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Assassination splits Israel supporters on party lines

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Trump’s decision to assassinate a leading Iranian official in Iraq yesterday has contributed to the split inside the Israel lobby in the United States. Republican Israel supporters celebrate the killing, and see it as destroying the hope of saving the Iran deal. Democratic Israel supporters question the decision, and some are very critical.

Thus the killing seems to have advanced a process that Israel supporters have lamented in recent years: the politicization of Israel support, which has opened up political space to critics of Israel.

Early today, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unreserved in hailing Trump. The president acted “swiftly, forcefully and decisively” in supposed self-defense, just what Israel does, Netanyahu said. Rightwing pro-Israel organizations have also embraced the assassination. The neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies sees a tremendous upside in the attack. One of its fellows, Reuel Marc Gerecht, says, “This ends any possibility of nuclear negotiations.”

But Democratic supporters of Israel have voiced mild to harsh criticisms. Even the hawkish Eliot Engel says the assassination will have “unpredictable” consequences and endanger the lives of Americans around the world. Speaking on the Senate floor, Chuck Schumer criticized the decision as thoughtless and possibly illegal, leading to a “potentially endless conflagration in the Middle East.”

Schumer went on, “The risk of a much longer military engagement in the Middle East is acute and immediate. This action may well have brought our nation closer to another endless war.”

Another Israel supporter was even more scathing. Sen. Chris van Hollen of Maryland says the attack could close “the door on the Iran deal.” In a speech on the Senate floor, he also said the attack makes Americans less safe and blames “warmongering ideologues.”

Schumer and Van Hollen have J Street at their back. The liberal Zionist organization now can say that it represents the majority of congressional Democrats (with Nancy Pelosi and Schumer appearing at its recent conference); and its statement on the killing is strong and vehement:

J Street is deeply alarmed by the Trump administration’s targeted assassination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani. This highly dangerous step, taken without congressional authorization, could trigger a disastrous escalation costing the lives of thousands and lead our country into a devastating new war of choice in the Middle East….

Congress must now take immediate, decisive action to prevent a new war which the American people do not want….

That statement does include the Democratic Party talking point of blaming the targeted general, Qasim Suleimani, for the deaths of hundeds, but it is emphatic in denouncing the attack.

[T]he assassination of such a senior figure is an extremely reckless step taken by an out-of-control administration that has repeatedly signaled its contempt for diplomacy and its interest in provoking an armed conflict with the Iranian regime. Carrying out a strike that is likely to be viewed as an act of war, without explicit congressional debate or authorization, shows flagrant contempt for the Constitution.

David Harris of the American Jewish Committee is enraged by the liberal Israel lobby. He tweets:

To those lambasting US action against #Soleimani, what was your alternative plan?

To allow him to continue to kill & terrorize across region—& plot against Americans?

Or maybe to dialogue w/ him about peace & coexistence?

Or to seek arbitration?

Or to pray for his redemption?

Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street responds by lauding the Iran deal, or JCPOA.

To @DavidHarrisAJC and others asking “what alternative” there was, I say world safer when Iran, US engaged in diplomacy, limiting Iran’s nuclear program and moving away from war than w/ ME on brink of war, US isolated and Iran ginning up centrifuges. Alternative clear + better.

Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition also lands angrily on Ben-Ami:

whoa, what? are you seriously arguing that Soleimani started his reign of terror and destabilzation only after we pulled out of the JCPOA? That’s awfully naive. In fact he was doing it WHILE we were negotiating and after the deal was signed and in fact, aided by $150bil cash.

Ben-Ami responded that “you celebrate an extrajudicial assassination w/o Cong notice or authorization, intl support or legal authority.” He then cited a thread by Elissa Slotkin, a Democratic congresswoman from Michigan and former White House security aide to Bush and Obama and a strong supporter of Israel. Slotkin’s thread is very hawkish and deep-state, though in the end critical of the assassination given the likelihood of severe retaliation. An excerpt:

What always kept both Democratic and Republican presidents from targeting Soleimani himself was the simple question: Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?

The two administrations I worked for both determined that the ultimate ends didn’t justify the means.

Clearly some Democrats and centrist Israel supporters back the assassination. Josh Gottheimer, a new hawk in the Democratic Party, pretty much applauds the action. (As does a leading rabbi, David Wolpe of Temple Sinai in LA, who gave the benediction at the Democratic convention 8 years ago but loves what Trump did.)

