In Congress, J Street, AIPAC fight over Gaza flotilla letters
06/21/2010 - 09:13
James Besser

Update: I had a call this afternoon from an AIPACer who took me to task for writing that the 79 Senators who signed the AIPAC-endorsed letter - now over 80 - was "not a slam dunk."

Point taken; getting 4/5 of the Senate to sign anything is no mean achievement.

At first glance, it's just another of those high-volume, low-meaning Capitol Hill squabbles over letters and non-binding resolutions meant to stake out positions on Israel and the Middle East and give politicians a chance to demonstrate to potential campaign givers their pro-Israel bona fides.

But this time around, with critical congressional midterm elections looming and the J Street lobby and PAC in the mix, the tone of the debate is a little nastier, the pressure on lawmakers greater.

AIPAC, the main force in the pro-Israel lobby, is promoting a letter authored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) that supports “Israel's right to defend itself” and urges members to “remain steadfast in the defense of Israel in the face of the international community's rush to unfairly judge and condemn Israel in international fora such as the United Nations Security Council.”

I always like letters that use the word “fora.”

J Street, in a letter to lawmakers, is urging them not to sign the AIPAC-endorsed letter without changes.

“The test for Congressional statements should not be their acceptability to any one lobby group (including J Street) but whether they advance the American, Israeli and regional interest in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieving a two-state solution before it is too late,” wrote J Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami. “The sign-on letters now circulating in the House and Senate, while expressing strong American support for Israel – a position we endorse – fail to address the impact of the present closure of Gaza on the civilian population, the deep American interest in resolving this conflict diplomatically, or the urgency of moving forward with diplomacy before it is too late.”

A lot of the meaning of the AIPAC-endorsed letter is between the lines. It doesn't exactly say the Gaza blockade is smart policy, but it says it was "instituted to stop terrorists from smuggling weapons into Gaza to murder innocent civilians."  It doesn't explain how coriander is turned into bombs.

Both sides are promoting the letters “like billions are at stake,” said a congressional source. Both sides are applying all the pressure they can muster – and a lot of lawmakers aren't happy with the election-year squeeze on an issue that has little to do with the core concerns of the vast majority of voters, but which is a vital concern to a lot of big-time campaign givers.

It' s hard to say who's in the lead right now. The AIPAC-endorsed letters have gathered at least 79 Senate and 279 House signatures (also promoting the letters is Jewish Federations of North America.) That's not insignificant, but it's not exactly a slam dunk for the pro-Israel establishment..

A congressional source told me the AIPAC-endorsed letter is “namby pamby”; it may not address humanitarian issues or challenge the blockade, which J Street would like, but it also isn't exactly a full-throated endorsement of Israel's policies. So why should lawmakers, especially those facing election challenges this year, go out on a limb for J Street on this one?

With enhanced Iran sanctions on the House to-do -list – and an upcoming resolution on Gilad Shalit - the intense squabble over an essentially meaningless pro-Israel letter “is a little jerky by both sides,” this source said.

Comments

Jews in America need to decide if they are Israelis or Americans. A single state solution is the only way to go. If Arabs overwhelm the Jewish population, so be it. I say no more financial, military or political support for Israel. From the USS Liberty affair to the flotilla, Israel does as it pleases, knowing full well that the Lobby in Washington will see to it that her actions will not be objected to, either in Congress or at the UN. Time to cut Israel loose, bring our troops home, and let the Middle East fight it out alone. Treasure and lives simply are not worth it. Israel has no strategic value to the US. and to pretend otherwise in nonsense.
hah-ha --> funny watching all of the Israel apologists squirm and twist on the internet. Israel, I don't wish you destruction, but everyone wants to see the little bully blowhard get his comeuppance.
Medicines, foodstuffs and toys. The hatred Israel has for Palestinian tots shows in the banning of toys. Israel has made zero friends in its existance. .. America? No, America is held hostage by the Lobby and is not a friend. The Blockade has to end.
If I look on our history in India as the decay of Moghals started in 17th. century the rulers advisers were incapable, corrupt and injustice and enjoying life and forgot their duties. The same story is in congress and senate they need money for elections and have no moral character. Their main goal is to be elected at every cost. It means america is on the path of destruction.
Russell wrote: "All you gotta do is say the word "Israel" and the Hate flows." Israel is a rascist, apartheid state. What is there to admire in that? How does stopping coriander square with the purported reason for the siege - namely stopping weapons reaching Hamas? Does Palestine have a right to exist? Does Palestine have a right to defend itself? etc, etc.
According to the actions of our political leaders, we should be called the USI (United States of Israel).
All you gotta do is say the word "Israel" and the Hate flows.
Because more and more people are learning who the real enemy is.
Unbelievable. Jews are less than 2% of the USA population yet they blackmail and coerce our pathetic, pandering politicians into positions which do not benefit America - only Israel!

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