By James M. Wall
There at the top of a list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Washington, DC, was my old political colleague from Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.
I quickly scrolled the entire list of the MPPs in DC and discovered folks who are close to Obama, or who are engaged in running his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or who are advising the president on how to rescue the economy.
There are even some Republicans, in or out of office, who are dedicated to seeing Obama fail. There is even a media heavyweight, former Bill Clinton White House aide, George Stephanopoulos.
But there is no one who really knows and feels the Palestinian narrative.
And there, right up there at the top of the GQ list was ole Rahm, Chief of Staff to President Obama. This is a man who knows how to wield power. Don’t take my word for it, read GQ’s description of why Rahm is the Number One Most Powerful Man in Washington:
More, much more, than just the gatekeeper to the president. In addition to his five years as senior adviser in the Clinton White House, Rahm served six years in the House and, more importantly, engineered the Democratic takeover of Congress in ’06. He knows procedure, he’s ruthlessly pragmatic about what is politically achievable, and he knows how and when to twist arms and call in the many favors he’s owed.
All of which has helped him wrangle fence-sitters when it came to ponying up for the stimulus package, negotiate with the Senate Finance Committee on health care, and keep the liberal and conservative elements of his own party in line. Obstruct the White House and at some point Rahm will come calling.
Says Senator Lindsey Graham, a man not known for agreeing with the administration: “The president is lucky to have him.”
Chris Matthews, MSNBC’s Rush Limbaugh of the Left, dissed the list, while reporting it to his national audience, as “just a fashion magazine”.
That did not bother me. I take GQ as seriously as I take all other voices from the Main Stream Media, all of whom are beholden in advance to someone or something else. Why not fashion?
Besides, Rahm is one of the classiest dressers in DC. Charming as all get out, if you can get by his fondness for salty language.
And now, there is Rahm, sitting down this week to use his political charm and muscle on members of Congress as they fight among themselves to write a final health care bill. Trust me, put your money on Rahm in that dog fight.
I have had my differences with Rahm, from the day he walked in my campaign office in 1983 and announced that he was there to raise money for Congressman Paul Simon’s primary race for the US Senate.
I was managing Simon’s campaign, and told this cocky young man I was not ready to hire a 24 year old kid I did not know. He said, check with Paul. I did, and the future Illinois senator told me, “Don’t worry about it; his salary is covered.”
Veteran Illinois journalist Robert E. Hartley has just published his latest book, Paul Simon: The Political Journey of An Illinois Original, Southern Illinois Press. I am biased. I have known Bob since he covered politics from his base in Decatur, Illinois. This is his seventh book.
It is a well documented work (he interviewed me at length). It is also an example of how the Israel lobby was able to influence one of the most moral men ever to serve in both the US House and Senate.
It was in the Simon campaign that it became obvious to me that Rahm could raise money. He was also a dedicated Zionist whose presence in the campaign delighted the hearts of Simon’s dedicated Zionist supporters.
Rahm’s rolodex (not a watch; if you are under 50, a rolodex is “a rotating file device used to store business contact information”) played no small role in his fund-raising success, a success he repeated in Bill Clinton’s two campaigns, and in subsequent congressional campaigns for the Democratic National Committe.
A few years later, Rahm and I were volunteers in Bill Clinton’s first run for the White House.
Rahm knew I was not a dedicated Zionist, so each day at the staff meeting, he delighted in calling me Yasir, as in Arafat, for readers who may not remember. For Rahm, linking me to the Palestinian leader was intended as an insult. This is a man who uses humor as a weapon.
I have followed Rahm’s career since 1983 in both awe and dismay. He’s good, no doubt about it. And now he wields power in the White House. In an earlier posting, I expressed the hope that Rahm would use his clout to reassure the Palestinian public and talk tough to the Israelis. So far, no such luck.
The Palestinians have the Cairo speech to hold on to, but I have bad news for them. Bibi is eating Obama’s lunch. No one in that top 50, or the top 500 have any loyalty to the oppressed residents of the West Bank or Gaza. Official Washington has been drinking the AIPAC kool-aid for so long they don’t know what all the fuss is about.
Frankly, I doubt that any of them has ever witnessed the humiliation of a Palestinian at a check point or a witnessed the demolition of a Palestinian home, or walked along the Security Wall, on the Palestinian side. I also doubt if any has read Edward Said or ever heard of Rachel Corrie, whose family’s appeal for justice to the US Congress was ignored.
Have they read the Goldstone Report, a UN commissioned study of possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza? And yes, I know that the same report found fault with Hamas conduct in that period, which is about the only fact about Goldstone the MSM made sure reached Official Washington and the American public.
Which brings us to the news that Robert Wexler, will resign from his safe Florida Democratic seat in Congress, to become director of the Washington-based Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation (CMEPEC).
What, you may wonder, will this have to do with official Washington’s treatment of the Palestinians. Not much, but it will play a role. State legislators in Wexler’s south Florida district are scrambling to replace him. The next Congressman will also be a pro-Israel Democrat, thanks primarily to a heavy Jewish voting population in the district.
But will it be an AIPAC or a J Street winner?
Let me explain:
Wexler was one of Obama’s earliest supporters in Congress. Unlike Rahm, who waited to see who would win the Democratic nomination, Wexler, a self-described “fire-breathing liberal,” and defender of Israel, was all over the country during the Democratic primaries assuring Jewish audiences that they could trust Obama to look out for Israel.
