19 March 2009

Robert Dreyfuss on the Freeman Affair

From Tomdispatch.com: http://tomdispatch.com/post/175046/robert_dreyfuss_the_freeman_affair

Tom Englehardt
Because one man, conceding defeat, didn't issue the typical statement indicating that he preferred to spend more time with his family, and instead launched a frontal attack on those who had attacked him, the foreign policy equation in Washington might have changed in discernible ways last week. On withdrawing from his nomination as director of the National Intelligence Council, Charles Freeman, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a rare provocative thinker in Washington, let loose with a broadside against his enemies. Of accusations from the generally right-wing groups and individuals who claim to represent the Jewish community in official Washington, he wrote:
"There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government -- in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel... This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States."

Robert Dreyfuss:
the arrival of the Netanyahu-Lieberman government is also guaranteed to prove a crisis moment for the Israel lobby. It will present an enormous public-relations problem, akin to the one that faced ad agency Hill & Knowlton during the decades in which it had to defend Philip Morris, the hated cigarette company that repeatedly denied the link between its products and cancer. The Israel lobby knows that it will be difficult to sell cartons of menthol smooth Netanyahu-Lieberman 100s to American consumers.

Indeed, Freeman told me:
"The only thing I regret is that in my statement I embraced the term 'Israel lobby.' This isn't really a lobby by, for, or about Israel. It's really, well, I've decided I'm going to call it from now on the [Avigdor] Lieberman lobby. It's the very right-wing Likud in Israel and its fanatic supporters here. And Avigdor Lieberman is really the guy that they really agree with."
So here's the reality behind the Freeman debacle: Already worried over Team Obama, suffering the after-effects of the Gaza debacle, and about to be burdened with the Netanyahu-Lieberman problem, the Israel lobby is undoubtedly running scared. They succeeded in knocking off Freeman, but the true test of their strength is yet to come.

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