While the charter of America’s leading pro-Israel lobby is to “strengthen the ties between America and its ally Israel,” and makes no mention of influencing foreign policy decisions, AIPAC has a surprising amount of clout not only with the Israeli government, but with Congress as well.
Most notably, section 601 of the bill seeks to prohibit any diplomatic communication between America and Iran by restricting contact between any U.S. government employee and Iranian government employees or those who prevent a threat to the U.S., except under special circumstances when the president seeks a waiver.
Should such legislation pass, it would be an unprecedented obstruction of diplomacy and a monumental calamity for hopes of peace.
Never before in the history of our country have diplomats – let alone the president – been barred from speaking with and negotiating with foreign envoys of a sovereign state.
Had they so chosen (and some did), General George Washington could have spoken with General Cornwallis, President Abraham Lincoln with General Robert E. Lee, President Franklin D. Roosevelt with Adolf Hilter, both President Bush’s with Sadaam Hussein and even President Barack Obama with Osama bin Laden.
Should this deal pass, even the lowest level diplomats can have no contact – official or unofficial – with their Iranian counterparts.
For America, such legislation would endanger the lives of any Americans choosing to visit Iran. If the bill had been a law in 1980, President Jimmy Carter would have been unable to secure the release of the American hostages. Similarly, the two Americans released this past September would likely still be in Iranian jails.
More significantly however, AIPAC’s Iran Sanctions Bill, should it pass, will not cripple Iran as much as it will cripple our own government. The measures lobbied for by AIPAC pose immense threats to our national security capabilities by greatly jeopardizing our ability to thwart an attack and our response in dealing with any Iranian offensive.
Democracy has always been a staple of our ability to avoid conflict. It was secret, last-minute diplomatic talks between officials in President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Krushchev’s administrations that prevented nuclear war and ended the Cuban missile crisis. It was clandestine backchannel negotiations that lead to President Richard Nixon normalizing relations with a brutal Chinese regime in 1972, and it was the very same diplomatic communications that AIPAC is lobbying to cut off that freed 52 American hostages after 444 days in captivity in Iran.
As much damage as AIPAC’s bill may do to the U.S. ability to negotiate and prevent war with Iran, the lobbying super power’s maniacal quest for war with Iran will hurt Israel even more. A war with Iran, which AIPAC has long supported, and which seems increasingly likely, could threaten Israel’s future peace. Already Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah has threatened to “destroy Tel Aviv” should Israel bomb Iran. While such a threat is overblown, it is not hard to imagine a scenario where Iran officially responds with long range missiles; Hezbollah in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon launch coordinated attacks; the Bashar al-Assad regime, desperate for a unifying distraction from the uprising at home, declares war on Israel; and Hamas, seeing an opportunity, jumps in as well.
Suddenly, Israel would find itself ensnared in yet another regional war. Even if an Israeli raid on Iran didn’t illicit such a doomsday scenario, it is hard to imagine that its negative world public opinion wouldn’t take another devastating hit, thus boosting Palestinian sympathies and their chance for statehood.
Jews interested in Israel and America’s security must realize that AIPAC is no longer the institution that protects and shares those values. Instead AIPAC and the Israeli government have sold out to ultra-hawkish views that jeopordize Israel’s peace.
If the Senate, with the help of AIPAC’s immense lobbying powers, ratifies the bill (H.B. 1905), and should Netanyahu follow through on his desires to strike Iran, Israel will find itself in a much more perilous and insecure state.
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