You may recall Wexler as that fire breathing liberal who led the battle in DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting where Candidate Clinton failed in her effort to take 185 Florida delegates she had “won” in the Florida primary.
In a nationally televised committee meeting, Wexler said his own state had violated the party’s rules–“The Florida primary vote was not a ‘normal’ primary and cannot be treated as one”–so Clinton’s claim on the 185 delegates could not stand.
In the committee meeting, Wexler prevailed over Harold Ickes, Clinton’s delegate guru, who had tried to steal delegates from Jimmy Carter on behalf of Ted Kennedy at the 1980 Democratic Convention.. Ickes lost that one too.
Wexler is a formidable political figure. He is taking over as director of the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation (CMEPEC), which was founded in 1989 by the very wealthy Zionist, Slim Fast Foods Chairman S. Daniel Abraham.
If CMEPEC is playing nice with J Street, this would be good news for the J Street branch of the Pro-Israel Washington community.
J Street has built a moderate reputation as an alternative lobby group against AIPAC. Wexler was an early recipient of J Street funds, back when it was not easy for members of Congress to take J Street money instead of remaining loyal to AIPAC.
On the scale of moderation, J Street is well to the left of AIPAC. Except, I am not encouraged when I see hard line pro-Zionists like Dennis Ross, US Special Middle East Coordinator; Uri Savir, former Chief Israeli negotiator for the Palestinian and Syrian tracks; Dore Gold, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, and few “safe” Palestinians on the current CMEPEC board .
The Americans on that list may be “moderates” but they still bleed Zionist red. And, by now we have learned just how little influence moderates have over the likes of Bibi Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman.
Wexler has his enemies in the pro-Israel DC community. The right wing, pro-Israel blog, The Force of Reason, attacked Wexler’s move to the CMEPEC in less than temperate language, under the headline: Rep. Wexler (D-emented) Resigns to Be J Street Shill.
JTA [Jewish Telegraphic Agency] reports that [Wexler] resigned from Congress to head the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, which is a J Street front. Not only is he endorsed by J Street, but he’s working for them now, too. . .
The Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation engineered the second Intifada by being one of the primary backers of Oslo, back in their heyday.
The Center’s former head, Stephen Cohen, was the sincere genius who made Assad and Arafat out to be peacemakers, rather than the Islamonazi savages they always were.
Wow, and it gets worse. So you have to admire Wexler for taking the side of the good guys on the DC Israel team. But even that news should not be welcome in Ramallah.
The moderates in Washington have Obama’s ear. Rahm talks to them. But what looks like moderation to the pro-Israel Washington doesn’t look very moderate to a people who have lived under an increasingly harsh military occupation since 1967.
Adam Horowitz, who writes on the pro-Palestinian Jewish blog, Mondoweiss, explains, under this headline:
Hope in Obama is ‘evaporating’ in the Middle East as the peace process goes nowhere.
Seems like everyone is losing faith in Obama nowadays, and the Middle East is no different. While Israelis never seemed to like him much, the rest of the region is beginning to grow weary, starting with Palestinians.
The AP is reporting on a leaked memo from Fatah’s Office of Mobilization and Organization that says, “All hopes placed in the new U.S. administration and President Obama have evaporated,” because the White House, “couldn’t withstand the pressure of the Zionist lobby.”
Although some think this might only be Abbas trying to rehab his nationalist bona fides, it would be hard to disagree with the gist of the memo.
The “nationalist bona fides”, of course, refers to the Palestinian president’s mistake in listening to the US and Israel and pulling back the Goldstone Report from the UN Human Rights Commission agenda. Abbas has since reversed that mistake. He asked that the Report be put back on the agenda. But the damage has been done.
Mark Lynch reports for Foreign Policy on the change of mood toward the peace process in the country of Jordan:
When I was last in Jordan about six months ago, I found a great deal of optimism over the appointment of George Mitchell and the high profile Obama gave to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. But now those hopes seem to have largely evaporated.
The launch of Israeli-Palestinian talks which they had expected by June continue to drift in limbo, while Obama’s failure to deliver on the settlement freeze has — just as so many predicted — eroded his credibility. How could the Americans have allowed Netanyahu to not only defy U.S. demands on settlements but to not even pay any significant price?
Again and again, from all sectors of Jordanian political society, I heard the same refrain: Obama’s heart is in the right place and we want him to succeed, but he’s just not getting it done.
Rahm Emanuel is Obama’s point man on bringing hope to the Palestinians. So far “he’s just not getting it done”. Is there any wonder why the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab states (and in the US) are losing faith in Obama?
Pro-Israel Jewish factions in Washington are fighting among themselves over whether AIPAC or J Street is Israel’s best friend in the US.
But where, o where, are the supporters of justice for the Palestinians? This much we know. They are not among the 50 most important people in Washington.
Unless, that is, Mister Number One himself, Rahm Emanuel, recognizes that it is in the best interests of the American people, Israelis and the Palestinian people, to stand up to the right wing rulers of Israel and say: “Enough, already.”
Picture above of Rahm Emanuel and David Alexrod is an AP Photo by Gerald Herbert.