For nearly five years, the rhetoric from U.S. conservatives about the Middle East has been fairly consistent: President Obama has shown insufficient fealty to our Israeli allies, while Republicans remain steadfast in their unyielding support for Israel, no matter what.
When it comes to U.S. intervention in Syria, the script has apparently been flipped.
President Obama’s position on Syria – punish President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons without seeking to force him from power – has been called “half-pregnant” by critics at home and abroad who prefer a more decisive American intervention to end Syria’s civil war.
But Mr. Obama’s limited strike proposal has one crucial foreign ally: Israel.
Yes, the White House may not have much in the way of international support for the president’s preferred mission in Syria, but it apparently has Israel’s backing, which as a political matter, should theoretically matter quite a bit.
The powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC is planning to launch a major lobbying campaign to push wayward lawmakers to back the resolution authorizing U.S. strikes against Syria, sources said Thursday.
Officials say that some 250 Jewish leaders and AIPAC activists will storm the halls on Capitol Hill beginning next week to persuade lawmakers that Congress must adopt the resolution or risk emboldening Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon. They are expected to lobby virtually every member of Congress, arguing that “barbarism” by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated, and that failing to act would “send a message” to Tehran that the U.S. won’t stand up to hostile countries’ efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, according to a source with the group.
It creates one of those awkward political dynamics that we don’t often see: most congressional Republicans, who’ve spent years accusing Obama of being secretly “anti-Israel,” are prepared to ignore not only the wishes of the House GOP leadership, but Israel’s wishes, too.
Postscript: Sometimes when I mention U.S. policy towards Israel, there’s some pushback based on confusion, so let’s preemptively clarify: I don’t think policymakers in Washington should simply do whatever Israel expects of them. I find this more a matter of political curiosity – the very same politicians who’ve been so quick to throw around accusations of others being “anti-Israel” are themselves now prepared to ignore the foreign policy approach endorsed by Israel.
Indeed, I can’t help but wonder about a hypothetical. If a Republican president were pursuing a military option in the Middle East, Democratic leaders endorsed the policy, and Israel urged rank-and-file congressional Dems to support it, wouldn’t it be quite a story if Democrats ignored them?
I have a hunch it would.