A few years ago the Israel Lobby was worried. Barack Obama was winning an election against John McCain, and that worried them because Obama had spent the Democratic primary posturing himself as a peace candidate who was opposed to the Bush legacy in the Middle East. The Bush Doctrine, which entails unilateral preventative war, forcing regime change on countries that have harbored terrorists, and spreading democracy throughout the Middle East at the point of a bayonet, so to speak, could have easily been named the Israel Doctrine. Every American military action in the Middle East during the Bush years was for the direct benefit of Israel, significantly moreso than it was for the benefit of the United States.
A man much smarter and accomplished than I recently stirred up controversy with his scathing column on the divergent interests of the United States and Israel. Most Americans don't realize quite how humiliating the Israel Doctrine is to the United States and its reputation. Take, for example, Ehud Olmert's boasts after the US did an about-face on a Gaza cease-fire resolution at the UN in early 2009. The story:
European diplomats, UN officials and a senior PA official all said Thursday that as of last Friday night it was clear to almost everyone that the U.S., like the other 14 Security Council members, would vote for the softened resolution. They said Rice had promised as much to her European colleagues.
In Jerusalem, however, officials went to sleep thinking the Americans had only agreed to support a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire. At 1 A.M., final confirmation came from New York: The U.S. had promised that no cease-fire resolution would be brought to a vote any time soon. An hour and a half later, however, it became clear that not only was the Security Council due to vote on a cease-fire resolution at any minute, but Rice had ordered America's UN ambassador to support it. Olmert promptly telephoned U.S. President George Bush to complain about Rice's behavior and demand that he restrain her. What Bush said to Rice remains unknown. What is known, however, is that the U.S. suddenly changed its vote from "yes" to "abstain."
Olmert then bragged about Israel's disproportionate influence on American policy and his own stranglehold on the American presidency:
Olmert told the crowd that when he heard a Security Council vote was to come in 10 minutes, he tracked down Bush, who he was told was speaking in Philadelphia. According to Olmert's account, Bush left the podium to take his call.
Olmert said Bush told him he wasn't familiar with the text. But Olmert said he told the president: " 'I'm familiar. You can't vote for it.' [Bush] gave an order to the secretary of State, and she didn't vote for it."
Bush's behavior--directly undermining the interests of the country he was sworn to protect, in favor of a foreign body--is nothing short of treason. As the 2008 election was winding down, the Israel Lobby worried that Bush's presumptive successor may not be so willing to bend over for Tel Aviv.
This brings us to June 2008, when both Obama (who had just secured the necessary delegates to win the Democratic primary) and McCain went before AIPAC and battled to see who could lick more dirt off of Israel's boots. McCain's speech was predictable enough, focusing heavily on American adventures in Iraq, which he admits were greatly beneficial to Israel, and stirring fear that Obama would act "regardless of Israel's security." Obama's speech, on the other hand, was shocking to many observers. In hoping to quell any concerns about his commitment to Israel, he declared it his policy to "ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat," that "Israel's security is sacrosanct," and said he "will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel." He also proposed billions more in foreign aid to Israel. Everyone in the room could see the writing on the wall: Obama will submit to Israel's will when it conflicts with American interests.
Now, a few years after the events described above, the Israel Lobby is upset with Obama and has its apparatchiks on the attack in establishment journals. His crime? He publicly questioned Israel policy in the West Bank and Jerusalem over Jewish settlements. The Washington Post writes that "PRESIDENT OBAMA'S Middle East diplomacy failed in his first year in part because he chose to engage in an unnecessary and unwinnable public confrontation with Israel." The language of the editorial is quite startling... Obama's crime is not misunderstanding Israeli settlements or that the initial provocation, in 1967, was started by Israel. His crime is publicly questioning Israeli policy at all when he should know that to question Israel is pointless.
The New Republic takes it a step further in an article written by Yossi Klein Helevi (shalom!). Halevi is a senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, which a commenter notes is sort of like an article written on tobacco regulation by an employee of R.J. Reynolds. Helevi claims that Jerusalem has become a warzone and it is because of Obama. Halevi is guilty of several misleading statements, especially in regards to Shas and the supposedly premeditated nature of Obama's policies. But that is beside the point. The message here is simple: Question Israel and the blood of innocent Israelis is on your hands.
Jonathan Tobin at Commentary calls the whole debacle, "the great foreign-policy blunder of 2010... the decision to employ American pressure against Israel instead of Iran" (doesn't he know Obama still has nine months to bomb Iran?). AIPAC released a statement saying "recent statements regarding the U.S. relationship with Israel are a matter of serious concern" and called for "the Administration to take immediate steps to defuse the tension with the Jewish State." Abe Foxman was characteristically thick when he said he was "shocked and stunned at the Administration's tone and public dressing down of Israel on the issue of future building in Jerusalem" and he bemoaned the "harsh language" directed at Israel. Worst of all, it motivated the very very large little-Podhoretz to pen another pro-Israel diatribe.
Imagine if an American President proposed a real set of reforms for US policy with Israel: if he proposed that economic aid to Israel follow the same rules as aid to other countries (i.e. include checks on how it is spent and be distributed over monthly increments instead of a lump sum); if the US demanded that Israel cease its espionage programs in the United States; if the US stopped funding Israeli border security and instead funded American border security. Or imagine a Constitutional policy where we cut off aid to Israel and let them defend themselves, and adopt a Middle East policy of neutrality, calming hatred directed at the US for its unquestioning support of Israel.
This would be treason to the state of Israel in the eyes of the Israel Lobby. Instead we have treason to the United States.