An alarming headline appeared in the English language Jerusalem Post February 8: “Washington Watch: banging the war drums.” The article below it, written by Douglas Bloomfield, president of Bloomfield Associates Inc., a Washington lobbying and consulting firm, noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “who has a penchant for dabbling in American politics,” will be in Washington to speak March 3 at the annual policy conference of the American Israeli Political Action Committee (AIPAC) and meet with President Obama.
“Look for him to whip up the activists long schooled in lobbying for a get-tougher Iran policy,” wrote Bloomfield.
“They’ll take the message to Capitol Hill with enthusiasm.”
Bloomfield knows of what he speaks. He served nine years as AIPAC’s legislative director and chief lobbyist.
Last year’s AIPAC confab drew 10,000 delegates and guests - including 70 U.S. Senators and 270 members of the House of Representatives. This year a group calling itself Occupy/AIPAC plans to demonstrate outside the Washington Convention Center.
“If past performance is any indicator, Obama will tell the Israeli leader that sanctions are showing results and, along with diplomacy, should be given more time to work.” Bloomfield wrote. “Netanyahu will respond that the Iranians are not serious about diplomacy and use it only to stall while they go full speed ahead on their nuclear program. Obama will repeat assurances of ‘ironclad’ US support, and Netanyahu will dodge the president’s plea for patience and his request for advance notice.”
“It is no secret that senior American officials across the board distrust Netanyahu, believing he does not level with them, does not keep his commitments and is manipulative,” continued Bloomfield. “Israeli analysts suggest Netanyahu could decide to hit Iran during this election year, believing Obama would be reluctant to try to block him for fear of offending Jewish supporters. The window of political opportunity is wide open, in Netanyahu’s view.
“Republicans are trying to make support for Israel a wedge issue and are accusing Obama of being hostile to the Jewish state. They say his willingness to negotiate with the Iranians is a sign of weakness. The president has been in make-nice-to-Israel mode, effectively shelving any effort to revive peace negotiations, which pleases Netanyahu. The president’s assumption is that peace process progress is impossible, so why ruffle any feathers among Israel’s friends. Netanyahu has argued there can be no progress in peace talks until the Iran problem is resolved.
“If Netanyahu does decide to strike Iran this year, with or without US administration backing, Republicans could be expected to turn that into a campaign issue against the Democrats.”
At first glance it might seem strange for such a candid view of what the right wing Israeli government has in mind for the U.S. to appear in a conservative Israeli newspaper that supports the policies of Netanyahu’s Likud Party-led government. However, a kind of bravado often seeps into the paper’s coverage – a kind of transparency of motive and intent.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s threats have more to do with challenging Washington than with actually attacking Iran, wrote Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons on Salon.com last week. He wrote, “When articles invoking the Holocaust and urging ‘creative destruction’ in Iran appear on the same day (Feb. 7) in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Bloomberg News, a skeptical observer might be forgiven for suspecting a well-coordinated propaganda campaign.”
That is clearly what is afoot.
It is doubtful that the government of any other country in the world could so boldly inject itself in the internal affairs of the U.S. without being called to task. And this incursion comes at a critical and volatile moment in this country’s political life. Netanyahu and friends are not just “dabbling’ in our politics; this is a full court press.
Netanyahu’s mission in the U.S. will clearly have two objectives: to raise the level of threats against the government of Iran over its nuclear program and gain support for Tel Aviv’s continued hold on the occupied territories in the face of near complete international disapproval. There is widespread concern that Israel might carry out a unilateral military attack on Iran at some point between now and November, confident that Washington would not demur, this being an election year.
Asserting that an attack on Iran “could set the entire Middle East aflame,” Lyon wrote on Salon, “You’d think the Israelis, of all people, would recognize that threatening a people with death and destruction hardens their resolve. Yet the New York Times reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ‘told visitors that he believes the Tehran government to be deeply unpopular, indeed despised, and that a careful attack on its nuclear facilities might even be welcomed by Iranian citizens.’”
Needless to say, bombs over Bagdad didn’t bring cheering crowds into the streets, nor would bombs over Teheran. But of course, Netanyahu knows that.
“Assuming that the Israeli prime minister’s motives for threatening a unilateral Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities are as reported - I suspect they are not,” continued Lyon. “To put it bluntly, it’s not so much the regime in Tehran that Netanyahu is keen to destabilize as the one in Washington. The question now is how far he’s willing to take it.”
Lyon went on to note that in his State of the Union speech, Obama, while reiterating his determination to prevent Iran’s getting nuclear weapons, “also expressed hope that international sanctions could lead to a peaceful resolution.”
“On cue, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen called this ‘startlingly naïve.’ Only a fool or a Frenchman, the same pundit once opined, could doubt the existence of Saddam Hussein’s WMD. Bombs away!”
“Netanyahu appears to see an Obama second term as an impediment to further Israeli expansion into the West Bank … and has cast his lot with the Republican right,” Lyon wrote. He noted that the Israeli leader has made public appearances with such reactionary notables as Glenn Beck, “End Times” evangelist John Hagee and multibillionaire Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who has largely financed Newt Gingrich’s futile attempt to gain momentum in the Republican Presidential primary race and who has signaled that he is prepared to throw his weight and his dollars behind anyone in a relentless drive to defeat Obama.
Rob Kall, editor and publisher of OpEdNews.com, wrote last week that if there is any truth in the picture that people like Lyon draw of Israeli intent to jump into the U.S. Presidential election, “then progressives need to take action, particularly Jewish progressives. They (we) need to do a lot more to stand up in opposition to the right-wingers leading Israel. Democrats need help articulating a conversation that enables them to support Israel while opposing the hawkish, politically motivated threats and machinations purportedly about Iran, but practically, aimed against US Democrats.”
Interestingly, Bloomfield is clear on what is at stake in the threat of an attack on Iran. “Obama can expect to be accused of forcing Israel to attack by failing to stop the Iranian nuclear program, and blamed for any Iranian retaliation. War in the Gulf, even a brief one, will certainly cause a major disruption in oil supplies and a spike in fuel prices, and if Iran carries through on its threats to close the Straits of Hormuz, it could damage an already fragile global economy.
“America is vulnerable to Iranian retaliation because it has extensive assets in the region, including ships, bases, tens of thousands of troops and civilians and many American businesses. Retaliation against them would trigger a major American military response, sparking a wider war this country cannot afford.”
“The American public does not want another war in the Middle East, and President Obama will be blamed if one erupts, whether triggered by an Israeli attack or Iranian retaliation,” noted Bloomfield. “Republicans may criticize the president for cautioning against another conflict, but Jewish voters, who traditionally support Democrats 3:1, are not likely to shift to the GOP because it bangs the war drums loudly and wants to follow Netanyahu into battle with Iran.”
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member Carl Bloice is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly worked for a healthcare union. Click here to contact Mr. Bloice.