Friday, August 14

Israel’s unprecedented interference in American politics

Americans should be concerned about Israel meddling in our domestic political conversation

WASHINGTON,  — The United States is experiencing unprecedented interference in its domestic politics by the government of Israel, which is the recipient of massive U.S. aid, the largest recipient of such aid in the world. It is unseemly for Israel to challenge the elected government of the United States.
Israel strongly opposes the recent deal signed between the U.S. and other Western countries and Iran and has made its opposition known.

In a 20-minute webcast aimed at American Jews and organized by the Jewish Federations of North America, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls upon American Jews to oppose the deal. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has pledged more than $20 million to fight the agreement. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who once said that while he had served in the U.S. Army he wished it was the Israeli Army instead, has also committed millions to opposing the Iran agreement.
AIPAC is taking all but three freshman members of Congress on an expenses-paid trip to Israel. Some see this as a move designed to sabotage the Iran agreement. The American Israel Education Foundation, the educational arm of AIPAC, has arranged for these members of Congress to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Two separate trips — one for Democrats and one for Republicans — are now under way.
The Democratic members will be led by Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and the Republican members by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
AIPAC proclaims itself an American organization, but its ties with the Israeli government make its actual status questionable. Philip Giraldi, a former CIA official and contributor to “The American Conservative,” said this:
AIPAC is an IRS 501(c)4 lobbying organization and is able to keep its donor list secret … AIPAC operative Steve Rosen once boasted that he could have the signatures of 70 senators on a napkin in 24 hours … AIPAC has an annual budget of $70 million and 200 full-time employees … There should be demands that it and similar Israel-advocacy organizations register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938. This would require them to have full transparency in terms of their funding and it would also tell the American people that the organizations themselves are not necessarily benign and acting on behalf of U.S. Interests, which is the subterfuge that they currently engage in. It is certainly past time to push back against an organization that is brazenly promoting the interests of a foreign government at the expense of the American people.

There is an implication that AIPAC speaks for American Jews, an idea it cultivates, but that has no basis in fact. Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan said, “Most polls show that Jewish Americans are the most enthusiastic about the diplomatic deal reached at Vienna between Iran and the U.N. Security Council … so the umbrella group of lobbyists supposedly dedicated to representing Jewish Americans, AIPAC, is lobbying for the deal, right? Wrong. It is not only sending lobbyists to the offices of all U.S. congressional representatives and putting them under heavy pressure to reject the Vienna accord, but it or its subsidiaries are flooding the airwaves with vicious disinformation in an attempt to confuse the American public. So my question is, in whose behalf is AIPAC intervening in American domestic politics? AIPAC is acting on behalf of the Likud government of Israel.”
In Israel itself, there is much support for the Iran agreement, particularly among experienced military and intelligence officials. Among those who have publicly expressed their support are the following:
  • Amos Yadlin, who now heads Israel’s main defense think tank;
  • a former chief of arms technology, Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, who now chairs both the Israel Space Agency and the science ministry’s research and development council;
  • a former chief of military operations, Israel Ziv;
  • nearly legendary architect of Israeli military intelligence, Dov Tamari;
  • a former director of the Shin Bet domestic security service, Ayalon,
  • and a former director of the Mossad intelligence agency, Efraim Halevy.
There are many more.
Benjamin Netanyahu represents only one segment of Israeli opinion on this subject. AIPAC is a creature of Israel’s right-wing, not of the broad spectrum of Israeli opinion, Does Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who at AIPAC’s bidding has opposed the Iran agreement, understand this? Does he understand that recent polls conducted by CNN and J Street show that the overwhelming majority of American Jews support the agreement with Iran?
He is apparently content to represent Israel’s right-wing and its well-financed American lobbying arm.
Many American Jews are expressing their dismay with Israel’s interference in domestic American politics and in the internal affairs of American Jewish organizations. Professor Paul Scham, executive director of the Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, writes in “Washington Jewish Week” (Aug. 6, 2015):
On an issue of this importance, the willingness of Jewish community leaders to kowtow to official Israeli policy against the wishes of those who they claim as their constituents is outrageous. The arguments for the deal are well known … The unanswerable capstone is the question, ‘What is the alternative?’ No convincing response has ever been given, other than Netanyahu’s facile and condescending quip, “A better deal.” As is clear now, no other nation will go along with the U.S. if it rejects the agreement and Iran will have no incentive to limit its nuclear ambitions. On the other hand, with the agreement in force, there are numerous incentives to comply with it, and Iran faces significant sanctions if it does not.

Three dozen retired U.S. generals and admirals released an open letter on Aug. 11 supporting the Iran nuclear agreement. One of these was retired Navy Rear Admiral Harold L. Robinson, a rabbi and former naval chaplain who chairs the National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces. He told The Washington Post: “As a lifelong Zionist, devoted to Israel, and a rabbi for over 40 years … I have a unique perspective … Those of us who love Israel in the United States are not of one mind and one voice on this matter. I thought it was important to represent some of the diversity within the American Jewish community.”
Whatever one thinks of the Iran agreement, and there are certainly many problems with it, the fact that a foreign government is directly intervening in our domestic politics should be objectionable to all Americans, as should the role being played by AIPAC, which gives every appearance of being an agent of that government.
Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy both believed that AIPAC should register as a foreign agent, as did Sen. J. William Fulbright, D-Ark., who served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 1985, Undersecretary of State George W. Ball declared, “On Middle East policy, Congress behaves like a bunch of trained poodles, jumping through the hoop held by Israel’s lobby.”
The time may finally have arrived for a review of AIPAC’s status, and for Israel’s government to recognize that interference in our domestic politics will not be tolerated. No other country acts this way. Neither is any other country the recipient of the massive amount of U.S. taxpayer money Israel has received — and continues to receive, more than $3 billion annually.
This is indeed a strange way for a country which calls itself an “ally” to conduct itself.

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