All hail two Jewish members of Congress who have enough spine to resist the Aipac onslaught. Aipac’s capo di tutti in the House appear to be Steny Hoyer and Eric Cantor. They’ve been circulating a letter outlining recommended negotiation positions for the U.S. related to Israeli-Palestinian peace. But a funny thing happened: Barney Frank and Bob Filner said “no thanks.” Jewish legislators don’t usually cross Aipac. So the fact that they refused to affix their names is an event of moment.
The letter appears innocuous enough until you place it in the current political context. We have an Israeli prime minister who’s just been lambasted here in Washington not just by an American president and secretary of state, but by some of his most slavish former admirers. They uniformly told him to straighten up and fly right concerning freezing settlements and embracing a two state solution. To which he’s responded by fumfering around and claiming he simply can’t accede to U.S. wishes and how unfair they are to the poor settlers who have expanding families with no place to live.
In that context, the letter is of a piece with Bibi’s tried and true tactics of attempting to play off Congress and the executive. It won’t work this time, but you can’t blame a guy for trying. Here’s the content of the letter:
Among the principles laid out by the House letter is that “the parties themselves must negotiate the details of any agreement” and that the United States must “work closely with our democratic ally, who will be taking the greatest risks in any peace agreement.”
What this means is that the U.S. has no right to exert any pressure on Israel to cave in to our demands.
“The proven best way forward is to work closely and privately together both on areas of agreement and especially on areas of disagreement,” states the missive, adding that the U.S. must be both “a trusted mediator and a devoted friend to Israel.”
Translation: Be Israel’s friend. F*&k the other guy.
The letter also insists on an “absolute Palestinian commitment to end violence, terror and incitement” and urges “far greater involvement and participation by the Arab states both in moving toward normal ties with Israel and in supporting moderate Palestinians.”
First, you’ll notice the onus this places on the Palestinians while demanding nothing of the Israelis who haven’t exactly ended their own violence against Palestinians. As for “involvement of Arab states,” this seems either a sham or a delusion. Aipac seems to believe that Arab states should normalize relations with Israel in return for…nothing. When the Arabs respond with stone-faced silence, then Bibi will have an opening to claim that Israel can’t possibly be forthcoming unless the Arab states reciprocate (one of his most beloved sham phrases).
Aside from all the narischkeit in this letter, there is the most important matter of all: Pres. Obama is going in an entirely different policy direction. Aipac knows this, Bibi now knows it if he didn’t already, Congress knows this. This letter is the last hurrah of the old order.
Obama’s policy eschews the smoke of mirrors of this letter. It names things for what they are. It doesn’t pull any punches. If Aipac keeps playing these little games they’ll be left holding the bag, while the American Jewish peace camp gets onboard the peace train.
Bob Filner and Barney Frank–you guys are all right.