The wedge here would seem to be the Iran deal. The partisan divide that emerged in 2015 inside the Israel lobby over the deal has become more bitter and partisan with Trump’s apparent willingness to do whatever Netanyahu and Sheldon Adelson want him to do, from moving the embassy to recognizing the Golan to tearing up the Iran deal.

Chuck Schumer was one of four Dem senators to vote against President Obama on the Iran deal, but has said since that he supports it as a matter of stability.

Trump took an extreme action yesterday to demolish the deal forever. In doing so, he also further undermined bipartisan support for Israel.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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20 Responses

  1. weiss on January 3, 2020, 4:35 pm

    Step 1:

    Drumpf – Impeached & humiliated

    Step 2:

    Satanyahoo – Indicted then asks for Immunity

    Step 3:

    Start WW3 as a tactical diversion and to implement Marshall Law, thereby voiding the US Constitution – Israel doesn’t even have a Constitution, so they’ll just kick down more doors with middle of the night roundups…

    Step 4:

    Successfully Engineer Prophecy all according to the Biblical Script so the Sheep will follow – Pompeo & Pence’s Glorious Rapture???

    Step 5:

    Everyone Loses unless we stand up for what is right, before it’s too late (note: it may already be too late).

  2. eljay on January 3, 2020, 6:40 pm

    Trump’s decision to assassinate a leading Iranian official in Iraq yesterday has contributed to the split inside the Israel lobby in the United States. Republican Israel supporters celebrate the killing, and see it as destroying the hope of saving the Iran deal. Democratic Israel supporters question the decision, and some are very critical. …

    Regardless, both Republican and Democratic Israel supporters remain in agreement that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to embrace it the “right” to be supremacists, to have a supremacist state and to do “necessary evil” unto others.

  3. wondering jew on January 3, 2020, 9:44 pm

    Those who hate Israel and hate Trump very often seem to like the ayatollah’s in Iran and thus this assassination is wrong to them on all levels.
    I like Israel and hate trump and hate the ayatollah’s. the hatred of trump makes this action suspect. there is no feeling of security that Trump knows what he’s doing. he’s had more than one secretary of state and countless (3 or 4?) national security advisers. his gut is against war, but his primary foreign policy stance is confusion, fighting trade wars and a stance against Iran, there’s no consistency, who is the voice of reason or restraint in the room, is there anything but impulse involved? is this just a mood? is it even sincere?
    i question its wisdom, but hating iran, and hating hezbollah, i hate this guy too and so the emotion of “killed you, you arrogant SOB” is one of the emotions aside from worry.
    the war against iraq was unwise and tilted the region in Iran’s direction and there seems to be no long range plan to tilt the region away from Iran’s direction given the disgust of most Americans with foreign entanglements and so since there is no strategy, there is no way to make sense out of it, given trump’s combination of isolationism and incoherence.

    • eljay on January 4, 2020, 5:35 pm

      || wondering jew: … hating iran, and hating hezbollah, i hate this guy too and so the emotion of “killed you, you arrogant SOB” is one of the emotions aside from worry. … ||

      So what you’re saying is that it is entirely acceptable for governments of countries like Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, etc. to target and assassinate Israeli and American officials – people they deem to be dangerous to their interests and/or “arrogant SOBs”.


      You Zionists are astonishingly pro-murder.

      • oldgeezer on January 4, 2020, 6:42 pm

        Let’s not forget this murder cheerleader is a liberal zionist. They say the right things but they’re equally supportive of murder and other evil acts as the right wing. Dead bodies are just the unfortunate but necessary cost for them.

      • eljay on January 4, 2020, 7:25 pm

        || eljay: … You Zionists are astonishingly pro-murder. ||

        I’m kidding, of course. Supremacists are unastonishingly – and always hypocritically – pro-murder.

    • RoHa on January 4, 2020, 8:48 pm

      Goodness! What a lot of hating.

      Yonah, I think you should lie down in a darkened room with a damp cloth over your eyes for a while.

      Then, perhaps, you could tell us, with punctuation, why you hate Iran, Hezbollah, and the late General.

    • Misterioso on January 5, 2020, 11:12 am

      @wondering Jew

      Sigh. Spare us the bafflegab. Anyone with reasonable knowledge of the subject understands full well that the forced creation of the Zionist (and still borderless) entity referred to as “Israel” between the River and the Sea predicated on foreign Jews’ carefully planned (going back to the late 19th century) dispossession, oppression, occupation and expulsion of the indigenous Palestinians was and remains the major blunder of the post WWII era. The good news is that the Zionist project will not survive!

