclear weapons.

    When the US built its first nuclear weapons in the 1940’s, the Manhattan Project employed over 100,000 people. So a program of that size could not be disguised. It’s not like a few scientists and engineers could put it together in an overlooked laboratory.
    On two different occasions, US intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran has no program for obtaining nuclear weapons.
    But the Israelis, and their supporters, keep planting these stories in the media about Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons.

    Once again, my original question: is Foreign Policy magazine fact-checked? Doesn’t look like it!

  3. irmep
    September 5, 2013, 10:09 am

    Rosen owes the Obama administration his freedom. Absent DOJ political appointees that reigned in his Espionage Act prosecution, there’s a good possibility that he and his coworker would be sitting in a jail cell after they passed purloined classified information to their Israeli “diplomat” friends.

    Obama can rest assured that, just like the Reagan administration after the sordid Iran-Contra affair went south, Rosen will always be there with unsolicited advice to further the interests of his Israeli principals.

    • Kathleen
      September 5, 2013, 1:52 pm

      I forget how quickly Obama and holder dismissed the Aipac espionage trial. Obama must have promised Harman, Saban to get their support once he won the nomination.
      “this conversation never happened”

      • irmep
        September 5, 2013, 2:22 pm

        It kind of set the table for zero AIPAC accountability.

      • Kathleen
        September 5, 2013, 2:40 pm

        sticking to tradition

    • tear-stained uzi
      tear-stained uzi
      September 8, 2013, 3:43 am

      … Rosen will always be there with unsolicited advice to further the interests of his Israeli principals.

      LOL — I think you misspelled “Israeli principles,” as in: lie, threaten, mislead, manipulate, cheat, steal, kill, etc.

      I don’t understand why Rosen thought whining in FP about ‘Night Flower’ AIPAC’s painful ‘sunburn’ would help matters, though.

  4. seafoid
    September 5, 2013, 10:25 am

    “Israel’s permanent reality is that it lives in that very bad neighborhood, faced with an existential crisis and a Syrian civil war in danger of spiraling out of control”

    “In 1976, Saul Bellow wrote: “No one is at ease in Zion. No one can be. The world crisis is added to the crisis of the state, and both are added to the problems of domestic life.”

    Israel can’t live in a state of permanent war. It requires far too much American political support .
    The notion that Israel can procrastinate with the Palestinians indefinitely is another dud. Israelis are too afraid of peace.

    Re : living in a bad neighborhood- Israel is like the drug king moaning that the middleclasses have all moved out

  5. American
    September 5, 2013, 10:43 am

    If c-span callers are any example it is wide spread knowledge now, at least among news followers, that most US policy and actions in the ME are for Israel.
    I didnt listen to the entire program (this was yesterday) but heard one caller after another complain that this was another war ‘for Israel’.
    Also in looking at comments on everything from Yahoo to WP and other news blogs the majority of comments cite Israel as the main reason for
    US intervention in the ME in everything. And for anyone who thinks a good % of the public doesnt understand the Iran factor for Israel , that was cited also.
    There were some that had also caught onto the Saudi factor in this but they werent as numerous .

    • tear-stained uzi
      tear-stained uzi
      September 8, 2013, 3:48 am

      FWIW, I’ve also noticed this trend. Even spotted critical, well-informed comments on Fox News stories!


  6. seafoid
    September 5, 2013, 10:47 am

    AIPAC warns that if the US doesn’t DO SOMETHING Israel will shoot itself in the foot. I think it’s quite a flawed negotiation strategy.

    • ritzl
      September 5, 2013, 10:51 pm

      Straight out of Blazing Saddles. “Don’t shoot or…”

  7. iResistDe4iAm
    September 5, 2013, 11:26 am

    The Israel Lobby vehemently, categorically and unequivocally denies the existence of the Israel Lobby, EXCEPT when some members of the Lobby reluctantly admit what everybody else knows and what Walt and Mearsheimer documented — That not only does the Lobby want more wars, but it wants and will get the United States to fight those wars for Israel.

  8. American
    September 5, 2013, 11:56 am

    Israel is doing fine as the US pimp.
    It’s US whore has finally found a paying john now.
    (Sorry, couldnt think of a less crude way to put it.)
    rs →

    Arabs (Saudis and Qataris) Will Pay for Syria War

    Posted on September 4, 2013 by WashingtonsBlog

    SecState John Kerry said at today’s congressional hearing that Arab counties have offered to pay for regime change in Syria:
    ”With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes. They have. That offer is on the table.”

    ”That’s how dedicated they are at this. That’s not in the cards, and nobody’s talking about it, but they’re talking in serious ways about getting this done.”

    • Walid
      September 5, 2013, 1:11 pm

      Nice people; Arabs offering to pay to have other Arabs bombed.

      • Citizen
        September 5, 2013, 2:09 pm

        Saudi Arabia and that handful of tiny Gulf oil statelets have nothing going for them except lots of oil to pay through the nose for less cutting edge weaponry we gift to Israel with interest. The chief purpose of all that military hardware is to fence in their own people. Nasty little clan regimes with very backward cultures. But they all support whatever the USA desires. Egypt did too, until recently, where ambiguity has grown because Egypt is more of a democracy than Saudi Arabia or the tiny Gulf Oil statelets. An important point is Dick and Jane have no romantic notions about them; they are viewed as just oil resources. Israel, we all know, along with its 5th column here, have cultivated Paul Newman in Exodus and its prodigy.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        September 5, 2013, 2:49 pm

        @Walid- – I think it is regrettable that Iranian leaders did not see ahead, and recognise that ill-conceived posturing about Iran’s nuclear programme would likely bring about civil war in Syria.

