- By Stephen M. WaltStephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.
Via Ben Smith at Politico, we learn that the usual suspects have started yet another organization whose objective is to promote a hard-right, Likudnik agenda in the Middle East. The new group apparently intends to go after anyone who thinks U.S. Middle East policy has been less than totally successful in recent years, and who is willing to think for themselves (and U.S. interests), instead of reflexively echoing the positions favored by AIPAC and other groups in the "status quo" lobby.
To be more specific, Smith reports that hardline neoconservatives such as William Kristol, Michael Goldfarb, Noah Pollak, and Rachel Abrams have joined forces (again) with rightwing Christian evangelical Gary Bauer to establish a new group: the "Emergency Committee for Israel." The group says it is going to target candidates in key Senate and Congressional races, along with the Obama administration. It is directing its initial salvo (in the form of a TV ad) at Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA), who defeated incumbent Arlen Spector in the Democratic primary and is now running for the Senate. Sestak was targeted because he had the temerity not to sign an AIPAC-sponsored letter awhile back, and though he’s a strong defender of Israel, he’s been critical of Israel’s counterproductive blockade of Gaza.
The ironies here are remarkable. For starters, you have some of the same geniuses who dreamed up and sold the Iraq War — one of the dumbest blunders in the annals of U.S. foreign policy — joining forces with someone who thinks U.S. Middle East policy ought to be based on his interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. They’re going after a retired three-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, who also happens to have a Ph.D. in political economy and international affairs from Harvard. Given their track record over the past decade, this is actually a stunning endorsement of Sestak’s candidacy. Criticism from these folks is like having Lindsay Lohan complain about your lifestyle choices, or having BP president Tony Hayward offer advice on environmental safety and public relations.
What is even more ironic is the group’s paranoid name: the "Emergency Committee." Its members must think Israel is in real trouble, but what they don’t seem to realize is that it is their advice that has helped lead to its current difficulties. Israel has been following the Likudnik/neoconservative/Christian Zionist program for several decades now, with vocal backing from the likes of Kristol, Pollak and Bauer, and the United States has been providing it with unconditional support for this self-destructive course.
Contrary to what many people think, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not win a great political victory over President Obama during their little love-fest last week. Sure, Obama has largely abandoned his early insistence that Israel stop building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and he’s made it clear that his administration won’t use U.S. pressure to bring about a genuine two-state solution. Contrary to his early rhetoric, Obama is proving to be just like most of his predecessors, and for essentially the same reason.
Last week was a tactical win for Bibi but yet another strategic misstep, because, as his predecessor Ehud Olmert and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak have both acknowledged, only a viable two-state solution can prevent Israel from becoming a full-fledged apartheid state. This development will force the Palestinians to seek full political rights within this "greater Israel." And as Olmert warned back in 2007, "once that happens … the state of Israel is finished."
As Jerome Slater pointed out on his own blog last week, the reason Obama couldn’t do the right thing was the power of the lobby, and that includes the endless machinations of folks like Kristol and Bauer. They are right to think that Israel is in deep trouble and that it’s likely to get worse. What they don’t get is that it is to a large extent their fault.
Bottom line: If you want to kill off any prospect for peace, ensure that Israel’s current difficulties multiply, and reinforce anti-Americanism throughout the region, by all means back any of the candidates that the "emergency committee" endorses.