The Israel Lobby Is Killing Iran Negotiations In Favor Of War

The Israel Lobby has truly gotten out of control.

The Obama administration is close to an agreement with the Iranian government to achieve a decade’s long goal. Iran would give up any plans it might have to develop nuclear weapons (verified by international inspections) in exchange for the lifting of some international sanctions that are doing significant damage to the Iranian economy.

This development — the possibility of ending a possible Iranian nuclear threat and ultimately normalizing relations with Iran after a four decade freeze — was made possible by an event few anticipated. That was the election of a moderate Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who has been authorized by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, to explore if the United States (and the Europeans) are serious about peace in exchange for a no-weapons pledge. Fortunately, in the Obama administration, the Iranians have a negotiating partner eager to improve U.S.-Iran relations if Iran gives up the nuclear bomb option.

Negotiations commenced and moved more swiftly than anyone expected. A week ago Secretary of State John Kerry was about to announce the first step toward a breakthrough when, apparently, the French government objected, putting the process on hold and giving the Israel lobby the opening it wanted to kill the negotiations. By itself, of course, the French position counts for very little in Washington. Two examples: the French opposed the Iraq war and they supported bombing Syria. They were simply ignored. No, France does not count for much in Washington. But the lobby, that is a whole other thing.

Nonetheless, the French have provided the delay the lobby needed. And it has gone to work. Here is the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman saying that Kerry’s Iran opening is “chutzpah” that he hopes “will unite American Jews” in opposition. Here is Alan Dershowitz, the lawyer and pro-Israel spokesman, likening Kerry to Neville Chamberlain and, like Foxman, saying that the “entire pro-Israel community must unite” against the Iran deal.

Far more significant than either is the memo that the official lobby, AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) sent to Congress:

To avoid any misunderstanding in Tehran, America must clearly signal that it will consider no easing of sanctions until Iran has verifiably suspended its nuclear program. If Iran’s nuclear activities continue, the United States and the international community should escalate sanctions and reinforce President Obama’s message that a credible military option is on the table to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Not surprisingly, AIPAC’s position is identical to that of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the very opposite of the Kerry approach. As is normal in any successful negotiations, Kerry is utilizing a step-by-step approach: offering some lifting of sanctions in exchange for some verifiable evidence that Iran is moving toward eliminating its nuclear weapons potential. AIPAC (and Netanyahu) are demanding that first Iran suspend its entire nuclear program (they make no distinction between civilian and military) and then the United States will consider the “easing of sanctions.” Chutzpah?

Given that the statement itself quickly segues to a military threat (“credible military option”), it is obvious that Netanyahu and the lobby understand that no country would accept a deal in which it gives up everything in exchange for maybe something later. No, the goal of the lobby’s position is achieving the “military option.” And that is what is so amazing about the lobby’s position.

It is one thing for the lobby to constantly thwart America’s efforts to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Although it is short-sighted and not in the interests of the United States or Israel, the lobby’s position does not directly fly in the face of U.S. security interests. Yes, one can argue that continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will ultimately threaten American lives and regional interests in general. But that is a supposition, one that is not provable.

The Iran case is different because the Obama administration is seeking to avoid a war that would jeopardize American lives. Once the bombs fly, the United States would be in another deadly Middle Eastern war, which is the last thing the United States wants. As was demonstrated by the Syria debate, the American people virtually stand as one in opposition to another war.

But the lobby apparently feels differently. Although it says (following Netanyahu) that its goal is to prevent an Iranian bomb, it is rejecting the administration’s surprisingly successful effort to achieve that result by laying down conditions that it knows cannot be fulfilled. It wants the “military option” because its goal is not eliminating any Iranian nuclear threat but in eliminating the Islamic Republic as a regional power.

In theory, neither the lobby nor Netanyahu should be able to get away with any of this. After all, the administration is acting in the interests of the United States while they are acting in support of Netanyahu’s.

They might get away with it. That is because Congress may allow them to. Republicans oppose everything President Obama does. By definition, if he does it, it is wrong. Choosing Netanyahu over a president they despise is as natural to them as shutting down the government or refusing to confirm judicial appointments. As for the Democrats, they receive a significant amount of their campaign funding from the lobby. Unlike supporting the Syrian intervention which was a minor lobby initiative, thwarting an agreement with Iran in favor of the military option is the lobby’s (and Netanyahu’s) number one initiative. Those who support negotiations could literally pay a price for it.

But it would not be as much of a price as Netanyahu and the lobby would like them to believe. According to the polls (see the American Jewish Committee poll here and the recent Pew poll here), the overwhelming majority of American Jews are progressives who support Democrats because they find the Republicans to be antithetical to every value they hold dear. Jews are overwhelmingly pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-affirmative action. pro-labor, pro-immigration, pro-regulation and, to put it in Republican terms, pro-big government. No matter how much they might earn, they are never with the anti-tax crowd, believing (as the Torah teaches) that it is the obligation of the well-off to support those who aren’t.

Forget all that. When it comes to real matters of national security — like avoiding an unnecessary war — a president and Congress needs to do the right thing without regard what any lobby is saying. The supreme national interest — American lives — must come first. And the lobby and Netanyahu need to be told that they are, to put it gently, out of line.

For the sake of world peace, of Israel and Iran, and, above all, of the United States, these negotiations must succeed.

This entry was posted in General News and tagged , , by MJ Rosenberg. Bookmark the permalink.

