At first glance, the only thing surprising about the Congressional letter demanding that the Palestinians be punished for taking their case to the United Nations is that AIPAC’s role in producing it is stated openly. The cover letter to House members asking for their signatures (from a staffer working for House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) reads as follows:
I wanted to draw your attention to a bipartisan letter (supported by AIPAC) to President Obama from Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member [Howard] Berman, Chairman-designate [Ed] Royce, and Ranking Member-designate [Elliot] Engel. The letter calls on the President to impose strong, specified consequences on the Palestinian leadership and the United Nations for the UN General Assembly move to upgrade the status of the mission of “Palestine” (the PLO) to “Non-Member Observer” state. The text of the letter is below. (Italics mine).
As I said, initially the only surprise seems to be that the Ros-Lehtinen staffer actually mentions AIPAC. As a long-time Capitol Hill staffer I can tell you that it is unheard of for AIPAC to be specifically mentioned when circulating a letter drafted by AIPAC. As is the case with Israel’s nuclear arsenal, it is considered very bad form to acknowledge what everyone knows. In this case, it is that all major Congressional initiatives related to Israel, Palestine, or Iran originates with AIPAC.
But there is another element even more striking. It is that Howard Berman is one of the four representatives circulating the letter.
Before November, of course, it would have been inconceivable that Berman would not have been. He is AIPAC’s main man in the House and, although more thoughtful than most lobby cutouts, always ends up (after much agonizing) on the side of the lobby.
But Berman lost his re-election bid and is currently seeking a position with the Obama administration. Why would he sign a letter like this now?
Just read the text.
The letter not only calls on Obama to punish the Palestinians for going to the United Nations; it asks him to consider punishing the United Nations too. Why? Because the Palestinians did in 2012 what the Israelis did in 1947: they went to the United Nations General Assembly to ask to have their right to statehood recognized. AIPAC and its Congressional cutouts call this “unilateralism,” as if there can be anything unilateral about going to the, by definition, multilateral United Nations.
And, of course, only 6 countries in the world supported the US/Israel position opposing Palestinian observer status. They were Canada, Czech Republic, Panama, The Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Micronesia. 138 voted for Palestinian observer status.
The U.S. vote made us look ridiculous or, to be precise, like Netanyahu’s tool. And now AIPAC compounds the damage by devising a House initiative demanding punishment for pretty much the entire world (the Palestinians and the United Nations) for daring to oppose our position.
And Howard Berman is leading the effort.
Is he unaware that our position on this issue further isolates the United States and reduces our influence in the Middle East? Is he unaware that the President is almost certain not to do what the letter asks him to do (unless Congress ties his hands and makes AIPAC’s demands the law)? Is he unaware that when Obama ignores the letter that Republicans will use it to bash Obama and Democrats as anti-Israel? And, above all, is he unaware that U.S. interests are damaged every time they are subordinated to those of Israel?
I cannot believer Berman does not know these things so I have to conclude that his dedication to the proposition that “no daylight” must ever come between Israel and the United States is something he truly believes. What’s good for Israel is good for the United States!
In short, maybe I am wrong about some of these guys. I tend to believe that they grovel before AIPAC entirely for campaign contributions. But Berman isn’t running for anything; he doesn’t need the money.
Apparently, he is a true believer. He just puts Israel’s interests (as he perceives them) first. Funny, if it was the money it would not be as deeply offensive.
If he gets a job in the Obama administration, I hope it is on the domestic side, far from Israel and its interests. That would obviously be best for everyone.