We can all agree that yesterday was an extraordinary spectacle. Obama’s opening to Congress was a show of weakness, in Andrea Mitchell’s apprehensive response, or the beginning of a grand correction about American power and the American role. And great forces will contend on either side. Chemi Shalev writes in Haaretz that Israel and the lobby are likely to get embroiled in debate over Syria in Congress, because this is all about Iran, and the special relationship, and the US willingness to stand up for Israel’s “national interests.”
If lawmakers are allowed to vote their conscience, the campaign will see strange bedfellows and peculiar coalitions as leftist pacifists team up with Tea Party isolationists against moderate centrists and conservatives on both sides of the aisle.
In this showdown, Israel and the lobby that supports it may find themselves suddenly embroiled. Both have been careful to steer clear of taking sides and to appear neutral for fear of fueling Iraq War, Walt and Mearsheimer-style attacks that Israel and its doers in Washington were pushing America to go to war. But it is surely no coincidence that both Obama and Kerry have made a point of reiterating time and time again that in advocating a strong response to Syria, the US is looking out for Israel and its interests, by preventing the proliferation of chemical weapons and by sending a strong signal to Iran about its nuclear plans.
Supporters of Israel will likely be told that at this critical juncture, neutrality is a luxury that neither the lobby nor the Administration can afford. Time to put up or shut up, get off the fence and spend some of the precious political capital that Israel supporters have amassed in order to fight in the Washington trenches for something that most Israelis contend is crucial to their national interests.
What a fascinating definition of the American national interest: to stand up for Israel’s. The coalition of leftist pacifists and American interest types that I have long anticipated might become powerful over this question.
Notice that this great battle is framed by reference to Walt and Mearsheimer’s article and book saying the Israel lobby fostered the Iraq war. Another sign of the power of their idea (which even the Atlantic, which killed the original piece, has acknowledged) and a sign too of its suppression by the mainstream media. I’m still waiting for 60 Minutes to do the Israel lobby story, or for the New York Times to do such frank journalism about the lobby’s power in our political discourse. In another five years.
Thanks to Max Blumenthal.