The AIPAC crowd is going to have a hard time with this. Israel's uber-hawk Defense Minister (and the most highly decorated soldier in its history), Ehud Barak, says that an Iranian nuclear weapon would not pose an existential threat to Israel.
Today's New York Times reports that Barak told Israel's largest paper Yedioth Ahronoth that "Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel." Asked specifically about a nuclear armed Iran, Barak said, "I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel."
Barak concluded: "Israel is strong, I don't see anyone who could pose an existential threat,"
The threat, of course, is not to Israel's existence but to Israel's status as the region's only superpower, able to do whatever it wants whenever it wants to.
But don't expect this to mean that the "Bomb Iran" crowd here -- which is the lobby and its cutouts -- is going to shut up.
Contrary to what many believe, the lobby does not always follow the Israel line.
That is why Prime Minister Rabin tried so hard (unsuccessfully) to curb AIPAC. Upon his election as prime minister in 1992, he met with its leadership to tell AIPAC to butt the hell out. He intended to come to terms with the Palestinians and did not want AIPAC to get in his way. He also insisted on dealing with the US government directly and not through a surly intermediary. (His top aides specifically told AIPAC to fire Steve Rosen who, he knew, would use his dark powers to kill any Israeli-Palestinian agreement).
AIPAC ignored Rabin and continued its sabotage efforts.
In fact, a few years ago the Israeli government worked with the Palestinian Authority to devise an aid package for the Palestinian Authority that would help it withstand the threat from Hamas. This was before Hamas took over Gaza and the package was designed to gird the PA against the threat.
The Bush administration supported the package and thought it was urgent to keep Gaza under PA (not Hamas) control.
AIPAC, on the other hand, did not like the idea and its lobbyists went directly to the House Appropriations Commitee and demanded it be cut in half. The Israelis also went to the Hill to tell the same appropriators that Israel's own security needs dictated that the full package be delivered quickly to check Hamas. Of course AIPAC prevailed. And AIPAC celebrated that it could beat the White House, the Palestinian Authority and even the Israeli government. Kings of the Hill!
Only to a degree does the lobby operate in support of Israel. Mostly it is about preserving and extending its own power.
The Iran issue is its latest ticket. It will use it to raise money -- it just built an eight story building in Washington complete with a gym and catering facilities -- and, best of all, to make the United States government do what it wants.
As someone who worked at AIPAC for four years (before I came to my senses), I can personally attest to the fact that the organization is most decidely not about Israel. It is about AIPAC.
I wonder if Barak will back down after AIPAC calls to chew him out. Regardless, Barak's statement is now on the record.
Iran is not an existential threat to Israel. But the lobby might be.