May 6, 2009

Report from AIPAC

By Joel C. Rosenberg

...U.S. Pressure on Israel to Make Dangerous Concessions Growing Daily

For the past two days, I have attended the policy conference in Washington held by AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It was an extraordinary event, drawing more than 6,000 pro-Israel activists from all over the country to hear directly and in person from top U.S. and Israeli leaders, including Israeli President Shimon Peres, who today meets at the White House with President Obama. Last night, Lynn and I joined Tim and Carolyn Lugbill — the chairman and treasurer of The Joshua Fund respectively — at AIPAC’s gala dinner. More than half of the U.S. Senate was in attendance, as were most of the Members of the House of Representatives. Dozens of foreign Ambassadors were there, and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to the gathering live via satellite (it was 4am in Jerusalem).

  • Netanyahu’s remarks were too short — only 5 minutes, 30 seconds — but they certainly got to the point: “There is something significant that is happening today in the Middle East, and I can say that for the first time in my lifetime, I believe for the first time in a century, that Arabs and Jews see a common danger…. The common danger is echoed by Arab leaders throughout the Middle East; it is echoed by Israel repeatedly; it is echoed by Europeans, by many responsible governments around the world. And if I had to sum it up in one sentence, it is this: Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.”
  • Stopping Iran from getting The Bomb is clearly the Israeli leader’s top priority. But he also made it clear that he sees the possibility that Arab states could end up working together closely with the U.S. and Israel against the Iranian threat. He’s heading to Egypt next week at the invitation of President Mubarak. He said he’s prepared to reach a “final peace settlement” with the Palestinians via a “triple track” of political negotiations, security enhancements, and economic growth initiatives. He did not say explicitly that he favors a “two state solution,” because the truth is he does not believe in giving the Palestinians a full sovereign state, including the right to have an air force, the right to forge strategic alliances with Iran and Syria, etc. He stressed the importance of the Palestinians recognizing that Israel is a “Jewish state,” something Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership still can’t bring themselves to say.
  • Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) gave an excellent but sobering address Monday night, following the Prime Minister. He warned that “Pakistan could fall to the Taliban in the next six months,” and that the country’s 100 or so nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of Islamic Radicals even before Iran gets the Bomb. He noted that the government, police and military in Pakistan seem “almost powerless” to stop the Taliban Radicals.
  • Sen. Kyl’s main focus, however, was Iran. He described a recent meeting he had with Prime Minister Netanyahu in which the PM asked, If all measures to stop Iran from getting the Bomb fail by this summer, what will you do? Kyl posed the question to the audience at least three times, “What will you do?” He said that he is not opposed to the administration’s desire to engage Iran diplomatically, but said there must be a “short and hard end date.” He also said, “I don’t know what we would give Iran that it wants more than the Bomb.” He has introduced new legislation with Sens. Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh aimed at imposing severe economic sanctions on Iran’s oil, gas and banking industries. But he did not express confidence that such measures would necessarily work.
  • The fact that Netanyahu asked Kyl to search his soul and consider what the U.S. would do if sanctions and diplomacy don’t work by this summer — combined with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s statement in Rome yesterday that if Iran isn’t stopped diplomatically within three months, “action must be taken” — suggests Israel may be on a faster track towards war than most people in the West realize.
  • Michael Oren — the incoming Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. — told an AIPAC panel that Iran will not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Oren, it should be noted, is a renowned historian and arguably the leading expert on Israel’s decision to launch a preemptive military strike on her enemies in June 1967 when the Jews were being threatened with being thrown into the sea.
  • Ephraim Sneh, Israel’s former Deputy Defense Minister, said the time for a decision to strike Iran is now. He said Israel has an “operational solution” to stop Iran militarily for which it does not need the permission or support of other countries.
  • President Shimon Peres praised Prime Minister Netanyahu and said, “He knows history. He wants to make history. And in our history, that means making peace.” But he warned that “a dark and growing cloud” is coming over the Middle East, the “shadow of a nuclear threat.” And he was clear: “We shall not give up. We shall not surrender….The fanatic rulers of Iran are on the wrong side of history.”
  • Peres is clearly a big fan of President Obama, whom he says has brought “a tsunami of hope” to the world. “We trust the leadership of President Obama.”
  • I wouldn’t necessarily expect an Israeli leader — especially a Labor leader, as Peres is — to say something different on the eve of meeting a new American President, but I am not at all clear that such trust is warranted. The Obama administration does not have a convincing plan to stop Iran from getting the Bomb. Yet it is pushing Israel to abandon all consideration of a preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. It is pushing Israel to divide Jerusalem. It is pushing Israel to give away the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). It is warning that the West may not help Israel with Iran unless Israel makes painful and immediate concessions to the Palestinians and allow the Arabs to create a sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza. It is doing so without any evidence that the Palestinian leadership is willing to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State.”

    And now — just in the last 24 hours — the administration has begun to pressure Israel to join the “Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty” (NPT) which would require her to give up (or at least fully disclose) its nuclear weapons. Among other things, that would mean forcing Israel to give up its primary deterrence strategy. Why should Israel do such a thing? Why would the U.S. demand such a thing? Especially now.
My conclusion after several days at the AIPAC conference: the mutually warm words of appreciation for 61 years of U.S.-Israel relations notwithstanding, a train wreck is coming between the Netanyahu administration and the Obama administration over Iran and the “peace process.” I pray it can be avoided, but at this point Netanyahu and his team understand the apocalyptic death cult they are facing in Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, and President Obama and his team do not.

Netanyahu is preparing to take action to defend Israel and the world from the nightmare of a nuclear armed Iran, and Obama is not. All the more reason we need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and show unconditional love and unwavering support to the Jewish State and the Jewish people as never before.

Related News

U.S.-Israeli "special relationship" damaged by Iran factor - Xinhua
Obama official: Israel should sign non-nuclear pact - JTA
US no longer wants Iranian 'regime change' - AFP
The Obama doctrine: Charm enemies, arm-twist friends - Christian Science Monitor