Biden is in Israel for the campaign money, not the U.S. interest

Isaac Herzog, Joe Biden and Yair Lapid at Ben Gurion Airport (Ilia Yefimovich - APA Images)

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  July 14, 2022

There is no U.S. interest in Biden’s trip to the Middle East. He is hurting his effort to restore the Iran deal by sharing a platform with Israeli leaders who seek military overthrow of the Iranian regime. He is trashing his commitment to human rights by sidelining Palestinian demands and ignoring Israel’s killing of a Palestinian-American journalist a few weeks ago. He is making a mockery of the U.S. claim to support a two-state solution by giving a spotlight to Israelis who have no interest in it.

And that’s before he goes to Saudi Arabia, where he will be pushing a normalization deal with Israel that surely helps Israel try to gain legitimacy in the Arab world but only marginalizes the Palestinians and puts the U.S. on one side of a dangerous conflict/cold war between Iran and Gulf states.

Biden has a clear reason to go on this trip, though: domestic political considerations. By kissing up to Israeli leaders, Biden will please the Israel lobby in the U.S., which is still the war-chest for mainstream Democratic campaigns.

Look at two articles that have appeared in recent days about the spending by Israel lobby groups in Democratic primaries. AIPAC the rightwing lobby and J Street the liberal one are spending over $1.5 million to battle it out in Michigan, in the campaign between Haley Stevens and Andy Levin. And AIPAC’s super pac is spending upwards of $6 million (J Street says it’s only $4 million) in a Maryland district outside Washington to try to knock off Donna Edwards, using the establishment candidate Glenn Ivey.

Read these numbers from the American Prospect: The AIPAC pac is

on pace to spend nearly $20 million in the 2022 Democratic primary cycle alone, making it by far the most influential individual political group in Democratic electoral politics.

Biden is a political animal, and he sees all that pro-Israel money flooding into Democratic primaries, and he doesn’t want to lose that for Democrats. Bear in mind that a lot of that AIPAC money is coming from pro-Israel Jews who have also given a ton to the Republican Party and Trump. Now they are jumping into the Democratic Party to support mainstream Democrats against progressive Dems, so that the Israel-critical Squad doesn’t get any bigger.

No wonder Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer aren’t saying a word to condemn AIPAC’s outsize role in Democratic politics. They and Biden know that this money is in play. If Biden or other elected leaders echo the leftwing criticism of Israel, the Democratic money will jump to their opponents.

So that’s why Biden is in Israel saying he’s a Zionist and the “apartheid”-accusers of the Democratic Party are just a fringe few. That’s why he’s touting the “bone-deep” connection of the U.S. and Israel, and calling Jerusalem the capital, and parroting other rightwing Zionist claims. And why his ambassador is working “to help Israel not the U.S.” Biden is trying to keep the Israel lobby on his side, and Jewish donors generally.

The New York Times explained the policy influence of Jewish donors 3 years ago:

Of the dozens of personal checks greater than $500,000 made out to the largest PAC for Democrats in 2018, the Senate Majority PAC, around three-fourths were written by Jewish donors. This provides fodder for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and for some, it is the elephant in the room. Though the number of Jewish donors known to prioritize pro-Israel policies above all other issues is small, there are few if any pushing in the opposite direction

The Jewish community is understood in politics to be 95 percent for Israel– anti-Zionists Jews still don’t count– so you pander to that community by praising Israel. And if you’re a bit critical of Israel, you raise money from J Street, which is also pro-Israel.

That’s the fascinating thing about all the money being spent in Michigan and Maryland by pro-Israel groups fighting it out. AIPAC says Andy Levin endangers the U.S.-Israel relationship. But J Street says Andy Levin loves Israel. But none of the ads they buy are about Israel. No, they are spending “trainloads” of money to fight the battle over other issues that voters care about. CNN (emphasis mine)

In their new 30-second ad, the J Street group hammers [Haley] Stevens for accepting AIPAC support… in a video featuring images of violence at the US Capitol…. The J Street spot, like those from UDP [United Democracy Project, the AIPAC pac] supporting Stevens, makes no mention of Israel.

Don’t people in Michigan want to know who’s better for Israel, Levin or Stevens? You’d think from Biden’s trip that Americans think about Israel all day long. The connections are “bone-deep.” Biden has been going out there for 50 years, his tenth trip. He says every president since Truman has supported Israel, and we will be the last nation in the world to turn away from Israel.

This is all propaganda for the Israel lobby. Americans overall don’t care that much about Israel — no, Shibley Telhami’s poll this past spring says Democrats and Independents put it way down on their lists of most important allies.

If the voters cared about Israel nearly as much as J Street and AIPAC and their donors, then the ads would be about whether Levin or Stevens is better for Israel. But the ads don’t mention Israel because if anything Democratic voters are turned off by Israel.

Running ads that are the largest buys in politics, and not mentioning what you really care about — that’s about a special interest and a hidden agenda. It’s not honest and transparent, it’s corruption.

Just like Joe Biden going to Israel and trashing all the tenets of his foreign policy so he can raise money.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006

h/t Michael Arria and Adam Horowitz.