Why AIPAC fears putting its money where its mouth is on Hagel
For background, see Gung-ho militarists use antisemitic smear to block Obama’s choices
President Obama shakes hands with Chuck Hagel after nominating him as Secretary of Defense. The right-wing campaign to block him as holding anti-Israeli views has failed, so other reasons will be found.
By Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic
January 07, 2013
I’ll have more on the nomination of Chuck Hagel later, but just one note for the moment: There’s an assumption out there that AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israel group on Capitol Hill, will be supporting an all-fronts effort to block this nomination, for all of the reasons being discussed: He’s unfriendly to Israel, he’s soft on Iran, and so on. But I’m not so sure AIPAC will be throwing itself into this fight.
AIPAC, unlike, say, the Republican Jewish Coalition, or the Bill Kristol Coalition, tries — sometimes imperfectly — to both be, and appear to be, bipartisan. The people who run AIPAC aren’t stupid: They know that if they foment strong opposition to Hagel on the Hill, they will earn President Obama’s enmity, whether or not they succeed or fail. Discussions inside the group — and what the group is hearing from its friends on the Hill, and in the administration — is that the president very much wants Hagel at Defense, and would be very upset if a group whose agenda he has more-or-less supported (a strong no to containment of Iran, maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, siding with Israel at the United nations) tries to deny him the defense secretary he wants, and who is a personal friend.
The administration is worried most about AIPAC — it does not generally pay attention to the editorials of The Weekly Standard — and its emissaries have been working overtime to ensure AIPAC’s quiescence. I could obviously be wrong, and information may come out in confirmation hearings that makes it impossible for AIPAC to sideline itself, but my guess at this moment is that the AIPAC will not mount a significant campaign on the Hill.
By Jerry Haber, Magnes Zionist
January 07, 2013
Chuck Hagel is going to be the next Secretary of Defense, unless there are surprises or skeletons in his closet. Already his “opposition” has defectors, such as Barney Frank, who initially expressed reservations. There will be grandstanding at the Senate confirmation hearings by Lindsay Graham and others — folks have to play to their base — but the real players will not challenge the president on this one. (I am betting Chuck Shumer will vote for him after his “concerns” have been allayed.)
Jeff Goldberg says what I have been thinking — and that doesn’t happen very often — that AIPAC is not going to mount a significant opposition here. Not only do they know that this is a lost cause, but they also know that Hagel can be managed on Israel. For one thing, the mlitary-industrial complexes of Israel and the US are so tied together that even Jimmy Carter — heck, even Ali Abunimah — couldn’t render them asunder. For another, AIPAC’s strength has always been in Congress and not in the cabinet or the administration.
Again, all this could change if AIPAC smells blood, but it is never in AIPAC’s interest to lose a battle; that was the famous lesson they learned when they saw they would lose the AWACS battle under President Reagan**. They will keep a low profile. If you don’t fight, you can’t lose.
That doesn’t mean to say that AIPAC, like the NRA, won’t go after those Republican supporters of Hagel when election time comes around. So I wouldn’t rule out some caving for fear of the Israel Lobby’s money.
Oh sure, the Republican tea-party types (thank God, it’s not the House that confirms cabinet appointments) will make a lot of noise in the confirmation hearings, and the media is whipping up the enthusiasm before the big Senate fight for its ratings. But when Joe Scarbourough backs Hagel, you know that Obama has once again succeeded in pitting Republican against Republican. I can’t wait to see Charles Krauthammer grind his teeth over “The Return of the Real Obama” — Part Two. After all, there are a heck of a lot of Republicans out there who want to send William Kristol to Alaska for good. And, frankly, there is no danger to Kristol, either. After all, he will never have problem raising money for his various think-tank projects. If there was ever a better example of the well-fed dog barking while the caravan moves on, I can’t think of one
Whether President Obama has grown a spine, or some other part of his anatomy, he has hit his stride. Who knows? He may actually do something one day that Paul Krugman likes.
I write this from Jerusalem, where the news is unbelievably bad and gets worse daily. Now religious”settlements” are being built not only on the West Bank but in Arab neighborhoods Lod/Lydda, Jaffa, and Acco/Acre. And the tactics used to expel Arabs from their homes are sickening. See the article in Haaretz today.
So at least I get a little naches from somebody like Chuck Hagel, who is willing to treat the Palestinians as human beings.
[*Slam dunk: a high-scoring baseball move which ensures the ball goes into the basket. hence 'a sure thing'.
** Under President Reagan the US made the biggest arms sale of its history - its airborne and warning control system, AWACS - to Saudi Arabia. There was huge opposition from the Israeli government and pro-Israel groups, which was overridden. From Why AWACS fight risks Reagan Mideast plan, Christian Science Monitor, 5.10.81: "Few things disturb American Jews as much as innuendoes or allegations to the effect that they have divided loyalties -- between the US and Israel. Both Mr. Reagan's and Mr. Nixon's statements came close to that implication. Any suggestion along these lines raises the specter for American Jews of other Americans turning on them in a wave of anti-Semitism."]