The neoconservative threat to Iran negotiations is being staunched as we speak. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez announced today that he won’t sponsor legislation for more sanctions on Iran until March 24 at the earliest. Jamal Abdi of National Iranian American Council reports:
Menendez confirms letter signed by Sens that they won’t vote to pass new sanctions until after March 24 if theres no framework agreement
At a Senate Banking Committee hearing Menendez said, “Many of my Democratic colleagues and I have sent a letter to the president telling him that we will not support passage of the Kirk-Menendez bill on the Senate floor until after March 24 and only if there is no political framework agreement.”
He said he and his Democratic colleagues “remain hopeful” that there will be a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue. But Menendez said they are “deeply skeptical” about Iran’s commitment to making concessions that would show that its nuclear program is peaceful by the deadline international negotiators have set for a framework agreement.
Remember that Menendez last week said that Obama’s State of the Union speech sounded like “talking points from Tehran.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is sticking by the president. Brown “comes out strongly against new sanctions; cites progress of interim deal in halting Iran program,” reports the head of Ploughshares.
More pushback against the neocons. Last week David Corn said that House Speaker John Boehner’s move to invite Netanyahu to upstage Obama’s state of the union policy on Iran was “nearly traitorous.” MJ Rosenberg echoes the meme: “American Traitor.” And Buzzfeed picks up Louisville, KY, congressman John Yarmuth saying it’s “close to subversion.” What a theme, national interest. Yarmuth also says that AIPAC and many Israel supporters demand dual loyalty: “we defer to Israel more than we defer to the United States.” The emperor doesn’t have a lot of clothes on here!
Yarmouth is 67 and Jewish, a former journalist. He spoke on progressive radio, the Stephanie Miller show:
“I am totally outraged at Speaker Boehner for doing it, I think it’s, it was deliberately designed to undermine the president — that’s close to subversion. I cannot believe it. Forget the protocol issues, that by itself is certainly a problem, but the motivation behind it is what particularly outraged me.”
Yarmuth describes the power of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in Congress:
“And, you know, I was there in the chamber in 2011, when Netanyahu spoke, and there he got I don’t know how many standing ovations. And I was in Israel shortly thereafter, and believe me, the Israelis pay very, very close attention to events like that. And I just — the first thing out of virtually every Israeli’s mouth was: ‘What was with all the standing ovations?’ And I said: ‘Well, AIPAC was meeting in Washington that week, and the gallery was full of AIPAC members, and every one of the members all wanted to see — make sure that their constituents saw them stand up.’ Well, that was kind of a phony reaction, but the Israelis took it very seriously. And so it can have an impact on the election — and, yeah — totally inappropriate on so many levels….
“A lot of it has to do with fundraising — I’m sure some of it is sincere support for Israel. You know, I’m a Jewish member of Congress, I’m a strong supporter of Israel, but my first obligation is to the Constitution of the United States, not to the Constitution of Israel. [P.S. Israel has no constitution] And unfortunately, I think, some of the demands that are made of members by AIPAC and some strong Jewish supporters are that we pay more attention — I guess we defer — to Israel more than we defer to the United States.
“And that’s another thing, because if he’s going to come over here and say ‘well, my intelligence shows this’ — you know, there’s an implicit, I guess, admission — or not admission, I guess concession — that Israeli intelligence is superior to American intelligence. I’m not ready to sit there and endorse that kind of proposition, and I suspect he will, basically, talk about things like that — you know, try to match their assessment of the situation against ours. And I’m not willing to believe theirs is superior.”
Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin has landed on Yarmuth: “J Street Ally Promotes Anti-Semitic Slander”
Rep. John Yarmuth, who told radio talker Stephanie Miller that the invite was “close to subversion” and accused the bipartisan pro-Israel majority in Congress of dual loyalty. That should leave the Jewish group that has embraced Yarmouth—the left-wing lobby J Street—with some questions as to whether they are prepared to draw a line between their own campaign against Netanyahu and slander of Israel and pro-Israel members of Congress…
Tobin says that the comments are almost as bad as Tom Friedman’s comments on the Congress being “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”
Neither Yarmuth’s faith nor his relationship with J Street can justify these remarks. They are an echo of the worst sort of anti-Semitic stereotypes put about by Israel haters. Like the authors of the Israel Lobby smear and others who seek to discredit the bipartisan across-the-board pro-Israel coalition in Congress, Yarmuth fails to understand that support for Israel is part of this nation’s political DNA. It transcends party politics or region.
But if it was in the country’s DNA, the lobby wouldn’t be running a pressure campaign to make sure that the issue isn’t politicized and that politicians are sewn up. They would let support for Israel become a political football, the same way that say, civil rights are politicized, knowing they have a majority. But the lobby is losing power, to judge by Yarmuth’s indiscretion. And the political consensus is beginning to splinter at the edges. As Jim Zogby writes at Huffpo:
Those pundits who suggest that Boehner’s action threatens to make support for Israel into a partisan issue miss an important point–it already is a partisan issue and is becoming more so with every passing year.
Oh and Netanyahu’s former ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, sees that splintering taking place. He’s urged Netanyahu to cancel the speech lest it hurt Israel–
so as not to cause a rift with the American government. Much responsibility and reasoned political behavior are needed to guard interests in the White House.
Yes, you can’t trust the American people to support Israel without some guardianship.
Oren is running for Knesset in Israel on a centrist ticket. His successor as ambassador, Ron Dermer, reportedly cooked up the Netanyahu invitation.
Oh and Code Pink is organizing an email campaign to pressure Democratic senators to support Obama on Iran negotiations.
Thanks to Annie Robbins.