Israel’s Lost Clout

The Israeli government and the neocons have long felt they can dictate U.S. policy in the Mideast, including demands for military strikes against “enemies.” But President Obama’s push for diplomacy on Syria and Iran may be challenging that longstanding reality, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

The Iran’s new and more moderate President Hassan Rouhani came to the United Nations at the end of September. Amidst numerous interviews and diplomatic discussions, his message was clear: no, Iran will not give up its legal right to enrich uranium and no, Iran will not develop nuclear weapons.

According to Rouhani, Iran is willing to prove this second point by “ensuring full transparency [of its nuclear program] under international law.” In exchange for doing so, Iran will demand “a total lifting” of international sanctions.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013. (UN Photo)

In truth, this has been the position of the Iranian government for years. As far back as 2005 Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei declared that nuclear weapons violated Islamic law and Iran would not construct them. It primarily has been due to pressure from the Israelis and their Zionist lobby in Washington that U.S. politicians have refused to believe these Iranian assertions.

To overcome this lobby-induced skepticism, President Rouhani has switched from the in-your-face behavior that characterized his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to a more tactful, forthcoming approach. At least for now this shift has borne fruit.

There was the recent historic 15-minute phone call between him and President Barack Obama, as well as a brief meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. According to Kerry, Zarif “put some possibilities on the table,” and this has led to a scheduled round of “substantive talks” between Iran and the main Western nations in Geneva on Oct. 15-16.

Favorable White House Response

What has loosened the grip of lobby power and allowed the Obama administration to meet the Iranian initiative favorably? Certainly Rouhani’s so-called charm offensive helped, but it can’t be the only reason.

More fundamentally, the likelihood that a U.S attack on Syria would end in a debacle and the overwhelming popular opinion against such action set the scene for this latest turn toward diplomacy with Iran. According to a Washington Post opinion poll, 85 percent of Americans want better relations with Iran. That is the type of political ammunition that can do successful battle with selfish special interest pressure.

As politician and president, Obama has been caught between a desire to avoid war with Iran, a war that would almost certainly harm the Western world’s economy, and the political pressure of the powerful American Zionist lobby. The Zionists ultimately seek to ensure that U.S. policy falls in line with Israel’s desires to see Iran destroyed. This Zionist position reflects the distorted view of Israeli interests held by its ideologically myopic, militaristic elite, but it conflicts with the long-term interests of the United States.

If nothing else, the disastrous foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration demonstrated that American interests cannot possibly be served by starting a war with dangerous and unpredictable consequences against a country that has never been a direct threat to the United States. Obama knows this and, occasional rhetoric aside, has been hesitant and cautious in his approach to Iran.

The fact that he does not have to face reelection has positioned Obama to better separate out Israeli and American interests when it comes to Iran. American public opinion, first in the case of the Syrian episode and now in the case of Iran, has encouraged him to do so.

However, not all U.S. politicians enjoy this position. As M. J. Rosenberg tells us in a piece entitled “Will AIPAC Defeat Obama on Iran?” many in Congress still stand exposed to Zionist pressure. Rosenberg asserts that “the Netanyahu government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are both determined to end the process [toward settlement with Iran] and have the ability to do it.”

How so? “They intend to use the United States Congress [to] pass resolutions that will cause Rouhani to walk away by making it clear that Congress will accept nothing short of Iranian surrender on nuclear issues.”

And indeed, the usual suspects in Congress, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, who in a more rational world would be recognized as part-time agents of a foreign power (Israel), are already formulating resolutions and legislation to promote war.

Rosenberg notes that, ultimately, it is money that suborns the Congress. Why, he asks, would any in Congress pass measures that go against the interests of their own country and risk involvement in yet another Middle Eastern war? “The answer is simply that the midterm elections are coming up and that means members of Congress need campaign cash. And AIPAC provides it.”

Fortunately, there is a catch to this rather corrupt process. The alliance between the politicians and the Zionist lobby depends on a passive citizenry that does not threaten electoral defeat of politicians who promote special-interest wars when the voters want peace. Right now, the voters do not seem very passive.

Zionist Blindness

The American Zionists take their marching orders from Israel’s leaders and  seem oblivious to this development. In his speech to the UN, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed no interest in compromise with Iran. He dismissed President Rouhani’s diplomatic efforts as deceitful, interpreted every Iranian defensive military move as an offensive threat, and let it be known that Israel wants sanctions to continue and to be backed with threats of hostile action.

The Prime Minister insists that he takes this stance to protect the interests of Israel. However, Netanyahu seems to have never considered the fact that by having the Zionist lobby pressure Washington to do his military dirty work, he makes the whole affair the interest of every American citizen.

Insofar as the Israelis and their Zionist agents increase the likelihood of yet more wars, they expose their allies in the Congress to a political reaction that risks their defeat the first moment they have an opponent willing to follow the public’s demand for diplomacy and peace.

Political Zionists are ideologues, and therefore if something does not happen to call into question their ideology, they will go on believing they are in the right even up to and through the gates of Hell. This blinkered mindset is sometimes called “motivated reasoning,” or more broadly “confirmation bias.”

As explained by author Michael Shermer,  people who think this way refuse to consider or give any credit to data that does not “fit their creed.” That describes Benjamin Netanyahu perfectly.

Members of Congress who consistently support the political Zionist position are usually motivated by something other than ideology. They are motivated by money. That does not necessarily make them bad people, it just makes them slaves to a bad political system.

The ability to call into question their financial allegiance to the Zionists is readily possible when a publicly recognized difference evolves between the desires of the voters who put them in office and the desires of this particular special interest. That now seems to be happening in the case of U.S. foreign policy toward Iran.

