Another of my Jewish journalist friends spoke with Nita Lowey, who firmly rejected the notion that she’d coordinated her hold with AIPAC. According to the reporter, Lowey sounded completely sincere and he believed her. The State Dept. also seemed to approve of the hold believing (falsely imo) that it will give them “leverage” in the upcoming summit with Olmert and Abbas. In reality, I think the party we really need leverage with is Israel, not the Palestinians. State also claims the hold will only last “two weeks.” We shall see.
I do wonder though whether Lowey ever stopped to consider how her action would look to others, especially those in the peace camp and among Arabs. I’ll concede that it’s possible she was entirely sincere and not following someone else’s agenda. But given the history of actions like hers, the world would be entirely justified in suspecting an ulterior motive. What, I wonder, is Lowey prepared to do to advance the cause of peace in terms of bringing the two sides together to negotiate? Because putting a hold on $86 million doesn’t do that.
UPDATE: I just spoke to Nita Lowey’s foreign affairs press representative who again confirmed that Lowey has “legitimate concerns” that the $86 million might not end up in the right hands. When I asked on what basis she made that judgment, he replied that it was based on a “classified briefing” whose content Lowey could not reveal. When I pointed out to him that Reuters reported that Lowey had also not made clear what answers she needed before she would remove her hold, he said that the answers Lowey needs also are in the realm of classified intelligence. I noted to the press rep that some outsiders might construe this as Lowey saying that nothing could allay her concerns.
Lowey’s staffer assured me that the hold was not indefinite, but rather was meant for a short time until she received the answers she needed. I reminded him that Shmuel Rosner has not reported this, but rather has mentioned the hold was indefinite, thus giving the impression that Lowey might not intend to remove it. The Lowey rep told me that was unfortunate and that the NY Sun had also gotten the story wrong and issued a correction. When I mentioned that Rosner was reporting the hold as an act of the “U.S. Congress,” rather than a single representative, he said such a statement was “flat out erroneous.” I suggested he get in touch either with Rosner or Haaretz to tell them that.
I closed the interview by saying that while some in the Jewish community and neocon camp might be happy with this hold, many other might construe it as a act hostile to the possibility for peace.
UPDATE II: Lowey’s rep pointed me to a New York Sun story which renews my suspicions of AIPAC complicity in the entire ‘hold’ deal:
The original push for delaying the funding for security training came from Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who first asked Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the Democratic chairman of the committee, to place a hold on the $86 million. Only committee chairman are allowed to place information-related holds on foreign operations funding.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Lantos, Lynne Weil, said the congressman declined Ms. Ros-Lehtinen’s request in January because the White House had yet to announce its intention to send the money to the Palestinian Authority. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen then took up the matter with Ms. Lowey, who placed the hold on the funding last week.
The $86 million, intended for the training of a small security service loyal to Mr. Abbas, has been a worry for America’s pro-Israel lobby…
Ros-Lehtinen is a devout Republican neocon, notorious anti-Castro warrior who also supports the most conservative pro-Israel positions (Leonard Fein called her disparagingly, “more pro-Israel than Israel”). It is telling that Tom Lantos, no slouch when it comes to supporting Israel’s interests in Congress, would not do Ros-Lehtinen’s bidding. One wonders why Nita felt compelled to do so.
To be fair, Lowey’s press rep said the Sun ran a correction on this story, but I don’t see any link to it on the Sun site.
UPDATE III: This is getting ridiculous with the Updates already but…Josh Zembick, Lowey’s staffer just e-mailed saying:
There was no contact between the two members whatsoever regarding the subject…NONE. Mrs. Lowey’s decision to place the hold was hers.
And my other reporter source who spoke with Lowey yesterday said she told him she thinks the world of “Ileana” (yuck!) but “hasn’t had a conversation with her in three months.” Sorry to be so untrusting but…I can imagine a scenario in which Ros-Lehtinen could’ve communicated her request without talking directly with Lowey. You’d think members of Congress would communicate directly if they were requesting something as important as an appropriations hold, but the request might’ve been passed between staff members and not involved the representatives themselves.
But if Lowey’s denial is indeed true, one wonders where the Sun came up with the Ros-Lehtinen connection.