Bipartisan Support for Israel Is Crumbling, and There’s Little AIPAC Can Do about It

March 8 2018

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual conference this week. As much as the organization struggles to retain its official nonpartisan stance, writes David Horovitz, it must still reckon with the fact that, as Republicans are growing ever closer to the Jewish state, Democrats are growing more distant:

[In 2016], the only Jewish presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, chose to be the sole presidential candidate to give AIPAC a wide berth, opting instead to campaign in Salt Lake City. To coincide with the conference, Sanders instead made public a speech that would have gone down like a lead balloon had he chosen to deliver it to the pro-Israel lobbying group, in which he lambasted Israel for its ostensible “disproportionate responses to being attacked,” criticized its “bombing of hospitals, schools, and refugee camps” in the 2014 war with Hamas, and demanded an end to Israel’s “blockade of Gaza.”

Meanwhile, then-candidate Donald Trump, who AIPAC leaders had worried might be booed by the crowd, drew increasingly warm applause with a speech not only pledging that “When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end,” which was just about okay, but also castigating President Barack Obama as possibly “the worst thing that ever happened to Israel, believe me”—a devastatingly inappropriate declaration at the annual gathering of an organization committed to bipartisan U.S. support for Israel. . . .

Even with the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to see how AIPAC could have handled its near-impossible task of maintaining a bipartisan consensus on Israel in so divided an America. Regarding the 2016 fiasco, for instance, it could hardly not have invited candidate Trump, and it very probably sought to ensure ahead of time that his speech was appropriate; the Obama-bashing was likely ad-libbed. . . .

The group’s leadership is fully aware that the pendulum swings in American politics. As it works to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, it knows that it cannot afford to have Israel perceived as the pet cause of only one side of the political spectrum. But being cognizant of the challenge is only part of a battle that—when fractured America looks at complex, divided Israel—appears almost unwinnable right now.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: AIPAC, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Politics, U.S. Presidential election


The Danger of Hollow Fixes to the Iran Deal

March 20 2018

In January, the Trump administration announced a 120-day deadline for the so-called “E3”—Britain, France, and Germany—to agree to solutions for certain specific flaws in the 2015 agreement to limit the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Omri Ceren explains why it’s necessary to get these fixes right:

[Already in October], the administration made clear that it considered the deal fatally flawed for at least three reasons: a weak inspections regime in which the UN’s nuclear watchdog can’t access Iranian military facilities, an unacceptable arrangement whereby the U.S. had to give up its most powerful sanctions against ballistic missiles even as Iran was allowed to develop ballistic missiles, and the fact that the deal’s eventual expiration dates mean Iran will legally be allowed to get within a hair’s breadth of a nuclear weapon. . . .

A team of American negotiators has been working on getting the E3 to agree to a range of fixes, and is testing whether there is overlap between the maximum that the Europeans can give and the minimum that President Trump will accept. The Europeans in turn are testing the Iranians to gauge their reactions and will likely not accept any fixes that would cause Iran to bolt.

The negotiations are problematic. The New York Times reported that, as far as the Europeans are concerned, the exercise requires convincing Trump they’ve “changed the deal without actually changing it.” Public reports about the inspection fix suggest that the Europeans are loath to go beyond urging the International Atomic Energy Commission to request inspections, which the agency may be too intimidated to do. The ballistic-missile fix is shaping up to be a political disaster, with the Europeans refusing to incorporate anything but long-range missiles in the deal. That would leave us with inadequate tools to counter Iran’s development of ballistic missiles that could be used to wipe Israel, the Saudis, and U.S. regional bases off the map. . . .

There is a [significant] risk the Trump administration may be pushed to accept the hollow fixes acceptable to the Europeans. Fixing the deal in this way would be the worst of all worlds. It would functionally enshrine the deal under a Republican administration. Iran would be open for business, and this time there would be certainty that a future president will not act to reverse the inevitable gold rush. Just as no deal would have been better than a bad deal, so no fix would be better than a bad fix.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Donald Trump, Europe, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy