The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy conferenceIIGBA

 

ISRAEL'S INFLUENCE:
Good or Bad for America?

Washington, DC - March 18, 2016 at the National Press Club

"America is a thing that you can move very easily..." Binyamin Netanyahu, 2001

Panel 1 Questions and Answers

Grant Smith: Just to note that Dr. Mattson will be signing his book at the conclusion of this panel over in the Exhibition Hall. We’ve got a number of questions, which we’re still receiving, by Internet, by Twitter, and of course from our wonderful participants. One of them asked immediately after seeing some of my slides on polling how many Americans believe that Israel has multiple nuclear weapons. We polled that in 2014. It was the majority of Americans, so people know. How that figures into the qualitative military edge we’re supposed to pay for as taxpayers is never discussed, so that’s an open question.

Paul Thomas from Chicago, via e-mail, asks, how do you view presidential candidates on their Middle East policy positions? That will be covered by Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com during his presentation, so stay tuned.

L. Michael Hager from Easton, Massachusetts is asking why do so many states pass resolutions opposing boycotts, divestments and sanctions? It’s the same organizations. It’s the same legislative templates that we see in state after state. So a lot of the organizations, JCRCs, local mini-AIPACs such as exist in the California Policy Committee, are active in passing those. Now, whether or not they’re constitutional should be decided fairly soon.
 
Is the information given by me today available in the book? Some of it, the rest of the slides will be on the IsraelsInfluence.org website. And now I would like to pass it on to Roger Mattson for his questions.

Roger Mattson: I had a couple of people ask about the connection between Israel and the South Africans. There was cooperation on nuclear weapons under the apartheid regime. The Israelis promised not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East. That was the deal they cut with several presidents of the United States, but they parsed that over time by assembling weapons at the Six-Day War and by conducting the tests that they conducted, of what were thought to be at least one neutron bomb, in the Indian Ocean, with the cooperation of the South Africans. I think what they got in return was uranium ore. It’s in the book briefly, but that’s another whole subject, about which a couple of books have been written.

What was the role of Shimon Peres and France in building Dimona? Well, Shimon Peres made the deal with the French nuclear authorities—some say with, and some say without, de Gaulle’s knowledge. And then Shimon Peres was the man to whom Ernst David Bergman reported as the chairman of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. So the triumvirate that built the Israeli bomb was Ben-Gurion, Peres and Bergman, and then minions.

Then a question about what is the current status of U.S officials, including the president, refusing to acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons? That deal is nuclear ambiguity or nuclear opacity. The policy of Israel on nuclear weapons was a deal that was made in private by President Nixon and Golda Meir. Even Henry Kissinger was forbidden to be in the room. It was never written down, but the understanding is: Don’t ask, don’t tell. We won’t talk about it. We’ll quit sending inspectors, and we won’t acknowledge that you have the bomb. It’s now a silly policy. It ought to be undone, but it’s not undone by either side.
 
Kirk Beattie: My question is, is there significant lobbying in Congress for the Palestinians? Excellent question. I, again, would give free rein to the interviewees to respond to my questions on the Hill however they chose to do so. Typically, they would talk a lot about AIPAC, maybe talk about being visited by some other organizations. But they tend to be pretty vague in terms of organizations. I’m making a generalization now. Across the board, people tended to be much more vague about organizations that would weigh-in on behalf of the Palestinians or different Arab interests. So you would have some people who say, well, there was this group of churchwomen that were in here the other day and they were talking about—they’re probably thinking about the Churches for Middle East Peace, but they wouldn’t necessarily be able to remember the name of the organization.

Now let me, though, say this. It’s not sort of a pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel, pro-Arab issue, in my mind. I don’t think that that’s the way that it should be perceived by other people as well, for the following reason. This is a pro-peace or pro-successful resolution of the conflict, of the Israel-Palestine conflict, issue at the end of the day. What does that mean? That means that you have a very, very interesting and important activity by predominantly, overwhelmingly even in many cases, Jewish-American organizations that are collecting data, that are presenting the data to people. They’re trying to push the peace envelope if one takes—and I do at face value—what it is they’re doing.

And so if you look at an organization like Americans for Peace Now, if you look at an organization like Israel Policy Forum, they are two in DC that are known to most of the players on the Hill that are playing the game that way. Other groups that are important, too, are not necessarily ones that come with some sort of Arab name attached to them. Does the Arab American Institute play a role? Yes. Does the ADC play a role? Yes. They weigh in from time to time, but they’re less likely to be really active on the Hill than a lot of these other groups. They don’t have the same resources that AIPAC does, to begin with. Their resources are dwarfed by those of AIPAC, as are the resources that are held by Americans for Peace Now and Israel Policy Forum and so forth.

So what are some of these other groups that weigh in, and I think are doing so with somewhat greater success? One that comes to mind to me in terms of my experience were The Quakers and FCNL. The Friends’ Committee on National Legislation has, again, a small number of people who are dedicated to lobbying in this issue area on behalf of peace, right? And so they have made themselves known.

Another very tiny group that probably a lot of the people in the room have not heard of before—I don’t even know, because I’ve been out of the country a lot for the last two years. But the little tiny group is called Telos Group. And so you have people who are coming from evangelical backgrounds who have organized themselves. They’re very knowledgeable people. They organize trips to take people to the region where they have them meet people on the Palestinian side as well as on the Israeli side of the picture, and they’re doing a very good job of trying to push the peace envelope themselves. So it’s quite a mixed bag.
 
There’s a question, another very interesting one. Would you encourage other organizations and concerned citizens to use AIPAC’s strategies and tactics against AIPAC itself?
 
Who can argue with their success? I mean, I did a thing with Larry King’s blog. He asked me, does the lobby own Congress and so forth. I said, well, own, no. But I thought later on it would have been more clever if I had responded by saying, hey, pardon the baseball analogy, but if you could bat 800, you’d be quite happy to be batting 800. Or if you could have a percentage of winning nine out of ten times or eight out of ten times, then who wouldn’t think that that was a job very well done? So yes, I think there’s a lot of merit potentially in copying the AIPAC model. I’ll stop there to make room for another response.

Grant Smith: Great. I think we’re going to move on. Thank you, everyone who sent questions from the Internet stream and locally here. And again, please pursue the speakers with your questions. Dr. Mattson will be signing his book directly after this panel. Gideon Levy will be signing at 11:00. At 12:40 Professor Beattie will be signing his book in the Exhibition Hall. Susan Abulhawa at 3:00, Rula Jebreal at 5:00, and I’ll be doing it at 5:30. So thank you very much. Panel 1 is over.


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