Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

With Few Exceptions, Obedient Congress Continues to Do AIPAC's Bidding

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

With Few Exceptions, Obedient Congress Continues to Do AIPAC's Bidding

Article excerpt

The March 21-23 annual meeting of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) came on the heels of Israel's public humiliation of visiting Vice President Joseph Biden with the announcement of 1,600 new apartment units for Israeli colonists in East Jerusalem, and President Barack Obama's administration's strong, and public, denunciation of that act (see May/June 2010 Washington Report, p. 10).

As usual, AIPAC's meeting drew hordes of Israel supporters (including more than half the members of Congress), who scheduled more than 500 meetings on Capitol Hill to lobby for Israel's, as opposed to their own country's, interests. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the conference. Clinton firmly repeated the administration's position that continued Israeli construction in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, damages prospects for peace. However, Netanyahu defiantly declared that he had no intention of halting construction in East Jerusalem.

AIPAC then geared up its formidable pressure machine on members of Congress, resulting in more than three-quarters of the members of Congress signing nearly identical House and Senate letters-remarkably similar to AIPAC's talking points memo-to Clinton. The letters implicitly took Israel's side in the dispute by urging Clinton to ensure that the announcement of construction in East Jerusalem not derail U.S.-Israel relations [note the emphasis on the announcement, rather than the construction itself], and that any differences between the two countries be resolved privately rather than in public. In addition, no fewer than nine senators and 49 representatives made statements on the House and Senate floor, or submitted statements for the record, reaffirming the U.S.-Israel relationship.

The House letter, originated by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), was sent on March 26 with 333 (of a possible 435) signatures. The Senate letter, originated by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), was sent on April 13 with 76 (of a possible 100) signatures.

Letters Urge "Tough and Decisive Measures" Against Iran

Prior to its annual meeting, AIPAC wrote to all members of Congress calling for Congress to demand that the U.S. government fully implement existing Iran sanctions laws, impose "crippling" new sanctions on Iran, and work to impose "tough new multilateral sanctions." Obediently, more than four-fifths of the members of Congress signed letters to Obama essentially making those points, assuring him of bipartisan support for "tough and decisive measures," and urging him to "reaffirm boldly and unambiguously that the U.S. can and will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."

The House letter, originated by Reps. Jesse Jackson (D-IL) and Mike Pence (R-IN), was sent April 14 with 366 signatures. The Senate letter, originated by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), was sent April 15 with 80 signatures.

In addition, Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, announced in a March 25 press release that he intended to "offer an amendment to each of the 12 appropriations bills to ensure that no federal funds go to companies doing business with Iran." This was in response to a March 7 New York Times article claiming that $107 billion of U.S. taxpayer money has gone to firms doing business in Iran.

Previously Reported Iran Sanctions Bills Make Little Progress...

As reported in the May/June issue, on March 11 the Senate passed H.R. 2194, the "Iran Petroleum Sanctions" bill that the House passed in December, after replacing its text with that of S. 2799, the irresponsible, punitive and counterproductive "Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment" bill introduced by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) in November, and described in more detail in previous issues of the Washington Report. …

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