About MJ Rosenberg

MJ Rosenberg is a commentator on Israel and the Middle East who draws on thirty-five years of experience as a congressional aide, State Department political appointee under President Clinton, four years at AIPAC, ten at Israel Policy Forum, and three at Media Matters for America. He first came to the attention of the Jewish community in 1969 when he wrote a piece for New York's Village Voice called "To Uncle Tom and Other Such Jews." That article, which was viewed as the manifesto of the so-called "radical Zionist" movement, called on progressive Jews not to abandon Israel even though its cause did not easily fit in with the progressive worldview. In the years since, as Israel moved to the right, Rosenberg moved to the left. A thirty-five-year career on Capitol Hill, at the State Department and, significantly, four years at AIPAC led Rosenberg to become a champion of Israeli-Palestinian peace and a vocal opponent of the right-wing "pro-Israel" lobby. Rosenberg writes a weekly column for the Huffington Post and has a blog,, which is widely circulated within the blogosphere. He also has 15,000 followers on twitter.

16 thoughts on “The Israel Lobby Is Killing Iran Negotiations In Favor Of War

  1. Um……Iran walked away from the negotiation table and France held a harder line. Just the facts, jack, just the facts

  2. My least favorite part about the lobby is how they are always playing that generic musak and the people keep coming down to ask the receptionists the most ridiculous questions.

  3. The middle east should be nuclear free zone and Israel should be forced to surrender all of their nuclear stock pile. If not the UN should use force if necessary to remove them.

  4. The UN ? What do they have to do with anything? I thought they folded? Netanyahu has been getting his advice from some mystical rabbis who see Iran as they are.

  5. I appreciate this informative report on the progress and problems in negotiating world peace without more war and the killing and injury of more innocent people. By the way, is there any pressure being put on the Israeli Government and the rest of the world to remove their weapons of mass destruction?

    Thank you very much for this effort to clarify the issues at hand.

    • Has yjst thought entered your mind regarding North Korea or Pakistan. But please don’t let your antisemitic bias get in the way

  6. Netanyahu is the bully of the middle east. He fits in very well with most of today’s republican party. His ace in the hole is that he is the one with the nuclear weapons and he wants to make sure it is keep that way. There will never be a peaceful solution to middle east problems as long as he is in power. If the United States sees an opportunity to smooth relations with Iran we should accept it, not just for our interests but for the interests of the entire world.

  7. The current Zionist government in Israel is the spawn of the devil and will lead us all into a bloodbath in the Middle East. The U.N. should insist that ALL nuclear armaments in the ME be removed immediately — beginning with Israel.

    • Alice, There is currently s regional bloodbath going on in yje ME and it does not involve Israel. Have you ever heard of Syria? You may know it as the country that gassed its own people.

  8. I think they all agreed to give it a little time, including “hard-line France” and Iran, but nobody walked away from the table — they just agreed to reconvene next week, didn’t they? I agree that the Israeli Lobby (presumably in the US) seems to be putty in Netanyahu’s bully (?) hands, and it would be a relief if they all would take a Muzak break, with or without the receptionist!

    The sooner everybody gets rid of their weapons of ALL kinds and the US, etc., end our international Military Industrial Proliferation Trade, the better off our world and chances for survival will be. No, the UN did not fold, thank God, and maybe with a little help from the peacemakers of the world, it can help usher in a nuclear free zone throughout the ME, including Israel!

    I think that everybody involved in the ME has evil acts to answer for, including its international “partners”. But “spawns of the devil”??? I think we humans have gotten off by blaming the devil, among others, far too long. Isn’t it time to work together to clean up the mess we have made of God’s Creation?

  9. Please don’t believe Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, they don’t care about Israel or Israelis or Jews,or a Jewish state, they only care about their political careers , they know they have to compete Russia which is gainig strength in the area.

  10. In an article by Jim Lobe in the Inter Press Service (IPS), two pillars of U.S. foreign policy, Gen. Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski urged the Iran Accord and “argued that the agreement under discussion would slow crucial elements of the Iran nuclear program, make it more transparent and allow time to reach a more comprehensive agreement in the coming year. Should the United States fail to take this historic opportunity, we risk failing to achieve our non-proliferation goal and losing the support of allies and friends while increasing the probability of war.”

    In my opinion, since the majority of Americans agree with these step-by-step negotiations, it is time for the majority of Americans to stand up and be counted regarding the “Probable War vs. Middle East Peace.” We can put our progressive values in action by calling our respective Congress members and express our disgust if they favor the AIPAC Lobby-Netanyahu’s goal of achieving the “military option” against Iran instead of a peaceful resolution. Tell them they’ve lost your vote for doing so. Stand up and speak out for non-proliferation and for the continuation of a negotiated settlement Encourage your family and friends to do likewise. The majority of Americans can gradually make a difference also, step-by-step.

    In Solidarity.

    • Karen. Do you know that Saudi has more objections yo the direction of negotiations than Israel?. Do you know yjst France is taking a harder line than yhd US. There is more to this than AIPAC. BTW it only takes one mushroom cloud over Israel to finish it off so I would say they have a vested interest in the outcome of negotiations

  11. Another way to look at this situation is that it is a golden opportunity to those of us trying to point out the fact that America’s interests do not always coincide with those of the right wing government of Israel. That is the only way we will ever be able to do something about the outsize power of AIPAC and the Israeli lobby in general.

    Looks like it is time to redouble our efforts to expose the propaganda behind the self-destructive policies of the US and the current Israeli government.

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