Emergency Committee for Israel blasts senators
The Emergency Committee for Israel, a new pro-Israel organization that caused a big stir in the 2010 campaign, is blasting Sens. Chuck Schumer and Carl Levin for dragging AIPAC into the debate over ratification of the START agreement. Board members Bill Kristol, Gary Bauer and Rachel Abrams wrote to the senators:
We write in response to your remarkable public letter to Howard Kohr, the Executive Director of AIPAC. His ongoing institutional responsibilities will probably prevent him from responding to you--two powerful Senators unafraid to use your power--as frankly as we can. But we will be frank.
Your letter--an effort to pressure an organization to lobby on a matter far outside its expertise and area of concern--is a disgrace. We've rarely seen Senators stoop to this kind of public bullying. AIPAC "cannot afford to stand on the sidelines?" What threat do you mean to convey by this statement?
It's clear that defenders of the New START treaty (on which, needless to say, the Emergency Committee for Israel takes no position) are frantic to have it ratified in the lame duck session, and they apparently lack the votes to ram it through. But your desperation about New START does not justify behavior unworthy of Senators.
Furthermore: Is it your position that if the Senate does not ratify START in the lame duck session, Russia will be justified in violating UN sanctions against Iran, or in selling Iran air defense missiles? If not, why do you appear to give the Russian government such a justification? Is that the action of true friends of Israel, or true opponents of a nuclear Iran?
We urge you to withdraw the letter to which you have so unfortunately lent your name.
This is, even for conservative activists like Kristol, Bauer and Abrams, exceptionally strong language. But, they would no doubt claim, the actions of these two senators are exceptionally unusual, and would set a dangerous precedent. Are Jewish groups now excepted to endorse other foreign policies of the administration?
I follow Israel policy and the American Jewish community pretty closely. I can't recall another instance in which senators who regularly appear at AIPAC events, and enjoy support from its members, have exerted pressure like this that would potentially jeopardize all of that. And for what? The treaty isn't going to pass or fail on the strength of AIPAC's approval. But rather than putting the screws on AIPAC, the senators have, it seems, only made the START ratification, and their own reputations, more precarious.
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