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.

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

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war