The head of the Israel lobby group AIPAC yesterday sounded “an alarm” about Israel’s political enemies taking “the spotlight” in U.S. politics. In an implicit criticism of Bernie Sanders, AIPAC ceo Howard Kohr said that a “radical” movement to end the U.S. special relationship to Israel has “national ambitions” to undermine the bipartisan consensus in favor of Israel.
“Israel cannot afford a single minute where America’s friendship with Israel at the highest levels either wavers or skips,” Kohr said.
The radicals are taking the message against Israel to every political race in the country, Kohr said, and they “increase the risks for war in the Middle East.”
Kohr flexed the financial muscles of the Israel lobby, urging his audience to do all they can to protect friends in Congress and go on the attack against Israel’s critics.
Here are excerpts of Kohr’s sounding-an-alarm speech:
Today I must sound an alarm. There is an emerging threat to America’s friendship with Israel. The work we have done and continue to do is at risk.
The Israel lobby’s achievement was building a foundation of bipartisan support for Israel– as somehow being in America’s security interests. Kohr:
This foundation consists of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, all faiths, all races and all Americans. It is a foundation that has endured no matter who was president, no matter who controlled Congress, no matter how events unfolded in the Middle East.
We continue to believe, When American stands with the Jewish state, Israelis are more secure and Americans are too.
Now that foundation is “in danger of being rocked as it has never been before.” By a broad movement:
A growing and highly vocal and energized part of the electorate fundamentally rejects the value of the U.S. Israel alliance. And it is no longer on the margins but instead has taken the spotlight of our political life. Its most radical views are bending the political conversation and commanding attention, and this movement has national ambitions.
The leaders of this movement occasionally seek to mollify us with empty reassurances and hollow affirmations of Israel’s right to live in peace. But far too often they reveal their true beliefs. The leaders of this movement say they support Israel’s right to exist. But that’s not up for debate– Israel exists! And it doesn’t take a true friend to support that.
Or these leaders say they support Israel’s right to defend herself. But every time Israel exercises that right, they condemn Israel.
These leaders are quick to condemn Israel for the deadlock in the Middle East. But they don’t seem to understand that… the Palestinians won’t even come to the table. Not today and unfortunately not for the past nine years.
Kohr appeared to target Bernie Sanders and his surrogates who have criticized Israel, such as Linda Sarsour and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In their political utterances, the leaders of this movement repeatedly and reflexively disparage Israel’s democracy and lump her in with nations hostile to American interests and American values. Again, these are not the things a friend would say or do. These political leaders have chosen to deploy several surrogates who have long records of hostility toward the Jewish state.
In the rising movement against the U.S. Israel relationship, there are familiar faces, but they are not our friends. But we see instead are some who question the moral right of the Jewish people to a homeland of their own. What we see is a litany of double standards applied to everything Israel does. What we see is a casual disregard for the vital role Israel has played and continues to play in supporting America’s interests and America’s security.
And if any of these leaders wanted to dispel our fears, they have many options avaliable to reassure us. Instead they say divisive things and they do divisive things. They say it and they do it because they believe it, and they believe it helps them.
He suggested that Bernie Sanders is no friend of Israel.
Israel cannot afford false friends. So let me say this plainly, Any leader who energizes their political movement by demonizing Israel is not a friend of Israel. That term, friend, means something very real to all of us and every moment throughout its history, Israel has required friends, true friends. Israel cannot afford a single minute where America’s friendship with Israel at the highest levels either wavers or skips. And throughout its history and thanks frankly to the work of our collective movement, Israel has been able to count on its friendship with the United States.
For decades and to this very day, the path has united Democrats and Republicans in a broad and bipartisan agenda. It means most of all that America will help Israel defend herself by herself. America’s security support for Israel should never, never be used as a bargaining chip in the U.S. Israel relationship. Israel’s security in a dangerous region is in America’s interests, and we are grateful that overwhelming majorities of Democrats and Republicans in Congress have consistently supported Israel’s security without conditions and without hesitation. [Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama] each understood that America’s commitment to Israel’s safety must be consistent, it must unequivocal, and it must be dependable.
Sanders is one of several Democratic presidential candidates who have refused to speak at AIPAC this year, in a sign of the growing partisanization of the Israel issue.
Kohr has a long history as an alarmist (if a sincere one). His speech is of a piece with his landmark speech of 11 years ago warning that threats to Israel’s legitimacy were growing on college campuses and might come into U.S. politics, creating the “predicate for abandonment” of Israel. Then last spring Kohr said that “intense hatred” of Israel was moving from the margins to the center of U.S. politics.
In his latest speech, Kohr praised Donald Trump and leading Democrats too for unequivocal support, standing “on the right side of history.”
We appreciate the unyielding support of President Trump and everything he and his administration have done on these issues [large applause]. We are deeply grateful to Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer and Republican Leader McCarthy for their decades long friendship and remarkable leadership [applause].
This is a bipartisan movement, Democrats and Republicans, who with very rare exceptions have been part of this cause from the very beginning. Because on this one issue, elected leaders have always known they are standing with the majority of American voters in both parties and on the right side of history.
He returned to his alarm theme and said that the critics are undermining military aid to Israel and therefore increasing the prospect of war:
Which is why we are sounding the alarm today. The U.S. Israel relationship has always had its critics and its detractors. But today we face something far more corrosive. We face a collection of political leaders and their supporters who want to turn our political system away from Israel, and if they have their way, they will diminish US support for Israel and increase the risks for war in the Middle East. Israel without American support would be weaker, more isolated, and more vulnerable. Israel’s nieghbors could exploit new opportunities to terrorize Israel.. How could these conditions help the cause of peace?
And here at home we face an equally disturbing prospect. The political leaders opposed to America’s close relationship with Israel want to force their priorities on to candidates in every election in this nation. And if they have their way, they will undermine the bipartisan foundation that is at the heart of the US Israel relationship today and so necessary for whatever lies ahead. These political leaders dont just want to win a single election, they want to unravel the bipartisan consensus of our movement. So they need to defeat our friends in Congress.
This is a political battle that Israel’s friends need to pour resources, meaning money, into:
For decades, the pro-Israel movement has said that if elected leaders stand up for the US Israel friendship, there will be millions of voters who will stand with them. For decades, our movement has honored this promise, and we have been loyal to our friends. So our mission is clear. Our friends must receive every effort the pro Israel movement can provide and the extra measure of support they deserve. But it’s not enough to play defense, just to protect our friends. The pro-Israel community has to take the fight to the other side. If our movement chooses to tap into our energy, if we win the battle of ideas, if we put the full weight of our resources into this fight, we will put our friends in a position to win.
The pro Israel community will work to defeat those who try to harm our friends and those who try to harm the U.S. Israel relationship. We will demonstrate that friendship with Israel is valued across this country and by voters in both parties. The pro Israel movement will show that standing with Israel is what the American people want.