The Israel and lobby angle in the Syrian attack is getting more and more mainstream attention. This is great news, as it suggests that Americans will one day get to debate openly whether supporting a militaristic Jim Crow state is worth American “blood and treasure,” and whether Americans want to talk to Iran under its new leadership or threaten it.
First Jodi Rudoren in the New York Times speaks openly of the lobby’s influence:
At the same time, Israel has a powerful American lobby with bipartisan strength that could be uniquely positioned to help the White House shore up support in Congress.
Yet there were no outward signs on Sunday that Israel would attempt to influence the outcome, and numerous experts on the Israel-American relationship said it would be deeply dangerous to try…
Ari Shavit, a columnist for the left-leaning daily newspaper Haaretz, said that Israel and others in the Middle East were being left with a “feeling of orphans,” wondering “if there is still a reliable parent in Washington who is really committed, who understands what’s going on and who is willing to act.”
“It was not long ago that Jodi Rudoren could not write most of this,” says Ira Glunts. “Times have changed but the power of Israel and lobby is still
unchecked. The connection between Syria and Israel’s fight with Iran
was clear in this piece.”
Politico also speaks openly of the lobby and of the importance of Jewish members of Congress to Obama’s push– hawkish Jewish Democrats will be needed to validate the attack. (And people used to call me anti-Semitic for openly ascribing influence to powerful Jewish politicians as Jews.) Of course, Iran as a supposed enemy of the United States is central to this worldview.
The Obama administration is using a time-tested pitch to get Congress to back military strikes in Syria: It will help protect Israel…
The administration’s case that intervening benefits Israel will turn on what lawmakers hear from pro-Israel groups in their communities and from the reactions of leading Jewish lawmakers, said a senior House Democratic aide.
The Israel angle “only has a major impact if it’s getting validated from others,” the aide said. “Doesn’t have to be AIPAC writ large, but the local AIPAC lay leaders that the members have personal relationships [with] need to be validating.”
House leaders are likely to use prominent Jewish members who are hawkish on Israel as a bellwether. That group includes Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California, Eliot Engel and Steve Israel of New York, Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Brad Schneider of Illinois. Engel announced on Friday that the administration had convinced him it was appropriate to make punitive strikes against Assad, though he had been pretty clearly in the camp favoring action before that.
As we noted the other day, Politico openly addressed the potential power of the lobby for Obama’s efforts in a piece last week:
The silence [of the lobby] could be a problem for Obama, since the Jewish groups are connected across the political spectrum, wielding influence from the far right to liberal Democrats on issues critical to the Middle East — especially when it comes to the use of military force.
Finally, this was on CNN. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants a strike on Syria, as a mother and a Jew: “The concept of never again has to mean something.” The Israel angle is not explicit here. But Wasserman Schultz is speaking to Wolf Blitzer, who was also once a strong supporter of Israel. Thanks to Real Clear Politics.
WOLF BLITZER: What happens if the president doesn’t get a positive vote in the House of Representatives? What if he gets rejected there, as David Cameron did in Britain?
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Well, I feel confident that our colleagues, my colleagues both on the Republican side of the aisle as well as the Democratic side of the aisle are not going to jeopardize the credibility of the United States. I feel confident that we will have a majority of the House of Representatives and the Senate who will understand and authorize the president to engage in a limited targeted strike that ensures that our national security interests are protected, but also that he respond to atrocities, and exercise the moral leadership that the United States has always led with.
For me as a mother, to see that searing image of babies lined up, murdered by their own government, innocent children. I mean, as a Jew, Wolf, I have to tell you, as a member of Congress who represents one of the largest Holocaust survivor populations in the country, to me, the concept of never again, has to mean something. And the United States, morally, cannot turn the other cheek. Too many leaders of ours have regretted that decision.