Congress and Israel Against Obama and Kerry; “Which Side Are You On?”

by James M. Wall

This week, two intrepid American Jewish journalists, Richard Silverstein and MJ Rosenberg, reminded somnolent Americans that Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has declared diplomatic war against the White House.Amos Ben Gershon GPO:Flash jta

It is not a new war. What is different this time is that Israel’s leader has openly enlisted the U.S. Congress in his campaign.

It is that simple,  Congress and Israel on one side; Barack Obama and John Kerry on the other. On his website, Tikun Olan, Silverstein explains why this is a different level for this diplomatic war.

The Obama administration proposes to soften “some parts of the anti-Iran sanctions regime” in order to reach a workable nuclear agreement with Iran. The Israeli government has a different scenario in mind for Iran. It wants war. President Obama, John Kerry, and the American people do not want another Middle East war.

This is open diplomatic warfare, not the usual back room maneuver of Israeli lobbyists slipping copies of pro-Israel legislation to congressional staff members.

Israel’s Iranian marching orders to the U.S. Congress  have been issued: Squeeze the Iranian economy with even harsher sanctions.

This new diplomatic warfare surfaced this week at a meeting of the U.S. Senate Banking committee, where, the New York Times reports:

Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. pressed senators on Wednesday to give the Obama administration some breathing room to reach an accord withIran to freeze its nuclear programs, warning that a new round of sanctions could mean war instead of diplomacy.

Right on cue, one Republican member of the Banking Committee, Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk, openly embraced Israel’s side in delicate U.S. negotiations to secure a nuclear agreement with Iran. Silverstein writes:

Sen. Mark Kirk was even more forceful in criticizing the [U.S.] officials’ presentation:…“It was fairly anti-Israeli,” Kirk said to reporters after the briefing. “I was supposed to disbelieve everything the Israelis had just told me, and I think the Israelis probably have a pretty good intelligence service.” He said the Israelis had told him that the “total changes proposed set back the program by 24 days.”

Time to strike up a chord and sing the old labor union song, “Which Side are You On?”.

Silverstein has chosen his side. He is troubled by congressional dependence on Israeli sources. He continues:

There are a number of very troubling issues here: first, that Israel’s government has taken upon itself to lobby intensively for policies opposed by the current administration; second, that U.S. senators would readily attend such lobbying sessions with foreign government officials and use the briefing material offered them in order to shape their own views; third, that a U.S. senator would admit that he’d been briefed, even indirectly, by a foreign intelligence service; fourth, that a U.S. senator believes the Mossad’s views about the Iranian nuclear program represent those of a “pretty good intelligence service.”

Buzz Feed reported that Sen. Kirk drew parallels between Nazi Germany and Iran, the British and the U.S.

“Today is the day I witnessed the future of nuclear war in the Middle East,” Kirk said, also comparing the administration to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who signed away the Sudetenland to Hitler’s Germany in 1938. “How do you define an Iranian moderate? An Iranian who is out of bullets and out of money.”

Bad joke, Senator. It even falls below AIPAC’s standard. This is not a time for a U.S. senator to undercut two important  peace-oriented Obama-Kerry initiatives.

A well-known political adage speaks of foreign policy stopping at the nation’s water edge.  The adage has many incarnations, the earliest of which may have originated in 1814 with Daniel Webster’s “Even our party divisions, acrimonious as they are, cease at the water’s edge”.

Senator Kirk would do well to restore any version to his senatorial playbook.

Kirk’s support for the policies of a foreign nation against that of his own president, does not measure well against Secretary Kerry’s recent candid interview with two journalists in Jerusalem where Kerry spoke of the importance of reaching a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, an agreement forged in the best interests of, and the values of, the American people.

Kerry demonstrated his consistent diplomatic candor in his testimony on Iran before the Banking Committee. What he faced was at least one senator who takes his marching orders from beyond the water’s edge.

Buzz Feed reports:

A Senate aide familiar with the meeting said that “every time anybody would say anything about ‘what would the Israelis say,’ they’d get cut off and Kerry would say, ‘You have to ignore what they’re telling you, stop listening to the Israelis on this.’”

MJ Rosenberg, a Jewish-American columnist who once worked for AIPAC, is the second intrepid American Jewish journalist to issue a warning to the American public. In this week’s column, he writes:

The President of the United States and, according to the polls, 75% of Americans, want the United States to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. That view is as universal as any can be in a democracy like ours. Americans want an Iran deal to avoid U.S involvement another monstrous war in the region. And because they know that only negotiations can prevent a nuclear armed Iran if that is the goal of its leaders.

Only one group opposes a deal. It is the Israel lobby following orders it receives from Israel’s government. Members of Congress who oppose a deal are doing so in order to please the lobby and continue to receive campaign donations from it. Writers, columnists, reporters, bloggers and media personalities who oppose a deal are all (with no exceptions) associated with the lobby. In short, American interests are all arrayed on one side and Netanyahu’s interests are on the other.

