AIPAC has done it again -- although getting the 76 Senators and 333 Representatives took a lot longer than it usually takes.
There is nothing exceptional in the letters. They are the usual blah blah about how Israel is really great, a democracy like you read about, and deserves every kind of support from the United States.
One key phrase appears in both the Senate and House letters, "Progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the U.S. and Israel." In the House, there must be "no space between the U.S. and Israel when it comes to security, none. No space."
In other words, President Obama should stop publicly differing with Israel on settlements or anything else. His job is to eliminate any "space" by supporting Netanyahu. Simple.
The whole idea is ridiculous. As Washington, Madison and Hamilton all warned us, the United States shares an identity of interest with no other country (and vice versa). AIPAC seeks the kind of "unnatural alliance" the founders feared.
I know Vice President Biden himself uttered those staff written words (a staple in AIPAC-talk for decades) but he doesn't believe them. No serious American official does (Biden himself has often publicly differed with Israel).
Anyway, the letters are just silly. AIPAC writes them. The legislators sign them. Few give them any thought except that not signing will cause problems. Signing is easy.
But some legislators say "no" and a "no" does require thought, simply because AIPAC will hound them relentlessly for their temerity.
If your representatives did not sign, thank them. If they did, either be angry at them or just sympathize. It's not easy standing up to a powerful lobby (and the donors who look to it for "guidance") in an election year.
Public financing of campaigns would cut those signatures by two-thirds. But public financing remains a dream. And, until we have it, special interests (foreign and domestic) will decide public policy in Washington. AIPAC is terrible but the insurance industry does each of us more damage. This is our system. And it is appalling. It should not just be Tea Party rightwingers who see it, say it, and try to change it.
Jeff Goldberg of the New Yorker served up the best quote ever on how AIPAC's signature gathering operation and how much Congressional thought goes into each signature.
AIPAC's leaders can be immoderately frank about the group's influence. At dinner that night with Steven Rosen, I mentioned a controversy that had enveloped AIPAC in 1992. David Steiner, a New Jersey real-estate developer who was then serving as AIPAC's president, was caught on tape boasting that he had "cut a deal" with the Administration of George H. W. Bush to provide more aid to Israel. Steiner also said that he was "negotiating" with the incoming Clinton Administration over the appointment of a pro-Israel Secretary of State. "We have a dozen people in his"--Clinton's--"headquarters . . . and they are all going to get big jobs," Steiner said. Soon after the tape's existence was disclosed, Steiner resigned his post. I asked Rosen if AIPAC suffered a loss of influence after the Steiner affair. A half smile appeared on his face, and he pushed a napkin across the table. "You see this napkin?" he said. "In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin."