Political Promise

The pro-Israeli threat to Obama’s Middle East policy?

In Dan Owens on July 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm

By Daniel Owens

Leading conservatives in the United States will launch a new pro-Israel group this week, directly opposed to the Obama administration’s policy within the region. The Emergency Committee for Israel’s Leadership combines two of the major strands of pro-Israel support; firstly, the neo-conservative aspect of the Republican Party of which many are Jewish, and secondly, the right-wing Evangelical Christians who have become increasingly supporting of a Jewish state. The executive committee is made up of Noah Pollak, William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, Gary Bauer (former Rep. Presidential candidate) and conservative writer Rachel Abrams.

Since entering office, Barack Obama has had a particularly strained relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this has been made more difficult by Israel’s unwillingness to cease construction of homes in occupied territories, in defiance of International Law. Many pro-Israeli Americans are suspicious of Obama’s attempts to improve US relations with the Muslim world; with some arguing he is neglecting America’s alliance with Israel.

The new group, which according to Kristol is “the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community” has so far raised enough money to run a commercial on Fox and CNN this week, where its first official move will be to attack Democratic representative Joe Sestak. The commercial criticises Sestak for signing a letter criticizing Israel’s blockade of Gaza but failing to sign a letter on the defence of Israel which was circulated by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee); the ad also attacks him for attending a fundraiser for the Council on American Islamic Relations which the committee claims is an “anti-Israeli organisation” and “a front group for Hamas”.

It appears then, that the committee’s main aim is to brand anyone in opposition to US foreign policy towards Israel as “anti-Semitic” and to launch personal attacks on candidates for the House and Senate races over the coming months. There is little doubt however; that the committee’s main target is the Obama administration which Bauer has commented is the “most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States”. Whilst the Israel lobby is quick to criticise the administration’s policy toward Israel, in actual fact very little of the traditional relationship has changed; there is still a strong military and arms agreement, and US pressure towards Iran has been received well in Israel.

Stephen Walt, author of the contentious ‘Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’, has highlighted to ironies in the establishment of the new group. Highlighting that the group is made up of the same “geniuses who dreamed up and sold the Iraq war” and Bauer who believes that US-Mideast policy ought to be based on his interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. Walt argues that Israel has been following a neo-conservative/Likud/Zionist programme for several decades now and further advocacy of pro-Israel/American rhetoric will only support its self-destructive course.

While the group claims to want an open-debate on the issue of Israel, echoing AIPAC, its political and personal attacks on individuals with opposing views does little other than highlight the paranoid individuals who are convinced that the majority of the world is against a Jewish state. The willingness of these groups to brand people as ‘anti-Semites’ and to pressure Congress just proves their unwillingness to openly discuss the issues that prevent a successful peace settlement within the Middle East’s violently divided society.

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