Israel is not Calling the Shots in this US Election

This article appeared initially on the website of PressTV

Netanyahu blinked.

That’s the takeaway from the goofy address (complete with Spy vs. Spy-style cartoon bomb held up to the audience) by the right-wing, Cheltenham, PA-raised, MIT-educated Israeli prime minister to the United Nations General Assembly Thursday.

Prior to that address, Netanyahu had been virtually campaigning for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, hinting repeatedly on US television interviews of a pre-election attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear fuel-making facilities, criticizing incumbent US President Barack Obama, and demanding that Obama and the US draw a “red line” on how far Iran could go in refining nuclear fuel before it would be considered essential for the US to join Israel in destroying Iran’s military infrastructure.

It was the most blatant attempt by a foreign leader to interfere in a US election in memory, but it was a bust.

American Jews have historically supported the Democratic Party by wide margins, and despite Netanyahu’s threats and bluster, and President Obama’s smack-down — a refusal of Netanyahu’s request for a meeting during his trip to the US –that support has barely budged. In fact, a number of leading Jewish Democrats, including powerful Congressmen Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), publicly told the Israeli leader to back off and stay out of US politics. In endorsing Obama’s refusal to meet with Netanyahu, Rep. Frank said, ”The Israelis have to consider American public opinion. America’s not ready to go to war until it’s absolutely necessary.” He added, “I think it’s a mistake from Israel’s standpoint if they give the impression they’re trying to push us into going to war. I don’t think any pressure’s going to work.”

As I wrote last week, even the Jewish Daily Forward, a respected journal of Jewish news and opinion published in New York City, warned Netanyahu that he had overstepped in pushing the US to go to war, and was risking Israel’s special relationship with the US.

Analysts are now suggesting that Netanyahu has backed off or been called off, even complimenting President Obama and giving him a valentine — an endorsement before election day of sorts–saying in his UN address, “I very much appreciate the president’s position, as does everyone in my country.”

Israeli PM Netanyahu and his cartoonish effort to swing the election in the US have bombedIsraeli PM Netanyahu and his cartoonish effort to swing the election in the US have bombed

This was a reference to Obama’s rather tame if ambiguous warning to Iran in his own UN address that the US would “do what we must” to ensure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear bomb.

Since Iran insists that it is not trying to develop a nuclear bomb, and since Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khameini, has declared that building and stockpiling such weapons would be “a big sin,” there should be no need for the US to do anything, then. (Although, even if Iran were to develop a bomb, because of threats of attack from Israel, which has some 300 of them stockpiled, it would not be a legal justification for the US — or Israel — to attack. Far from posing an imminent existential threat to either country, given both or their massive nuclear stockpiles, it would merely establish what has existed between the big nuclear powers for decades — a relatively stable “balance of terror” known as Mutually Assured Destruction.)

The important point though, for the US, for Israel, and for Iran, as well as for the world at large, is that a combination of over-reach by Netanyahu, a bumbling and inept Republican presidential candidate and campaign, and a widespread weariness among most Americans with this country’s more than a decade of pointless, losing wars in the Middle East, have combined to seriously and perhaps terminally blunt the influence of the right-wing pro-Israel lobby in the US, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

For decades, AIPAC backing, or at least “clearance,” was viewed as crucial by virtually any candidate, Democratic or Republican, running for national office in the US. Presidential candidates would alll make a pilgrimage to AIPAC’s convention — conveniently timed to occur just at the end of the primary season each presidential election year — at which they would swear undying support for Israel, often asserting that Israel’s and America’s policies were “one and the same.” And for decades those policies were largely the same.

But times are changing. The Cold War, a time when much of the Middle East was either leaning towards the Soviet Union, or was adeptly playing the USSR off against the US, is over, so having Israel as a military ally is no longer necessary. Israel, meanwhile, has no oil, and is becoming increasingly right-wing and irridentist with respect to the growing Palestinian population under its control. Then too, in the wake of the Arab Spring, with the people in long-repressive Arab nations rising up against or growing restive about the repressive regimes they have lived under for generations, Israel’s own growing repression and oppression of the Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza and even inside Israel’s 1967 borders, is making traditional unquestioning US support for Tel Aviv increasingly a diplomatic liability.

With Obama’s re-election looking increasingly likely, and with even a Democratic recapture of the House of Representatives looking at least possible, there is a chance that AIPAC will finally be defanged. By tying themselves too closely to the war-mongering, Muslim-bashing Republicans and their standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, who has gone all out for the support of ardent pro-Iran war Jews, and by allowing Prime Minister Netanyahu to barge into the presidential race and to show a preference for Romney over the sitting president, AIPAC basically put its power on the line this election. If Romney and the Republicans were to win this November, AIPAC would become more powerful than ever, but if he loses, and if the Republicans lose, or even lose serious ground in the House and Senate, the mighty lobby will be exposed as a paper tiger.

Like a weakened labor union threatening a strike in a dispute with the management of a global corporation, AIPAC’s power has always rested in its threat to destroy any politician who didn’t unquestioningly back Israel. AIPAC has always had the ability to pour money into an opponent’s campaign and to crush a candidate who did not swear to unquestioningly support Israel, but it’s not clear that money and pro-Israel propaganda can accomplish that any longer. Corporate managements sometimes learn, when they are forced to confront a strike, that they can defeat workers with a weak union by waiting them out, hiring scabs, or just closing a plant down. Similarly, if Obama and the Democrats discover that despite refusing to cave in to Israeli demands or AIPAC threats, they can still be elected, while those favored by AIPAC and Israeli leaders like Netanyahu go down to defeat, AIPAC will no longer be able to intimidate US political figures in the future.

No doubt there will be those who suspect darkly that President Obama has struck some behind-the-scenes deal with Netanyahu to attack Iran after the election, but I do not believe this is the case. As in Israel, the leading generals and intelligence officials in the US oppose a war against Iran, with most of the US intelligence agencies even continuing to insist that there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. And with the US economy showing signs of slipping into even worse economic decline, the last thing Obama would want at the start of his second and final term of office would be a war that would send oil prices through the stratosphere and send the global economy into a deep depression. Besides, the US can’t afford another war — especially one that would certainly dwarf the Iraq and Afghan conflicts in terms of both blood and money.