Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Lobby

Glenn Frankel takes on the role of AIPAC in today's WaPo: "A Beautiful Friendship?" Here's a taste...
On Capitol Hill the Israel lobby commands large majorities in both the House and Senate. Polls show strong public support for Israel -- a connection that has grown even deeper after the September 11 attacks. The popular equation goes like this: Israelis equal good guys, Arabs equal terrorists. Working the Hill these days, says Josh Block, spokesman for the premier Israeli lobbying group known as AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, "is like pushing at an open door."
Not everyone believes this is a good thing. In March two distinguished political scientists -- Stephen Walt from Harvard and John Mearsheimer from the University of Chicago -- published a 42-page, heavily footnoted essay arguing that the Bush administration's support for Israel and its related effort to spread democracy throughout the Middle East have "inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security."
The professors claim that our intimate partnership with Israel is both dangerous and unprecedented. "Other special interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest," they argue. They go on to say that the war in Iraq "was due in large part to the Lobby's influence," and that the same combine is "using all of the strategies in its playbook" to pressure the administration into being aggressive and belligerent with Iran. The bottom line: "Israel's enemies get weakened or overthrown, Israel gets a free hand with the Palestinians, and the United States does most of the fighting, dying, rebuilding and paying."
A sweet deal for Israel, in other words, but a very bad one for America.
Here's something that made my eyes bug-out just a bit...
[former AIPAC lobbyist Morris Amitay] had a couple of things going for him: his own experience and relationships on the Hill; a small but hard-working staff, which at one time included CNN's Wolf Blitzer; and Kenneth Wollack, president of the National Democratic Institute.
And what ever happened to that AIPAC/Iran espionage case?
AIPAC in recent years has parted with some of the staff members who gave it a harder edge, foremost among them Steve Rosen, its former director of foreign policy issues. Rosen and a fellow staff member, Keith Weissman, were fired last year after they were indicted under the 1917 Espionage Act for allegedly receiving classified information about administration strategy on Iran from Lawrence Franklin, the Pentagon's Iran desk officer. Their trial is scheduled for later this summer.
Lawyers for Rosen and Weissman contend their clients did only what journalists and analysts do every day in Washington -- gather information. Maybe so, but what's really intriguing for our purposes is how this little scandal came about. It wasn't Rosen and Weissman pursuing Franklin; it was Franklin seeking them out to make an end run around his superiors, who didn't share Franklin's view that the White House should crack down harder on Iran's developing nuclear program. Franklin believed enlisting AIPAC's help was the best way to ensure that his message got delivered to the White House.
Read the rest here and then CC Harper/Day. Glenn Frankel (the author of the piece) will be available for Q&A on Monday.

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