"Its top priority, a Senate bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, has stalled after stiff resistance from President Obama, and in what amounts to a tacit retreat, Aipac has stopped pressuring Senate Democrats to vote for the bill."
Even Abe Foxman concedes the Iran sanctions have stalled, and reporter Mark Lander says that the lobby "overreached" by pillorying Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her silence re the Obama deal with Iran. And after long silence, Hillary Clinton also knows which way the wind is blowing.
"On Monday, 70 House Democrats sent Mr. Obama a letter backing his diplomatic efforts and opposing new sanctions. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton added her voice to those urging no legislation."
Landler is no bombthrower, but he has the temerity to talk about AIPAC's "rich donor base."
"Aipac officials said that their fund-raising is at record levels and that the March meeting will be the largest in its history. The group has helped secure $3.1 billion in American aid for Israel for the fiscal year."
Money surely explains Wasserman Schultz's silence (she's chair of the Democratic National Commitee) and Hillary Clinton's fence-sitting, and an incident Landler also cites: Bill de Blasio humiliating himself to AIPAC on January 23. A few of his best friends (i.e., biggest donors) were surely in that room. I'm waiting for that reporting. But The Times mentions the long list of Jews, including many liberal Zionists, who published a letter rebuking de Blasio and saying AIPAC doesn't speak for them. De Blasio is now inching away from that groveling speech. Capital NY:
"Addressing his unannounced, closed-press speech last month to AIPAC, Bill de Blasio told Brian Lehrer this morning that he was 'unabashedly pro-Israel,' but added, 'Where I agree with President Obama is on sanctions. I think the deal that has been struck with Iran is an incredible first step.'
"During his speech to the pro-Israel group last month, de Blasio told AIPAC members, 'When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I'll answer it happily 'cause that's my job.'"
The Times also quotes a Connecticut Democratic Senator who says he doesn't care about AIPAC:
"[Christopher] Murphy said he was not worried about bucking Aipac. 'The pro-Israel community in Connecticut knows I'm a strong supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship,' he said, 'and I always will be.'"
This demonstrates what we've pointed out here for some time: The lobby is splitting. There's the right wing (AIPAC Iran hawks) and the liberal wing, the liberal Zionists (we wish they hadn't built all those settlements!). But it's not like the liberal wing is very critical of Israel; they also want it to get US billions and immunity for human rights violations. "All it takes to crush the lobby is to stand up to it," MJ Rosenberg says. Yes, but what will take its place? Other forms of the special relationship with Israel -- continued political veneration, until such time as Jewish Voice for Peace replaces J Street as the lefthand segment of the Jewish community. Till older Jewish donors, who regard Israel's creation as a miracle, are replaced by young Jews for whom anti-Semitism is a spent force.
Here is Hillary's letter to Sen. Carl Levin, saying she opposes the AIPAC sanctions bill and supports President Obama's deal with Iran. Excerpt:
"I share the opinion of you and many of your colleagues that these sanctions and the carefully constructed global consensus behind them are responsible for driving Tehran to the negotiating table...Now that serious negotiations are finally under way, we should do everything we can to test whether they can advance a permanent solution. As President Obama said, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed, while keeping all options on the table. The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that imposing new unilateral sanctions now 'would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.' I share that view. It could rob us of the diplomatic high ground we worked so hard to reach, break the united international front we constructed, and in the long run, weaken pressure on Iran by opening the door for other countries to chart a different course."
By the way, much of what Landler states in the Times re Congress -- a 30-year run of victories, with unanimous votes -- is what Walt and Mearsheimer said eight years ago, echoed by Michael Massing in the NY Review of Books. It's taken a while for that news to get out. Walt and Mearsheimer, in LRB:
"A key pillar of the Lobby's effectiveness is its influence in Congress, where Israel is virtually immune from criticism. This in itself is remarkable, because Congress rarely shies away from contentious issues. Where Israel is concerned, however, potential critics fall silent. One reason is that some key members are Christian Zionists like Dick Armey, who said in September 2002: 'My No. 1 priority in foreign policy is to protect Israel.' One might think that the No. 1 priority for any congressman would be to protect America."
Philip Weiss is a longtime writer and journalist in New York. He co-edits a website on Israel/Palestine, Mondoweiss.net, which he founded in order to foster the movement for greater fairness and justice for Palestinians in American foreign policy. He is currently working on a novel about the US in Australia during WW2.