      • tear-stained uzi
        tear-stained uzi
        September 8, 2013, 4:49 am

        How exactly did Iranian “posturing” “bring about civil war in Syria?”

        There are a plethora of causes, but most significant are severe drought going on 6+ yrs, subsequent crop failures, massive displacement of subsistence farmers and rural villagers into urban areas, the Assad regime’s short-sighted selling of the country’s wheat reserves during a hot market (and mid-drought), and ultimately, violent repression of civil unrest by unemployed and starving Syrians. I just don’t see the hand of Ahmadinejad & the Mad Mullahs in this.

        Here’s one link:

        Syria: Climate Change, Drought and Social Unrest

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        September 8, 2013, 1:55 pm

        @Tear – – I am well aware of the economic problems etc etc etc in Syria that brought on the demonstrations etc that, badly handled, brought on civil war. That said, elements in Saudi and other Gulf countries worried about war in the Gulf, and considering the need to take out Syrian gov’t, exploited the opportunity presented in Syria BECAUSE they feared possible war in the Gulf.

  9. DICKERSON3870
    September 5, 2013, 1:41 pm

    RE: Rosen is afraid of “isolationism” and “a wider U.S. retreat in the Middle East…. [that] would certainly undermine the campaign to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program.”

    MY COMMENT: And, “isolationism” and “a wider U.S. retreat in the Middle East” on the part of the U.S. would threaten Israel’s colonization of the West Bank. We can’t allow that! ! !


    ● FROM Prevent an Attack on Syria Now
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    If you reside outside the United States, you can still sign this petition by clicking HERE.

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    LINK –

    ● FROM Say “No!” to US strikes on Syria!

    • Citizen
      September 5, 2013, 2:13 pm

      @ Dickerson
      Thanks for giving us those petition & govt rep urls. I used them all. And spread them via Facebook and Twitter. We really need to exert ourselves to get across to our political leaders this pending third war train in the Middle East, invisibly caboosed
      by attack on Iran, is the worse thing for America and the world generally.

      • DICKERSON3870
        September 5, 2013, 5:26 pm

        You’re quite welcome.

    • DICKERSON3870
      September 5, 2013, 5:24 pm

      Tell Congress: Don’t Attack Syria
      We have already delayed an attack on Syria, and forced the President to ask Congress for authorization. The next step in preventing war is to get Congress to deny permission for war. Add your name to this petition, and I will deliver it to your Member of Congress. Your voice matters.
      TO SIGN –

  10. James Canning
    James Canning
    September 5, 2013, 2:47 pm

    What utter nonsense, that there is a “risk” of US “withdrawal” from global “responsiblity”. Absurd.

    • American
      September 5, 2013, 11:06 pm

      James Canning says:
      September 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      What utter nonsense, that there is a “risk” of US “withdrawal” from global “responsiblity”. Absurd.>>>>>

      Not entirely. The realist corner has been saying ‘pull back’ for awhile now.
      You are seeing in this Syria deal the US public finally getting very hot and bothered about all their blood and treasure being used for the Washington Elite’s master’s of the universe role.
      One interesting thing going on I didnt expect to see is how both some liberal and conserative media outlets are dragging out examples of past lies US Presidents and adms have played to trick the US people into war.
      On MSNBC tonight they had a whole program on the lies of Ragean and how he actually ‘deliberately supplied’ Saddam with chemical gas to use.
      Before that Hans Blix was on talking about the fake intell that the Feith and Rumsfeld pentagon tried to palm off on the UN.
      Also featured was Johnson’s lie about the Gulf of Tonkin.
      So people not even old enough to remember this stuff are getting a earful of why they shouldnt trust a damn thing they are told by ‘anyone’ in DC.
      If Obama and the other elite politicos are fool enough to ignore this pubic ground swell against their agenda and get involved with Syria despite the outcry, then you can probably say hello President Rand Paul.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        September 8, 2013, 7:40 pm

        @American – – My focus was on continuing determination of the US to ensure Iran does not build nukes.
        There is an effort by some promoters of attacking Syria, to convince US Congressmen that Iran will build nukes if the US fails to attack Syria.

    • American
      September 5, 2013, 11:38 pm

      @ james

      BTW…..scroll down the page and take a look at the map of US bases and outpost in Africa.
      If the regular cable news ever started covering even half of what the US is doing and spending around the world while DC is *sequestering* Americans and letting their country fall apart—-then you’d see ‘Isolationism’ on steriods.
      The Pivot to Africa
      The Startling Size, Scope, and Growth of U.S. Military Operations on the African Continent

      “If the proverbial picture is worth a thousand words, then what’s a map worth? Take, for instance, the one created by TomDispatch that documents U.S. military outposts, construction, security cooperation, and deployments in Africa. It looks like a field of mushrooms after a monsoon. U.S. Africa Command recognizes 54 countries on the continent, but refuses to say in which ones (or even in how many) it now conducts operations. An investigation by TomDispatch has found recent U.S. military involvement with no fewer than 49 African nations.”

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        September 8, 2013, 7:42 pm

        I lean toward the “absurd squandering” angle. And foolish US “defence” spending.

  11. gracie fr
    gracie fr
    September 5, 2013, 7:28 pm

    The British had no fear of opening challenging the Israeli lobby nor its past usage of white phosphorous ( definitely a chemical weapon) during their own Parliamentary debate…..

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