There are fractures inside the Israel lobby. Lately three American stalwarts for Israel have expressed misgivings about how Israel is playing its hand, with the Israel-right-or-wrong backing of the American Jewish community. These stories are an indication that Peter Beinart’s “outsider” criticism of conservative Jewish leaders is starting to come into the lobby itself: more realistic Israel supporters fear that the hard-core types are showing hubris about their power to compel American support, and isolating Israel.
Item 1. An AIPAC leader says Israel lobbyists are so “wrapped up” in their own views they have lost sight of political reality.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee is both an Obama minion and a stalwart of the Israel lobby, but she has straddled on Iran, refusing to join the lobby’s chorus for more sanctions, also refusing to back up Obama publicly. She’s been pressured/slammed by the hard core lobbyists; and now the Forward’s Nathan Guttman reports that a leading AIPAC contributor, Michael Adler, thinks the lobby should pipe down.
Spokespersons for AIPAC and for Wasserman Schultz declined to comment on the current relations between the lobby and the congresswoman. But Michael Adler, who is both a major Democratic Party donor close to Schultz and an AIPAC activist, warned that the pressure on her reflected a desire to make the Iran sanctions bill a “litmus test on if you are pro-Israel” — a move he warned against.
“She is concerned about the criticism because she is a supporter of sanctions,” said Adler, whose own stand may reflect divisions on AIPAC’s approach even within the lobby. He described those in the pro-Israel community who criticized the congresswoman as being “so wrapped up in their own belief that they can’t recognize there are good pro-Israel people on both sides of this discussion.”
But it is that ability to be counted as “pro-Israel” on either side of this issue that is vexing activists who want to force congressional lawmakers to choose.
2. Robert Wexler suggests Netanyahu is “cavalier” about American support.
Wexler is another lobby stalwart, a former Florida Congressman who now heads a pro-Israel lobbying group. Last month, speaking on a DC Jewish panel, he issued a veiled criticism of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. Wexler supports Obama’s Iran deal, he said. And even if Netanyahu is “rightfully skeptical” and even serves Israel and the U.S. by playing the bad cop to America’s good cop, Netanyahu is wrong to call the deal a “historic mistake.”
The sharpest criticism comes at 21:00 or so:
I think it undermines [Netanyahu’s] own credibility to a degree, and unfortunately does not maximize his own administration’s ability [to participate in negotiations]…
I would offer one word of caution. The American-Israeli relationship is Israel’s greatest strategic asset, and it always will be. That’s not in question, thank goodness. My respectful advice would be to handle that relationship with due care and not in a cavalier manner.
3. The conflict “significantly harms” US interests, and the US will walk away, warns a major pro-Israel funder.
Slim-Fast mogul Daniel Abraham of Florida chairs a relentlessly-pro-Israel shop, the Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. He has published a remarkably-realist argument for Kerry’s deal in Haaretz–saying that Israel has ignored American interests, that the Israel lobby won’t be able to support it in the future, and you better cut a deal with Kerry before you become a ruptured isolated country.
This is a watershed moment after which Israel will face a completely different situation – one which will be governed by new realities much less favorable than those Israel faces today. If Kerry’s mission fails, Israel will miss a historic window of opportunity to achieve an agreement that is optimal from its viewpoint. In the future, Israel may be forced to accept a bad agreement or live without an agreement, thereby compromising its Jewish or democratic character.
If this round of negotiations fails, the United States will probably disengage from further attempts to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. The vacuum will be filled by other actors such as the UN Security Council. Unlike the United States, these actors have no great affection for Israel. Israeli interests will not receive as much positive attention as they do when Washington is in charge of the political process. …
Israel will discover that America’s patience with friends who demand its help while simultaneously ignore its interests is shorter than before. And it’s no secret that the United States believes that the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict significantly harms U.S. national security interests.
U.S. demographics are changing and as a result the automatic sympathy Israel enjoys in the U.S. has greater potential of eroding. Rather, it will be a ruptured country losing its Jewish and democratic identity and becoming increasingly estranged from its own sons and daughters, as well as from the world community.
If I’m Palestinian and I read that, why would I want to cut a deal? The terms will only grow more favorable if I hold out. As Shira Robinson shows in her new book on Israel’s foundation, Palestinian nationalists in the 50s supported U.N. partition on an equitable basis, divide the land, let us return to our homes. Why settle now for 1/5th of the pie and no return, if the power relations are about to shift in your favor?