A few days before the Senate Banking Committee took up the issue of Iranian sanctions, leaders of the American Jewish Federation received their inspiration from the Man Himself, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking November 10 in Jerusalem to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly, Netanyahu (pictured speaking to the Assembly above) stated his case against the U.S. on two issues, Iran and Palestine.

He repeated his demand that Palestinian leaders “recognize Israel as a Jewish state”, a deal breaker in the negotiations. He knows that, which is why he has added the demand to the talks.

He also told his American Jewish audience they must reject their own government’s move toward a nuclear compromise with Iran because the compromise is a “bad deal”.

Netanyahu received “loud cheers from the crowd” as  he combined the two demands with his emotional call for Jewish worldwide unity

“When it comes to Jewish survival and the survival of the Jewish state, I will not be silenced, ever. We are the Jewish state. We are charged with defending ourselves and speaking up. All of us, all of us, have to stand up and speak up.”

 It is not hard to see “which side” the Chicago Tribune is on. In his November 14 story on the Bank Committee hearings, Tribune Washington bureau reporter Paul Richter dealt with Netanyahu’s cohabitation with the U.S. Congress in tortured euphemistic terms:

“Netanyahu, like many Congress members, fears the White House may accept too lenient a deal and is urging stronger sanctions in hopes of making Tehran more willing to yield.”

The Israeli Prime Minister, “like many Congress members”? Does the Tribune’s Richter see it as a mere coincidence that the Congress and Netanyahu are reading from the same script?

Surely, he knows that Netanyahu wrote the script, delivered it to the Jewish Federation leaders last Sunday and then dispatched his agents to Washington to deliver the word directly to the U.S. Senate.

The Banking Committee will presumably vote on the Iranian “tougher” sanctions this week.  Which side will it choose?

The picture of Netanyahu above, speaking at the Jewish Federation of North America is by Amos Ben Gershon for GPO/Flash. It is from the Jewish Telegraph Agency.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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9 Responses to Congress and Israel Against Obama and Kerry; “Which Side Are You On?”

  1. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Thank you, Jim, for a powerful article.

    Israel’s leadership must be salivating, in anticipation of finally devouring its most important target.

    After all, it has already reached its major goals of having had its US client-state destroy, or decimate its primary Arab targets: Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and currently Egypt.
    It is now just about ready to have the “Knessetized” US Congress vote to wage war on Iran and destroy it, rather than offer it any chance of a negotiated settlement that will allow it to retain its infra-structure as an independent country.

    Why is it that Israel wants a “guaranteed” war and Iran’s “assured” destruction, at any (“US”) cost?

    Here are some thoughts:

    1- Israel wants to destroy the only remaining Middle Eastern power potentially presenting resistance to Israel’s expansionist, nuclear, apartheid regime.

    2- Israel wants to maintain its monopoly of – specifically – nuclear weapons and other WMD’s in the Middle East.

    3- Israel wants to become the ONLY Regional Super Power, with “total” hegemony in the entire region of the Middle East.

    4- Israel wants to clinch a position of manipulating any US/Western interests in the Middle East, including those in the Gulf.

  2. Jack Graham says:

    It is a sad commentary on American politics that, if we support sound and functional health care legislation, and therefore oppose Obamacare, we have to get on the pro-Israel bandwagon, and treat a foreign enemy as a foreign friend. Well, I for one am against Netanyahu and Obama, because neither is good for the United States. I am impressed by the refreshing comments of John Kerry, and invite the Democrats to nominate him for President, because, although he was servile on the question of Israel before, he is now making good sense, and has evidently learned something from the Russians on Syria. — J. R. G.

  3. Thanks, Jim. This man/Zionist Netanyahu is manifestly on the thin edge of exploding, as psychotics — especially those with immense bullying power at their beck and call, and assured impunity at that — tend to do He, especially, and his entire criminal enterprise need diagnosis, therapy, meds, and restraints, urgently.

  4. Fred says:

    This situation where our Congress shows more loyalty to a foreign state and government than to its own is unacceptable. It is treasonous in my book, and we have to let congress know that they are supposed to represent the American people, not the Israeli people or the Israel Firsters in this country.

    People should be really angry about this, and let their Senators and Representatives know it. It is a betrayal of historic proportions.

  5. Very powerful posting Jim, laying out the basics of this attempt to subvert core American interests and popular will to the war-mongering of a foreign nation financially embedded in the halls of Congress.

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  8. This is a rather impressive call by Jim Wall turning the attention of all of us USA citizens to understand what is going on with all Israel’s stooges in Congress and their continuing to actions on behalf of a foreign country instead of the people that elected them. Their actions are obviously not in our national interest or in line with the majority of the American people . The support of our Administration is at a critical stage in the negotiations for peace in the Middle East, with Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Israel should not be allowed to nprevail and have us start another war.

  9. Harris Fawell says:

    Jim: Lets hope that Secretary of State Kerry and Vice President Biden can impress Senators enough to give the Obama administration the breathing room they need to reach an accord with Iran to freeze its nuclear program. Harriis Fawell

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