Tuesday, January 08, 2013

AIPAC Won't Object to Hagel

Word in from Peter Beinart is that AIPAC will not oppose former Sen. Chuck Hagel's (R-NE) nomination as Defense Secretary (perhaps Bernard Avishai will issue a retraction? Or perhaps not). Beinart notes that this is consistent with AIPAC's key interest in differentiating itself from the "pro-Israel" far-right (groups like the ECI and RJC), as the worst thing that could possibly happen to Israel's standing in the US is if it became known as a annex of partisan Republicanism. As Jeffrey Goldberg points out, AIPAC is not stupid and has no interest in sacrificing its bipartisan credentials over a nomination fight. In the words of a top AIPAC official, "we don’t deal with nominees. We deal with policies." And from my vantage, anything that puts daylight between AIPAC and the far-right is good news.

In any event, this seems to falsify at least one of two claims: (1) the "Israel Lobby" is indomitable, and no mortal can long resist its wrath, or (2) the "Israel Lobby" can't countenance anyone who registers any sort of criticism of Israel whatsoever. In Hagel, we have someone who has criticized Israel before (and it's worth reiterating that this distinguishes him from precisely nobody who's ever had any opinion on Israel -- including far-right groups like ZOA), and AIPAC is perfectly content to see him confirmed. Despite this, I predict AIPAC's neutrality on this issue will have zero impact on any of the rhetoric surrounding it, because said rhetoric remains untethered from anything AIPAC actually does.