BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A few months back, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a special joint session of Congress, many of his conservative congressional brethren greeted him as a long lost brother-in-arms. Now, courtesy of the American Israel Education Foundation, the charitable arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a number of congressional members are going to him. While there may be a bit of sightseeing along the way, the main purpose for two separate congressional trips – one for Democrats and the other for Republicans -- is to motivate as many congressional representatives as possible to vote against the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.
The AIPAC-sponsored trips are only one small part of a multi-million dollar effort by the organization to put the kybosh on the nuclear deal. This summer, while AIPAC and Christian Zionist organizations – especially Pastor John Hagee’s Christian United for Israel -- will be sending their supporters to flood town hall meetings in various congressional districts, AIPAC will also be inundating “congressional offices with calls and emails, running ads in national media and employing other campaign-style tactics to sway skeptical lawmakers before a mid-September vote on the agreement,” CNN recently reported.
“From our perspective, this is one of the most significant mobilization efforts in our organization’s history,” said an official from AIPAC, “It is certainly the most important issue in a generation and we are fully engaged.”
AIPAC’s new group, Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran’ (CNFI), a 501(c)4, could spend as much as $40 million to kill the deal. According to the Washington post, CNFI is placing “TV ads in 35 states, many of them in districts heavily populated by Jewish Americans, or represented by Jewish-American lawmakers who are seen as key deciders on the issue.” The organization “doesn’t have to disclose its donors because of its nonprofit status. … [and] its advisory board includes a heavy-hitting lineup of former Democratic senators: Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.), and Joe Lieberman (Conn.).”
During the first half of 2015, AIPAC spent a record $1.67 million lobbying Congress against the Iran deal.
According to The Hill, Benjamin Netanyahu, “a fierce critic of the Iran deal, is expected to make his case directly to lawmakers. But they'll also get an opportunity to meet with other high-ranking government and security officials, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.”
Netanyahu’s case is direct and clear-cut: The Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran is a bad deal, bad for Israel, and bad for the US. In a recent 20-minute webcast aimed at American Jews and organized by the Jewish Federations of North America, Netanyahu maintained that “Iran could get to the bomb by keeping the deal, or Iran could get to the bomb by violating the deal.”
“Judge the deal on its substance and on its substance alone,” Netanyahu said. “The more people know about the deal, the more they oppose it. The alternative to this bad deal is still no deal, or a better deal. The claim that I wouldn’t accept any deal and wouldn’t propose any alternative is certainly not true.”
Netanyahu maintained that his opposition to the deal really had nothing to do with differences with President Barack Obama saying, “This policy disagreement has never been personal.”
Although AIPAC officials claim the trips were planned well in advance of this 60-day period between the time Obama administration officials’ agreement with Iran and the time for congressional approval, the powerful pro-Israel lobbying outfit is spending millions of dollars opposing the deal.
“AIPAC trips to Israel are designed to give congresspeople a one-sided view of the region, the view of Bibi Netanyahu,” remarked CODEPINK National Coordinator Alli McCracken. “With war and peace in the balance, perhaps the Congresspeople should take a side trip to Iran to get a more balanced picture.”