Political Correction

AIPAC's Egypt Miscalculation

January 28, 2011 1:09 pm ET

If one needs additional proof that the "pro-Israel" lobby and the policies it dictates to US policymakers are bad for both the U.S. and Israel, look no further than what is happening in Egypt.

The regime that the Israeli government and its U.S. lobby have depended upon to enforce the status quo is going down. It is not clear when, but it's going to be soon, much sooner than anyone ever anticipated. And you can be sure that any democratic government that takes Mubarak's place is not going to play the role of America's (let alone Israel's) enforcer in the Middle East.

Hopefully, the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty will survive — thousands of lives on both sides have been saved by President Carter's Camp David Treaty — but there are no guarantees. Far from it.

Of course, no one would even be worried about the peace treaty if the Israelis had agreed to implement the critical second part of the Camp David Accords.

That was the part that would have ended the occupation. But the Israelis chose to ignore it and the lobby and the ever-faithful Congress blocked Carter's efforts to push it through.

Few would argue that the imminent collapse of the Mubarak regime (and other Middle East dictatorships) derives from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Neither Egyptians nor Tunisians are risking and losing their lives for Palestinians. They are doing it for themselves. They want freedom.

But the hatred for America that the revolutionaries feel stems in large part from our support for the occupation and the regional dictators who help enable it. And that support stems entirely from the lobby's power to intimidate policymakers.

I am often accused of harping on the lobby's baleful influence. I plead guilty. But it's my obligation because (1) I know from personal experience — 15 years on Capitol Hill and four at AIPAC — how it operates, (2) I know how little it really cares about Israel, and (3) I am free to tell the truth about it. If I worked in the mainstream media or in the U.S. government, I wouldn't be.

Another area where the lobby has done so much damage is in our relations with Iran.

AIPAC is dedicated to "crippling" sanctions and eventually war with Iran if sanctions don't bring down the regime. Later this spring, AIPAC will host its annual conference which will, as has been the case for a decade, feature mind-numbing warnings about the danger posed by an Iranian nuclear bomb.

Unfortunately for the lobby (and happily for everyone else), there probably won't be an Iranian bomb anytime soon, thanks to the Stuxnet worm which, somehow, the Israelis devised to rip the guts out of Iran's centrifuges.

Israeli officials say that any Iran bomb will be delayed for years and maybe forever.

One would think that the lobby would be ecstatic, but it barely mentions the Stuxnet triumph. Why is that?

Because it was never really worried about an Iranian bomb (especially since Israel has 200 nuclear weapons) but worried that a nuclear-armed Iran would challenge Israel's regional hegemony. (It's the same reason the lobby despises Turkey.) So the lobby pretends as though Stuxnet didn't happen. We need more "crippling sanctions" and then possibly war, they maintain.

This is from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). (Note: Rep. Howard Berman is, by far, the member of Congress closest to AIPAC.)

The Stuxnet revelations, if anything, reinforce the need for a tough stance, said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. They underscore how committed Iran is to producing a bomb, he told JTA.

"It's a reason to push down on the pedal," said Berman, who crafted the most recent Iran sanctions law in the Congress.

Berman added:

"Let me know when Iran certifiably suspends enrichment and allows inspections, throughout all its territory, and then we can have a conversation about sanctions," he said. "Having that military option on the table is an important part of achieving that goal and affecting their calculations."

Prime Minister Netanyahu himself, who uses the Iran nuclear threat to win support at home and in the United States, is also unhappy. Reuters reported that he is "miffed" at the Mossad for reporting on the diminished nuclear threat. He is angry that Stuxnet removed his pretense for war. And that means Congress, pushed by AIPAC, will keep passing sanctions bills that punish not the Iranian regime but the Iranian people.

And Iranians will always remember it and hold it against us.

Isn't it time for the United States to begin implementing policies that are in our national interests, not the lobby's organizational interests? Policies that are good for America are good for Israel, too. Policies that weaken America, that reduce our influence throughout the entire Middle East, are also bad for Israel.

That's one of many lessons that we can learn from the bloody events in Egypt. It's not too late for America to get on the right side of history.

Copyright © 2010 Media Matters Action Network. All rights reserved.