Beyond the platitudes showered upon Israel and AIPAC by the
presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama at AIPAC's Annual Policy
Conference held in Washington D.C. June 2-4 looms the question of whether the
candidates’ words will be translated into policies? The only real measure of
their intentions might be revealed in their choice of advisors.
While McCain and the Republican Party have been solidly
pro-Israel and have stood firmly on preventing a nuclear Iran, the names of
James Baker (noted for having said F-k the Jews, they don’t vote for us
anyway), former Secretary of State under President Bush Sr. and Brent
Scowcroft, National Security Advisor in the Ford and Bush Sr. administrations,
have been mentioned as potential Secretaries of State and/or Middle East envoys
and should raise serious concerns among pro-Israel activists and potential
Senator John McCain exclaimed at last year’s AIPAC
convention that, "The only thing that is worse than a war with Iran, is an
Iran in possession of a nuclear weapon."
James Baker (Baker-Hamilton Report co-author), advocated a dialogue with
Iran and Syria, and posited that an Israeli-Palestinian peace is a prerequisite
to dealing with Iraq and terrorism. Baker's intent was to pressure Israel to
make concessions to the Palestinians (thereby pleasing his paymasters in
Obama's potential Middle East advisors and likely foreign
policy functionaries include Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew
Brzezinksi, who is solidly anti-Israel, and General Merrill A. McPeak former
Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force who blamed American Jews for
"preventing peace in the Middle East."
Barack Obama gave a most impressive speech on Wednesday
morning June 4, 2008 in which he outlined his vision for the strategic
cooperation his administration would have with Israel. Obama declared that he would not allow Iran
to possess nuclear weapons, and would, if necessary, use the military option.
He also said he would not allow any terrorist entities (Hamas) to be a partner
in peace talks. Obama went on to declare
that the U.S. and Israel would cooperate to develop new sources of energy that
would free the world from dependence on oil. Obama received a lengthy standing
ovation when he declared that Jerusalem would remain united as the capital of
Particularly interesting about Obama's speech was the
detailed description of how he would insure Israel's security and his
passionate confirmation that the "bonds between Israel and the U.S. are
unbreakable." As President of the
U.S. Obama said, he would arrange for a defense treaty with Israel, which would
provide Israel with $3.2 billion annually, and would include Israel in the U.S.
missile defense program. He also promised to maintain Israel's qualitative
military edge over her neighbors that would guarantee that Israel would be able
to confront any threat to her from Gaza to Tehran.
Less than twenty-four hours after delivering a warm pro-Israel
speech at the AIPAC conference, Obama retracted his statement about an
undivided Jerusalem following calls he received from Arab-American groups and
the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.
During Senator McCain’s Monday morning June 4th speech
at AIPAC he declared that, "Over a year ago, I proposed applying sanctions
to restrict Iran's ability to import refined petroleum products, on which it is
highly dependent, and the time has come for an international campaign to do
just that. A severe limit on Iranian imports of gasoline would create immediate
pressure on Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to change course, and cease the pursuit of
McCain described his experience at Yad Va'shem Holocaust
Memorial in Jerusalem stating that, "Today when we join in saying 'never
again,’ that is not a wish, a request, or a plea to the enemies of Israel. It
is a promise that the U.S. and Israel will honor, against any enemy who cares
to test us."
McCain went on to say that "The threats to Israel's
security are large and growing, and America's commitment must grow as well. I
strongly support the increase in military aid to Israel, scheduled to begin in
October. I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative
military edge. Israel's enemies are too numerous, its margin of error too
small, and our shared interests and values too great for us to follow any other
In spite of their heartwarming words, the positions of these
presidential candidates will be influenced by a multitude of factors, not by
speeches/promises made at an AIPAC conference.
Impromptu interviews conducted by this writer at the
conference with a number of Jewish Democrats from California, Connecticut,
Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York, and
Pennsylvania, revealed a great deal of mistrust towards Barack Obama and his
expected Middle East policies. Some
Republican voters however, were not entirely happy with McCain’s lack of “fire
and energy” in contrast with Obama’s youthful energy. Obama’s speech on Wednesday might have
changed some minds, but it was apparent that most of the AIPAC crowd, even the
Democrats, felt more comfortable with a McCain presidency.
What friends of Israel can be certain of is that a nuclear
Iran would endanger Israel as well as the U.S. and therefore the U.S. must
provide Israel with all that is necessary to defend itself. What is uncertain is whether the U.S. will
use its military option in a preemptive strike.
Both presidential candidates are committed to the two-state solution,
and a terror-free Palestinian State. The
question is which one of the two potential presidents and their Middle East
negotiators would press Israel harder to make unilateral concessions?
AIPAC’s role along with that of the pro-Israel
community is to ensure that those who will be formulating foreign policy in
general and Middle East policy in particular for the presidential candidates
are vetted and found clear of anti-Israel bias and subservience to Saudi or
other Arab interests. It is also
imperative that Israeli leaders stand proudly for the justness of Israel’s
cause and for Jewish rights to live in peace throughout the land including the
Golan, Judea, Samaria, and all the neighborhoods of Jerusalem under Israeli