Israel Is Learning the Price of Contempt

The New York Times reports that AIPAC has lost several highly public battles with the White House over the past year:

Its top priority, a Senate bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, has stalled after stiff resistance from President Obama, and in what amounts to a tacit retreat, Aipac has stopped pressuring Senate Democrats to vote for the bill.

….But Aipac’s headaches go beyond Iran. In September, it threw an army of lobbyists behind an effort to win a congressional mandate for Mr. Obama’s threatened military strike on Syria. Facing certain failure in Congress, the president pulled the plug on the effort. Earlier last year, it came under fire from the right for not publicly opposing Mr. Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, because of what critics said was his anti-Israel record.

OK, I guess that’s surprising. But what makes it really surprising is the context. Here’s the story’s lead:

The last time the nation’s most potent pro-Israel lobbying group lost a major showdown with the White House was when President Ronald Reagan agreed to sell Awacs surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia over the group’s bitter objections.

That was in 1981. Basically, AIPAC hadn’t lost an important fight in over three decades. Now they’ve suddenly lost two—or maybe even three, if you count the Hagel confirmation.

With any luck, this will provide Israel with some incentive to take John Kerry’s peace initiative more seriously. They just can’t treat an American administration with the contempt that they’ve treated Obama’s and expect to retain broad public support here. When Israel’s leadership becomes practically an extension of the tea party, as it has over the past few years, they’re going to start bleeding domestic support. AIPAC’s recent losses are a canary in the coal mine.

The really astounding thing about all this is how gratuitous the Netanyahu administration’s contempt has been. They could have given Obama nearly everything he’s asked for, and it almost certainly wouldn’t have made a difference since the Palestinians are unlikely to agree to any plausible deal that Kerry can cook up. And yet the contempt has not just continued, but escalated. That’s been a huge mistake.

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