Obama's Congress Victory and Israel – Dr. Josef Olmert/HuffPo
The big fight is over, and President Obama is the clear winner. Where there is a winner, there are also losers, and in the case of the Iran nuclear deal, the losers are the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, but also the cause of stability in the Middle East. There are two groups of people who have developed the myth of the all-mighty AIPAC.
One were the International Relations theorists Walt and Mearsheimer, the writers of the infamous book, The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy , published in 2007, and their supporters, claiming in the best tradition of conspiracy theorists, that AIPAC had a dominant say in shaping American Middle East policy, the other are those whom I call the Israeli [not the Indian …] Congress Party, mainly from the Right Wing, who somehow developed a similar idea, that AIPAC really had some magical influence in Congress, being able to stand up even to very determined American Presidents. A prominent member of this party in Israel, is none other than P.M Netanyahu. Well, myths, like old habits, die hard, so those who are infatuated with their theories may continue to cling to them, but the truth is, that AIPAC has never been SO influential, and while being an effective and successful lobby group, in the best American tradition, it did well when it managed to garner a bi-partisan support on behalf of the pro-Israel causes.
Here is where it went wrong this time. The Netanyahu Congress speech is the original sin, a fact which was discussed and analyzed extensively in this blog ever since it was known that there would be a speech. Who cooked up the bizarre invitation to the P.M. to deliver the speech, whether Republicans law-makers, AIPAC professionals or the P.M himself is irrelevant, and what was relevant in early 2015 and surely now is the notion, that this was a political maneuver which was intended to embarrass the President, as part of the congressional partisan in-fighting. And so, to start with, the pro-Israel community lost its biggest asset, that of the bi-partisan support. The fact that there are only two Democratic Senators who expressed their objection to the Iran deal is more than just a signal to the pro-Israel community. It is a collective slap in the face of this community and a political development which
may have crucial and negative implications. The traditional pillars of Democratic Party support for Israel were not there at the moment of truth, and these are many Jews as well as representatives from states with a significant Jewish population.
The other big mistake of the anti-nuclear deal was its absolute character, all or nothing, without any in-between alternative, something which played to the hands of the White House and its supporters, arguing that the opponents of the deal meant a military conflict with Iran, while not daring to say it out loud, and war is not popular, need it be said even? By refraining from any dialogue over alternatives, the stark choice presented by the White House seemed so much more credible than the arguments of the opponents.
Still, the pro-Israel community is not over and done with. It will not surprise me to see many Democratic law-makers who will vote in favor of the agreement, coming up with pro-Israeli initiatives on other issues, as well as being very receptive to Israel’s security needs. A lot depends on the reaction in Jerusalem and among the opponents of the deal in congress. The former will be advised not to engage in a verbal battle with the Administration. The fact that there is a majority in Congress, though not big enough to override a Presidential veto, is a significant political asset. It is also the case that the opponents of the deal should not give up on the Democratic Party. To do so will be a terrible political mistake, even bigger than the initial mistake of the Congressional speech and the circumstances leading to it in the first place.
The truth is on the side of the opponents of the agreement, because this is a bad deal, one which dangerous to the national security of the U.S. and many of its Middle East allies, and not just Israel. The impending visit of the Saudi King in Washington will provide an opportunity to present explosive data about the involvement of Iran in terrorism and regional destabilization efforts. Yes, there is an agreement, it will be not derailed by Congress, but there still are many ways in which the ill-effects of it can be exposed, something which may not bring down the agreement altogether, but can improve the process of supervision of the Iranian nuclear plan. Even the repercussions of a defeat can be mitigated if the current losing side will not lose its head, adapt itself to the reality of the situation and try to lessen its potentially disastrous results.