Sunday, January 29, 2006

Neal Sher: AIPAC's Saudi Connection

A former AIPAC executive charges in The Jewish Week that the Bush administration may be prosecuting the American Jewish lobby in order to appease the Saudis--and AIPAC might be too scared to fight back...
Moreover, there are reports from the Executive Committee meeting held during the conference that AIPAC leadership displayed near total deference to the administration. Former AIPAC President Melvin Dow apparently took the lead in killing any proposed policy that might step on toes at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Now, evidence that its agenda may have been compromised can be found in AIPAC’s total failure to pursue The Saudi Arabia Accountability Act — one of the most important pieces of national security/anti-terrorism and pro-Israel legislation pending before Congress:

Proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter in June 2005, the bill aims to halt “Saudi support for institutions that fund, train, incite, encourage, or in any other way aid and abet terrorism, and to secure full Saudi cooperation in the investigation of terrorist incidents, and for other purposes.” When introduced, it had bipartisan support across the ideological spectrum.

The legislation is bolstered by the work of many serious experts — both in and out of government — who for years have been alerted U.S. authorities to the dangerous and deadly activities of Saudi entities, many of which are part of or directly controlled by the government in Riyadh. The legislation’s text cites evidence, for example, that Saudi entities furnish at least 50 percent of the current operating budget of Hamas.

Predictably, the Bush administration opposes the legislation; it has no intention to take on the Saudis, despite overwhelming evidence of their heavy involvement in financing, supporting and advocating terror and anti-American and anti-Israel hatred.

But AIPAC’s failure even to acknowledge the legislation (check its Web site — not a word) let alone push for passage, is inexcusable. Can there be a more quintessential example of pro-Israel legislation? So, what’s the problem?

It’s hard not to conclude that AIPAC’s timidity is directly linked to the predicament in which it finds itself. This is no time, AIPAC leaders undoubtedly are thinking, to challenge and upset an administration that already has demonstrated that it is ready, willing and able to play hardball. Having given in on Rosen and Weissman, AIPAC has sent clear signals that it is willing to pull punches, if that’s what it takes, to preserve “access” and “influence.”

But political clout and financial resources are not ends unto themselves. The pro-Israel community has worked long and hard to build a strong and wealthy lobby. It has a right to expect — indeed, demand — from AIPAC leadership an organization with not just brains and brawn, one with the guts to take on, when the cause so dictates, even those they otherwise consider to be friends.

The very last thing the community needs are leaders acting as though they are guests in their own country.
One wonders, will Bush and Cheney be prosecuted for sharing American war plans with Prince Bandar (as Bob Woodward documented in Plan of Attack)--or does the Bush administration consider Saudi princes who permit Saudi suicide bombers to cross into Iraq to kill American soldiers and civilians to be more trustworthy than Israelis?