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What should have been said to AIPAC

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Editor's Note:

How many of the readers even know about AIPAC? This is
one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington
and they represent Israeli interests. These interests
are often placed ahead of US national interests. Please
read and forward to friends and family.

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                   Video Clip Of The Week

          Rep. Findley Speaks About US Mideast Policy

Former Rep. Paul Findley explains how the Israeli lobby
controls the debate and information concerning the Middle
East conflict. This results, in his opinion in a one-sided
policy against US interests.

View: Rep. Findley Speaks About US Mideast Policy
What should have been said to AIPAC - By Michael C. Desch

When politicians speak before the American-Israel Public 
Affairs Committee, they do so to burnish their credentials 
as friends of Israel. 

As longtime State Department Middle East adviser Aaron 
David Miller reminds us in his new book, "The Much Too 
Promised Land," "it's hard to compete and be successful 
in American politics without being good on Israel." And 
so when the AIPAC annual conference coincides with a 
presidential election, as it did this year, these speeches 
become bidding wars to demonstrate the fervor of the 
candidates' support for the Jewish state. Sen. Barack 
Obama declared himself the "true friend of Israel." And 
Sen. John McCain set the late Sen. Henry Jackson's 
uncompromising pro-Israel stance as his "model of what 
an American statesman should be." For both, friendship 
with Israel means embracing the notion that the Jewish 
state faces dire threats that require unwavering American 

But the mark of real friendship, as abolitionist Henry 
Ward Beecher put it, is "to speak painful truth through 
loving words." By that criterion, neither of the 
presidential candidates qualifies as Israel's true 
friend. Rather, it has been individuals like former 
President Jimmy Carter and former Secretaries of State 
James Baker and Henry Kissinger who have been Israel's 
real friends. As public officials, they had a realistic 
view of Israel's situation and were willing to criticize 
the Jewish state and push it at critical junctures in 
its history for it own good. 

No doubt Israel faces threats from Iran, Hezbollah and 
Hamas. But Israel's security situation is by no means 
as perilous as the candidates imply. Israel has long-
standing peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. The 
Palestinian Authority is committed to a negotiated 
settlement based on a two-state solution, which the 
Arab League supports, holding out the prospect for 
even wider recognition of the Jewish state in the Middle 
East. And Syria has been willing since at least the late 
1990s to make peace with Israel in return for getting 
back the Golan Heights. 

Israel also has by far the strongest military in the 
region and the wartime track record to prove it. Its 
failure in Lebanon in the summer of 2006 was the result 
of a misguided strategy—trying to defeat Hezbollah with 
air power alone—not military weakness. The candidates' 
fixation on Iran's nuclear program should not obscure 
the fact that Israel has its own robust nuclear deterrent, 
which means Iran would be committing suicide if it 
attacked Israel with nuclear weapons. 

A true friend of Israel would acknowledge that Israel's 
security situation, while certainly not ideal, has 
improved significantly over the years, and advise as 
Baker did in his famous address to AIPAC in 1989 that 
"caution must never become paralysis." 


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A real friend would tell Israel the hard truth that Arab 
intransigence is not the only obstacle to peace in the 
region. You would never know it from the candidates' 
remarks, but Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which 
continue to grow, make it impossible for the Palestinians 
to have a viable state of their own. 

Furthermore, Israel has been unwilling to return the Golan 
Heights to Syria, which is essential for ending the 
conflict between those two countries. And an agreement 
there would help weaken Hezbollah, which is heavily 
dependent on Syrian support. Someone who really cares 
about Israel would say to AIPAC, as Baker once did, 
"now is the time to lay aside, once and for all, the 
unrealistic vision of a greater Israel." 

Candid talk is absolutely essential because Israel's 
survival as a Jewish and democratic state is being 
undermined by its continuing occupation of the West 
Bank. Carter incurred the wrath of the pro-Israel 
community by making this very point in his book 
"Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." Despite having 
brokered the first Camp David peace accords, a major 
step bolstering the Jewish state's security, Carter 
was vilified by so-called friends of Israel. But he was 
only stating the obvious: If the occupation continues 
and there is no Palestinian state, Israel, as Israeli 
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently said, will "face a 
South-African style struggle." Other prominent Israelis, 
as well as South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, have warned 
that continuing the occupation will turn Israel into an 
apartheid state. 

Another uncomfortable truth is that a major obstacle to 
withdrawing from the West Bank is Israel's political 
system, which allows small fringe groups like the settler's 
movement to undermine the peace process. Seventy percent 
of Israelis are willing to trade land for peace, but they 
have been thwarted by an uncompromising minority. The 
majority does not need reflexive, unthinking support from 
their friends in America for everything Israel does; 
rather, it needs backing against the extremists on both 
sides of the conflict. 

McCain and Obama claim to be Israel's best friend and try 
to prove it by outdoing each other in their unqualified 
support for the Jewish state, as we just saw at the AIPAC 
conference. But the threats Israel faces hardly match the 
candidates' apocalyptic rhetoric and their unthinking 
support for almost every policy Israel adopts. This is 
not good for Israel, much less America. Although it is 
not clear who will win the race for the White House this 
fall, it is already clear that the winner will be no real 
friend of Israel. 

Michael C. Desch holds the Robert M. Gates Chair in 
Intelligence and National Security Decision-Making at 
Texas A&M University. 


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