Stephen M. Walt

Just a coincidence, I’m sure

“You see this napkin? In 24 hours, we could have the signatures of 70 Senators on this napkin.” –Former AIPAC official Steven Rosen, speaking to a sympathetic journalist (Jeffrey Goldberg). “Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Arlen Specter (D-PA), John Thune (R-SD) were joined by 72 of their Senate colleagues in writing to President ...

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“You see this napkin? In 24 hours, we could have the signatures of 70 Senators on this napkin.”

–Former AIPAC official Steven Rosen, speaking to a sympathetic journalist (Jeffrey Goldberg).

“Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Arlen Specter (D-PA), John Thune (R-SD) were joined by 72 of their Senate colleagues in writing to President Obama today, encouraging him to work towards achieving peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors in a manner that takes into full account the risks that Israel will face in any peace agreement.”

Press release from office of Sen. Dodd, May 19, 2009.

The letter in question is the Senate version of the AIPAC-drafted letter circulated by Reps. Steney Hoyer (D-MD) and Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the House. It calls for the Obama administration “to work closely and privately” with Israel and that the United States “must be a trusted mediator and a devoted friend to Israel.” In other words, Obama’s team should act as “Israel’s lawyer” in peace talks, just as Bill Clinton’s team did during the failed Oslo process. It says that once the Palestinians meet a series of demanding conditions, then “an accord with Israel will be easier to attain,” and it calls for the Arab states to move “toward normal ties with Israel” without specifying any steps that Israel might take to facilitate this process. There is no mention of an end to settlement construction, lifting the blockade of Gaza, or halting the creeping incorporation of land in and around Jerusalem. It declares that Israel “will be taking the greatest risks in any peace agreement,” but the signatories remain blissfully unaware that continuing to delay a two-state solution poses a far greater threat to Israel’s long-term future. For a more detailed critique, see M.J. Rosenberg here.

There is a broad agreement that groups like AIPAC exert more influence on Capitol Hill than on the Executive Branch. Let’s hope so.       

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

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