Of course, the Zionists did this to themselves. They pushed and pushed for U.S. hostilities against Iran and assumed that they had no real opposition except a weakling president. They were wrong. Their opposition was nationwide, but they were blinded to it by their “motivated reasoning” and their hubris.

As for President Obama, he seems to have finally found his courage amidst popular demands for peace and diplomacy. Let’s hope this all-too-rare condition of sanity lasts.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

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12 comments on “Israel’s Lost Clout

  1. Paul Surovell on said:

    It’s rather amazing that a college history professor would use the terms “American Zionists” and “the Zionists” without acknowledging that some American Zionist organizations, such as J Street and Americans for Peace Now, are promoting peace with Iran and did not support the planned war on Syria.

    And it’s disappointing that Consortium News would let this distortion pass through its editorial oversight.

    • Hillary on said:

      Yes indeed it is amazing that a college history professor would use the terms “American Zionists” and “the Zionists” and would fail to mention all the Zionists wanting peace.
      .
      Perhaps it’s the absence of these peaceful Zionists in the MSM.
      .
      BTW Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got 29 standing ovations during his speech before a joint meeting of Congress compared to just 25 for President Obama’s State of the Union address.

  2. 9/16/2012: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned today that Iran was just six to seven months away from being able to build a nuclear bomb.

    http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/cjnconnect/blogs/article_a4247b02-28ac-5f54-8528-0aa33e9c4fdd.html

    • F. G. Sanford on said:

      Yes, and Switzerland could be days away from building gas chambers and ovens. Probably be a good idea to bomb them now, just in case.

    • @M McL:

      And the problem with that purported “quotation” of Netanyahu, the same thing was claimed by rightwing Israelis in 1995. The lie is getting boring.

      Then in 2013, despite what Fox News tells you, Iran is not bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. Nor has Iran ever threatened to use nuclear weapons.

  3. Bandolero on said:

    I share the hope of Lawrence Davidson, but I’m a lot more skeptic.

    the reason is that I believe MJ Rosenberg is wrong that money is the main tool of the lobby of the Zionist lunatics. I believe their main tool is mass media.

    And, while the public is against war on Iran, I think in the congressional elections war on Iran will be only a minor topic. That could allow the media machine of the Zionist lunatics to punish and shoot down the candidates which defied AIPAC’s wish for war on Iran, albeit, of course, shooting them down with personal smear appearing of having nothing to do anything with Iran or Israel. Who will say the personal mass media smear has anything to do with Israel or the Israel lobby, might of course, like usual, be branded as anti-semite then.

    It might not work with a public which is awaken to the aims and tactics of the Israel lobby, but I fear independent media – like Consortium News – or non-zionist media for that matter is still not spread wide enough to get the message through. I noticed that some zionist media close to Obama, say the New York Times or CBS, distanced itself from the very lunatic zionists, but I fear that that may not be enough to really make a difference.

  4. Whereas I support all that Lawrence Davidson has said above, I consider that the courage the author has stated that Obama may have developed was forced upon him, not self-generated.

    He is not a strong person, possibly under threat by Mossad as this wouldn’t be the first time and perhaps with the threat of action with nuclear weapons against cities in Europe, Iran and perceived enemies of Israel, almost the whole world fitting that criteria, take your pick.

    What is needed is for the American people to throw off the shackless of apathy, encouraged by compromised politicians, thick on the ground in the US government and see Zionism for what it is, disloyal corruption and graft.

    Only then will the positive comment by this respected author by given some credence when the small move forward as explained generates a positive groundswell by the people. Right now the unpatriotic swill of necons, Zionists, AIPAC’ers, Jews of all descriptions and fellow-travellers can overcome this small aberration in a matter of weeks. Such is the control by foreigners, because that’s what they are, of US foreign policy.

    • Bill Camp R on said:

      I do not believe President Obama is a weakling in regards to this matter.On the contrary, for a person to receive the Noble Prize for Peace and then continues to bomb the living daylights out of the middle east simply does not square with”weakling.” I do believe he has humbled Netanyahu on various occasions, such as when the Prime Minister went to the White House with maps and drawings to show “the situation.” Obama got up and told Bibi that when he had someth9ing worthwhile just call him, the President. There is no denial that the situation in the Middle East is explosive. However, readers must remember that with the Obama administration the status quo collapsed. Yes it is a mud puddle, but it will develop on its own accord and not with the interference of the USofA which is the usual political action. Overall, we are a predatory and murdering Imperial power whose time to slide has come. We ourselves allowed this by not using the ballot box prudently. We are extremely polarized and as such, any opinion is not based on careful analysis of the immediate strategy to implement. We simply have none. And let us look at Latin America, nothing, nada, zilch! And South America is taking off on its own, notwithstanding the multiple and corrupt governments in the region, specially Central America which is still the compost bin for American trash. If we insist on concentrating on just Israel, AIPAC, etc we will never ever get out of perpetual warfare, which is what we are implementing strategically. The world is changing so fast and we are staying in the past glories of imperialism that it is a wonder if we can really even suggest that we are a country with a wise We the People?” All actions, and the thoughts that go into developing those actions, are totally anonymous to the general population. In fact, it is in the sphere of a few. A palm tree goes up, but it comes down as a coconut.

  5. Must disagree with Bandolero. It’s money sure enough. You don’t have mass media or media of any type without money. You can’t lobby and bribe legislators without money. Money makes the world go round, for good or bad.

  6. shabbir Jiwa on said:

    Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani should be selected to receive Noble Peace prize what he has done to change the name of the game in his favor as a person of PEACE. Well done Bravo I salute the man of honor with his great charm

  7. hammersmith on said:

    BO’s finest moment…sincerely.