The cascade of Democratic senators supporting the president on the Iran Deal continued today, with Heidi Heitkamp of N. Dakota, Mark Warner of VA, and Cory Booker of New Jersey. Seven senators remain undecided, per the Forward.
Booker is the big prize of course. He is bucking his political mentor Sen. Robert Menendez and his old friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Booker’s statement is long and agonized and includes many arguments against the deal. “With this deal, we are legitimizing a vast and expanding nuclear program in Iran.”
Booker wants to give Israel bunker-busting bombs as a means of enforcement of the agreement. And he ends with a lot of talk about the Holocaust and Israel:
Some of the most painful, difficult and influential conversations I have had about this deal have been with valued and trusted friends from the Jewish community who have family members who survived or died in the Holocaust….
To be clear: when Iranians chant death to America or pledge themselves to the destruction of Israel, I take them at their word. My Jewish friends and others I have talked with are correct: Iran is an existential threat to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people.
While I may differ with many friends on the choice this deal presents us — and I do believe that this deal presents the better path of two options to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — we share precisely the same goal. I am united with all who are determined to ensure that we never again see genocide in the world.
Boteach calls the decision “tragic.” Writing on Facebook, he says “Cory is my soul-friend and no matter of policy will ever get personal or come between us,” but it would seem that the friendship is busted, and that Booker isn’t taking Boteach’s calls.
Cory never even once condemns the Iranian promise to exterminate the Jews of Israel or distance himself from a deal which he admits will legitimize a genocidal regime.
Boteach ends saying he can’t trust Booker:
Cory references his visit to Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum in Jerusalem, when he was 25, a trip that I arranged trusting that he would absorb the never-ending Jewish struggle for survival in a world inhabited by the kind of evil represented by the Iranian regime. … I subsequently introduced him to Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and the three of us even held a public speech together in NYC in 2009.
I realize that amid his troubling and tragic choice to support this agreement, Cory pledges to be “united with all who are determined to ensure that we never again see genocide in the world.”
But I remind him about the famous and prophetic words of Elie Wiesel, whom I had asked Cory to meet with to discuss this deal, “We have learned to trust the threats of our enemies more than the promises of our friends.”
The Washington Post has an excellent report on the biggest setback in a generation to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC. It quotes the liberal Zionist group J Street’s spox, Dylan Williams, saying that the rightwing lobby has lost “blood” on this battle, and contends that AIPAC lost the game when it went along with a “debacle,” Israeli PM Netanyahu’s scheme of speaking to a joint session of Congress in March urging them to defy their president. Karoun Demirjian and Carol Morello report on the pressures Israel put on Jewish congresspeople.
Congress’s Jewish lawmakers came under some of the most intense pressure from anti-deal activists…
While he isn’t sure if AIPAC could have improved the dialogue, [Tenn. Rep. Steve] Cohen said “the tenor was set when Netanyahu came to speak to Congress without the president’s knowledge and/or approval.”
“Having him come and try to influence the members of the Congress and lobby against what the president was working on, set the tenor,” Cohen continued. “Netanyahu should not get himself involved in American politics in the future, and AIPAC played a stronger hand than they should have.”
Other congressional aides pointed out that Israel’s unprecedented direct lobbying efforts against the deal by Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer worsened AIPAC’s position by association.
“There are a lot of people whose reaction to the Israeli ambassador’s lobbying was not a positive one,” said one Democratic aide to a Jewish lawmaker….
While AIPAC and Israel’s activities were not coordinated, some members of Congress felt the group was tacitly endorsing the Israeli government’s increasingly political line.
“They burned their bridges with Democrats before they got into this,” said a Senate aide who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly about AIPAC’s apparent failure.
“They were silent and a little complicit in the Netanyahu debacle. They were just standing by when it happened. They spent down their political capital before they got up to this effort.”
Message: the dual loyalty thing was a real issue in people’s minds, not a canard; and it bit AIPAC in the butt.
The Guardian also has a story about AIPAC’s loss of power. J Street’s Dylan Williams says that it has lost its power to threaten a lawmaker’s job. Even though fundraisers were canceled because of support for the deal, he says.
what has changed is that the fear of retribution no longer provides a deterrent for moderate Democrats tempted to resist the influence of Aipac.
“Sometimes resistance to the deal went into the realm of express threats of a political nature; fund raisers were cancelled after members of Congress came out in some cases [for the deal],” claims J-Street’s Williams.
“Yet once you take a stand and not only survive to fight another day but do so with even more pro-Israel backing than you started out with, that has the effect of vanquishing this finely-crafted myth that there is a terrible political price to pay by going against Israeli government policy.”
The fundraisers: It’s always been about money. The lobby is now trying to threaten moderate Dems who supported the deal. But today’s cascade shows that the Dems are not afraid. Rightwing Zionists have the Republican Party, liberal Zionists have the Democratic one, and a fight on their hands with those of us who want to end the special relationship.