      • mondonut on January 6, 2020, 1:18 pm

        @Misterioso , Zionist (and still borderless) entity

        The borders between Israel, Jordan and Egypt – demarcated and agreed to by treaties are not borders?

  4. Talkback on January 4, 2020, 4:38 am

    Rabbi David Wolpe:
    “I remind you of the sage words of the Talmud: those who are kind to the cruel will end up being cruel to the kind. How many more would he have murdered?”

    Rabbi David Wolpe is obviously troubled by the question how kind everybody is to cruel Israeli soldiers, generals and political leaders and ask how many more are they going to murder.

    Not the first time Nonjews can could learn from the Talmud, right?

  5. Vera Gottlieb on January 4, 2020, 10:24 am

    And israel in this too up to it’s elbows???

    • PaulMerrell on January 4, 2020, 11:54 pm

      Pepe Escobar: “According to my best Southwest Asia intel sources, ‘Israel gave the U.S. the coordinates for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani as they wanted to avoid the repercussions of taking the assassination upon themselves.’”

      • echinococcus on January 5, 2020, 1:57 pm

        Of course. The MO is no different than the Iraq war, the Libya war, the Syrian war, any amount of other hits. The instruction sheet can be read in the Pnac plan.

        They want to avoid the repercussions of taking the aggression upon themselves, as it says. Zios need to keep all their shiny weapons, paid by US and operated by American emigrants, for murdering unarmed civilians.

  6. Misterioso on January 4, 2020, 10:35 am


    Recently released movie: “Official Secrets,” 2019, re the U.S., Bush Jr., Tony (Toady) Blair, et al and the 2003 invasion/occupation of Iraq based on since revealed lies, the resulting slaughter of about 250,000 Iraqis, massive destruction and the dispossession of millions, which eventually led to current events.

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but have been told by reliable sources that it is excellent, accurate and needless to say, most timely.

    Hopefully, we will not be disappointed.

    • RoHa on January 4, 2020, 8:51 pm

      Your “et al” is an insult to my country.

      John Howard deserves to be hanged just as high as Bush and Blair.

      • Misterioso on January 5, 2020, 11:15 am


        “John Howard deserves to be hanged just as high as Bush and Blair.”

        No argument!!

  7. RamboDave on January 4, 2020, 2:46 pm

    The assassination of Maj.Gen. Soleimani was the neocon’s last “hail Marry” attempt to start a war with Iran. The neocons are on the radar now of the American people.

    Trumps’ actions will now be the major campaign issue in the up-coming election. War with Iran will now be what Bernie Sanders and progressives run against. Democrats can smell the blood, because Americans are tired of these wars.

    For the next nine Months Trump will have to defend himself from the war monger label now hung around his neck. Trump’s defense of his actions will lead to a fracture in his base and his ultimate defeat in November. Trump is now backed into a corner. He won’t dare escalate this into a war, and the Democrats know this.

    The long overdue debate is just beginning. And it will be very good for Iran and Iraq and for all of us on the planet, because Trump will be defeated.

    If the Iraqi Parliament votes on Saturday to ask the US military to leave their country, it is all over for the neocons.

    The 400 US soldiers that Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani has been accused of helping to kill 15 years ago, after our illegal war of aggression on Iraq, was justified and completely legal under the United Nations Charter as an act of self defense. General Soleilani merely help Iraqis rid their country of 400 US war criminal occupiers.

    Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani has not died in vain.

  8. James Canning on January 4, 2020, 6:53 pm

    Not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal applauded the assassination of the Iranian general. Foolish American policy in the Middle East is almost always highly lauded by the WSJ.

  9. Citizen on January 4, 2020, 8:58 pm

    Anybody notice the mainstream tv news channels discussing Trump’s hit, US foreign policy re tactics and strategy, have not even mentioned Israel? Not have they mentioned AIPAC or Trump’s biggest individual donors: Adelson, Singer, Markus? All of them with Israel as sole agenda by their own admission.

  10. gamal on January 5, 2020, 3:55 pm

    “Trump’s decision to assassinate a leading Iranian official in Iraq yesterday has contributed to the split inside the Israel lobby”

    it is perhaps not necessary to consider who outside the imperial centre the USA has now offended, but I wonder if Labaykh labaykh ya Hussain ya Hussain might not soon be going to be up there with Allahu Akbar as a foreign phrase for Americans to dread, the shia are the people of sacrifice, ahlulbayt,
    everyday is ashura everyday is ashura every land is Kerbala, American insolence is astonishing.

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