Big kudos to Senator Bill Nelson (D, FL) for defying the Bushite ban on political dialogue with Syria. Nelson spent an hour yesterday meeting with Bashir Assad. This is an especially brave thing for him to do. Not only has he bucked his president, he’s raised the hackles of the ultra-Israel lobby. Don’t forget that Nelson has a huge Jewish constituency. He’s got a lot of explaining to do since Aipac has a very strong following in Florida. And make no mistake, Aipac has got to be livid about this.
Perhaps one can say that Nelson’s defiance is a commentary on the increasing weakness of both Bush and Aipac in “enforcing” Mideast policy uniformity on members of Congress. If Nelson made such a calculation in deciding to go, we can only welcome it. It bodes well to have differing views on such a significant issue as U.S.-Syria relations.
And don’t look now, but John Kerry, Chris Dodd and Republican Arlen Specter are expected in Damascus shortly. It would be icing on the cake if a few Labor MKs would also take a trip to talk with Assad. This would prove the foolhardiness of Olmert’s toadying agreement with the Bush Nyetniks when it comes to engagement with Syria. It is becoming increasingly unsupportable to attempt to freeze Syria out of the picture. They hold the keys to many locks in the Middle East, most notably long-term peace with Israel.