The lobbying continues....
Part of the AIPAC convention includes lobbying of the U.S. Congress. Here is an account by Jodi Rudoren, soon to be the Times's bureau chief in Israel. The story includes a wonderful picture of PM Netanyahu, looking quite pleased with himself, accompanied by his fellow Senators Reid and McConnell.Tom Friedman weighs in; I think he's saying Obama really will bomb Iran; in any case, he declares Obama "Israel's Best Friend" (he may be right about that, if not for the reasons he offers).In the meantime in Congressional testimony, a Marine commander points to the central issue: "During an annual briefing Tuesday in the U.S. Congress, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, head of the Central Command, issued a warning about a continued impasse in the Israel-Palestine conflict. He said that the political awakening in the Arab world has caused regimes in the region to be more attentive than ever to the emotions of their populations. The current stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians, he declared, cannot continue; what is needed is the renewal of an Israeli-Arab drive for peace based on a two-state solution. The non-resolution of the conflict, he added, exacts a "steep price" and complicates the activities of forces under his command." Ha'aretz, of course!
Following up on the question of Netanyahu's "gift" to Obama of the Book of Esther, here is Robert Wright at The Atlantic: "Why is it routine to talk about Iranian religious fanatics who are leading us toward war and so rare to acknowledge the role that religious tribalism in America--among both conservative Jews and conservative Christians--is playing in leading us to war? And why is it that when Muslim radicals use religious scripture in a way that foments belligerence we consider it primitive and vile, whereas when Bibi Netanyahu does the same thing (more subtly, I grant you) we nod politely and smile?" The whole essay is a nice bit of exegesis.The President held a press conference (March 6) in which he went into further details. Here is a nice take:Q Thank you, Mr. President. What kind of assurances did you give Prime Minister Netanyahu about the role that the U.S. would play if diplomacy and economic sanctions fail to work to convince Iran's leaders to change their behavior, and Israel goes ahead and prepares to strike a nuclear facility? What kind of assurances did you tell him? And shouldnt we -- I recognize the difference between debate and bluster -- but shouldnt we be having in this country a vigorous debate about what could happen in the case of a Middle East war in a way that, sadly, we did not do before going into Iraq?THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think there's no doubt that those who are suggesting, or proposing, or beating the drums of war should explain clearly to the American people what they think the costs and benefits would be. [My Emphasis]I'm not one of those people -- because what I've said is, is that we have a window through which we can resolve this issue peacefully. We have put forward an international framework that is applying unprecedented pressure. The Iranians just stated that they are willing to return to the negotiating table. And we've got the opportunity, even as we maintain that pressure, to see how it plays out." Whole thing here.
About the Author
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.