Tuesday, June 9, 2009

'Only One Lonely Little Guy'

"The Lobbyist came down like the wolf on the fold
And his briefcases were gleaming in black and gold..."
(Apologies to Byron)

What might happen if Obama ever gets around to wagging his finger at Israel? Here's the experience of Bush senior:

"[In 1990 President George HW Bush] got involved in what one author calls 'the most noteworthy showdown with Israel and the American-Israeli lobby of any American president'. It began... when Israel submitted a request to the US for more than $1 billion in loans, gifts, and donations. The money was going to pay to resettle Soviet Jews in the occupied territories - in clear violation of international law. Bush's response was simple and straightforward: 'There should be no new settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem'."

The response? "[A] tidal wave of criticism" and a new request for a "$10 billion loan guarantee... to build and expand settlements in the occupied territories" came in 1991.

"Bush asked Congress to delay the loan guarantees for 4 months. Immediately, almost 1,000 pro-Israel lobbyists swamped Capitol Hill, insisting that the US dispense the guarantees at once. Congress, not surprisingly, was inclined to listen. Sensing that both his authority and plans for peace were at risk, President Bush made the following complaint: 'I heard today there were something like a thousand lobbyists on the Hill working the other side of the question. We've got only one lonely little guy doing it'. When Congress realized that the 'lonely little guy' was their president, and that he was serious about delaying the loan guarantees, they quickly approved his request. American Jews were indignant, labelling Bush an anti-Semite for his criticisms of lobby pressure and accusing him of denying them the right to practice citizen advocacy. Bush quickly apologized, but to many it was a case of too little, too late."

Bush senior eventually "caved into pressure and approved the loan guarantees. Bush also exhibited strong - and strongly biased - support for Israel in October of 1991 when, after US intelligence determined that Israel had exported missile components to South Africa, the president waived US-mandated sanctions against Israel. Nevertheless, this support was not enough to erase the memory of the Bush-Israel showdown from the minds of Israel's American supporters... It was a lesson well learned by American politicians, as no US president since has openly threatened to withhold funds to ensure Israeli compliance with international law. Indeed, according to USA Today, current President George W Bush "says he believes his father... made a political mistake that helped cost him re-election when he threatened to withhold some US aid' from Israel." (They Dare to Speak Out: People & Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby, Paul Findley, ed 3, 2003, pp 144-146)

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