Don't believe it when you read that in a few days, weeks or months, everything will be back to normal in the U.S.-Israel relationship. They won't be.
This is an old lobby mantra and it tends to emanate from friends of the lobby who simply cannot contemplate that anything will ever break the hold it has on policymakers. In one sense it's true. It is as unlikely that AIPAC will go down as it was 10 years ago that most U.S. states would legalize gay marriage!
But it is going to happen because Prime Minister Netanyahu along with AIPAC (and its Congressional cutouts) have deeply embarrassed the American Jewish community in several ways.
Note: when it comes to the power of the lobby, the Jewish community is the ball game. Those millions of Christian Zionists out there do not fund Congressional candidacies, nor are their votes in play. Moreover, for them Israel takes a way back seat to such issues as gay rights, illegal immigration, abortion and hating liberals and secularism. AIPAC is focused on only one issue, and directs money to campaigns on only one issue. The conservative Christians are irrelevant.
That last point gets to one of the ways the Netanyahu/Letter of 47 brouhaha has permanently damaged Israel's standing in America. It has made it partisan. Even before anyone contemplated Netanyahu coming to Congress to challenge President Obama, support for Israel was becoming a Republican issue, with Republicans in near solid support while Democrats were divided down the middle.
That trend is only accelerating now, as the Israeli government has made clear that it has no use for Democrats, and certainly not the Democratic president who it has treated with an open contempt rarely seen in international relations. Given that the overwhelming majority of American Jews are Democrats and Obama supporters, Netanyahu (with AIPAC's connivance) has successfully launched a wrecking ball at the foundation of Israel's support base in America.
Even more, Jews are mortified that AIPAC and Netanyahu have raised issues of dual loyalty, which pretty much disappeared in recent years. The Netanyahu speech suggested, more than suggested, that a choice must be made: Team Netanyahu or Team Obama. The fact that Republicans happily choose Netanyahu doesn't alter the ominous implications of the posing of that choice for the overwhelming majority of Jews who are devoted and patriotic citizens who would never choose Israel over America.
After all, despite the loud voices of the lobby and its partisans like Sheldon Adelson and Bill Kristol, only about 4 percent of Jews even consider Israel policy when they cast their vote (invariably for Democrats) for president and Congress. American Jews have been liberals longer than they have been Israel supporters; for AIPAC and/or Israel to make them choose is a losing proposition.
Suddenly supporting Israel is controversial for Democrats. This is how it was before the Netanyahu speech. A Democrat could be as hardline on Israel as he chose to be because, so long as he was on the right side of all the domestic issues, he would not be challenged on Israel. No more. In the world that existed before this month, Senators like Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren were securely in the hardline camp (even during last year's Gaza war). But, due to constituent and donor pressure (including, of course, from Jewish progressives), they boycotted the speech and issued statements denouncing it. So did about 50 others including prominent liberals, formerly in AIPAC's corner on everything) and the Congressional Black Caucus.
All this means that during the 2016 campaign Democrats will have to tread infinitely more carefully on the Israel issue than ever before. Candidates will not be able to assume that their strong support of choice,a living wage and the environment will immunize them from attacks for supporting the forces that are opposing the Democratic president on Iran and, likely very soon, on Israel-Palestine too.
Candidates for the presidency on down will have to answer to Democrats who do not buy into the old rhetoric about Israel being our wonderful democratic ally who we must stick with through thick and thin. Not after this, and not after last year's Gaza war which started the plunge in Israel's standing among Democrats.
This is all good news for those of us who think the US-Israel "special relationship" is bad for the United States, that America should never be in a position where we are joined at the hip of any foreign country. The United States and Israel have interests in common but not all our interests are the same as is evidenced by the differences over Iran.
Neither country wants Iran to have a nuclear weapon but the United States, and not Israel, has an interest in the general improvement of our relations with that country as we confront a common enemy: ISIS. Israel is less concerned about ISIS than about maintaining its regional hegemony and nuclear monopoly. On the Palestinian issue, U.S. interests are not served by our lonely United Nations vetoes against establishing a Palestinian state, putting us in the unhelpful position where all Israel's enemies become ours. This is absurd. We don't even have a 100 percent commonality of interests with Canada. But, until this month, we acted as if we had one with Israel.
That seems to be ending and unfortunately for Israel even the previously sacrosanct strategic relationship with the Jewish state is suffering. Meir Dagan, former head of the Mossad under prime ministers Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and Netanyahu, took to the pages of Israel's largest circulation daily, Yediot Achronoth, to remind Israelis that Netanyahu's confrontation with Obama is already affecting the day-to-day relationship between the two countries.
He noted that "the head of the CIA is a political appointee; the national security adviser is a political appointee; the secretary of state is a political appointee. They all, the lower-level officials too, work in keeping with the spirit of their commander... We depend on the Americans for strategic weapons. When senior administration officials say that Israel is acting against the national interests of the United States, it represents a grave long-term danger for us."
As for the short-term: "We are already paying prices today. Some I know about but cannot elaborate on."
In other words, everything is changing. This time the past is not prologue. Thanks to the hubris of Israel and its lobby, the United States is abandoning its knee-jerk support for every Israeli policy and action. In doing so, we are looking out for ourselves but also for Israel's long-term interests which are peace and security, not endless war and occupation.
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