'With Obama’s re-election looking increasingly likely, and with even a Democratic recapture of the House of Representatives looking at least possible, there is a chance that AIPAC will finally be defanged.'
Netanyahu blinked. That’s the takeaway from the goofy address by the right-wing, Cheltenham, PA-raised, MIT-educated Israeli prime minister to the United Nations General Assembly Thursday.
Prior to that address, Netanyahu had been virtually campaigning for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, hinting repeatedly on US television interviews of a pre-election attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear energy facilities, criticizing incumbent US President Barack Obama, and demanding that Obama and the US draw a “red line” on how far Iran could go in refining nuclear fuel before it would be considered essential for the US to join Israel in destroying Iran’s military infrastructure.
It was the most blatant attempt by a foreign leader to interfere in a US election in memory, but it was a bust.
American Jews have historically supported the Democratic Party by wide margins, and despite Netanyahu’s threats and bluster, and President Obama’s smack-down -- a refusal of Netanyahu’s request for a meeting during his trip to the US --that support didn’t budge. In fact, a number of leading Jewish Democrats, including powerful Congressman Barney Frank and Henry Waxman, publicly told the Israeli leader to back off and stay out of US politics. In endorsing Obama’s refusal to meet with Netanyahu, Rep. Frank said, ''The Israelis have to consider American public opinion. America's not ready to go to war until it's absolutely necessary.” He added, “I think it's a mistake from Israel's standpoint if they give the impression they're trying to push us into going to war. I don't think any pressure's going to work.''
Analysts are now suggesting that Netanyahu has backed off, even complimenting President Obama and giving him a valentine -- an endorsement before election day of sorts--saying in his UN address, “I very much appreciate the president’s position, as does everyone in my country.” This was a reference to Obama’s rather tame if ambiguous warning to Iran in his own UN address that the US would “do what we must” to ensure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear bomb.
Since Iran insists that it is not trying to develop a nuclear bomb, and since the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has declared that building and stockpiling such weapons would be “a big sin,” there should be no need for the US to do anything, then.
The important point though, for the US, for Israel, and for Iran, as well as for the world at large, is that a combination of over-reach by Netanyahu, a bumbling Republican presidential candidate and campaign, and a widespread weariness among most Americans over this country’s more than a decade of pointless, losing wars in the Middle East, have combined to seriously and perhaps terminally blunt the influence of the right-wing pro-Israel lobby in the US, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
For decades, AIPAC backing or at least acceptance was viewed as crucial by virtually any candidate, Democratic or Republican, running for national office in the US. Presidential candidates would all make a pilgrimage to AIPAC’s convention -- conveniently timed to occur just at the end of the primary season each presidential election year -- at which they would swear undying support for Israel, often asserting that Israel’s and America’s policies were “one and the same.” And for decades those policies were largely the same.
But times are changing. The Cold War, a time when much of the Middle East was either leaning towards the Soviet Union, or was adeptly playing the USSR off against the US, is over, so having Israel as a military ally is no longer necessary. Israel, meanwhile, has no oil, and is becoming increasingly right-wing and irredentist with respect to the growing Palestinian population under its control.
With Obama’s re-election looking increasingly likely, and with even a Democratic recapture of the House of Representatives looking at least possible, there is a chance that AIPAC will finally be defanged. By tying itself too closely to war-mongering, Muslim-bashing Republicans and their standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, who has gone all out for the support of ardent pro-Iran war Jews, and by allowing Prime Minister Netanyahu to barge into the presidential race and to show a preference for Romney over the sitting president, AIPAC basically put its power on the line in this election. If Romney and the Republicans were to win this November, AIPAC would become more powerful than ever, but if he loses, and if the Republicans lose, or even lose serious ground in the House and Senate, the mighty lobby will become something of a paper tiger.
Like a labor union in a dispute with the management of a global corporation threatening a strike, AIPAC’s power has always rested in its threat to be able to pour money into an opponent’s campaign and crush a candidate who did not swear to unquestioningly support Israel. But just as corporate managements learn, when they are forced to confront a strike, that they can often beat workers by waiting them out, hiring scabs, or just closing a plant down, if Obama and the Democrats discover that despite refusing to cave in to Israeli demands or AIPAC threats, they can still be elected, while those favored by AIPAC and Israeli leaders like Netanyahu go down to defeat, AIPAC will no longer be able to intimidate US political figures in the future.
No doubt there will be those who suspect darkly that President Obama has struck some behind-the-scenes deal with Netanyahu to strike Iran after the election, but I do not believe this is the case. As in Israel, the leading generals and intelligence officials in the US oppose a war against Iran, with most of the US intelligence agencies even continuing to insist that there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. And with the US economy showing signs of slipping into even worse economic decline, the last thing Obama would want at the start of his second and final term of office would be a war that would send oil prices through the stratosphere and send the global economy into a deep depression. Besides, the US can’t afford another war -- especially one that would certainly dwarf the Iraq and Afghan conflicts in terms of both blood and money.