by Jim Lobe
Casino multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson will once again host the annual convention and ring-kissing ceremony of the Republican Jewish Coalition. It will begin Thursday night in Las Vegas with a private dinner for the RJC’s board and top donors, as well as special (gentile) guests, Mitt Romney and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. The event will open the weekend festivities, which includes golf and poker tournaments, as well as presentations by actual or quasi-presidential hopefuls, including Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, and Mike Pence. Also attending will be Lindsey Graham, who, as we reported here earlier this week, suggested he would appoint an “all-Jewish cabinet,” presumably in exchange for hefty campaign donations from RJC members. Also on hand will be the House Republican leadership in the persons of Kevin McCarthy and John Boehner (thanks, John, for inviting Bibi to speak to the Congress last month). And George W. Bush (remember him?) will be giving an off-the-record talk to RJC grandees.
The event comes on the heels of Bill Kristol‘s remarkable declaration of war on the Corker-Menendez bill (many hours of Senate debate on which got underway Thursday afternoon) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in his capacity as chairman of the Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI). This latter group provided nearly $1 million to super-hawk (and Kristol protege) Sen. Tom “Cakewalk” Cotton’s campaign in the closing weeks of last November’s election. In a Weekly Standard editorial, Kristol, who had speculated last week that the bill actually was a “trap,” apparently decided that it was indeed a trap. Invoking the perennial neocon abracadabra of “Churchill,” “appeasement,” and “Munich” (all within 20 words), Kristol complained that Corker’s legislation was
a toothless bill, setting up a process which allows Congress, in reaction to a deal, to stop the president from waiving or removing sanctions on Iran—which is of course something Congress could do in any case, at any time. So the bill sets up a process that allows Congress to do something they can do without that process.
There is no reason to think that passage of this bill, as it now stands, significantly increases the chance of reversing such a deal once it is agreed to. There is every reason to think, if the bill passes without serious debate, that it will have the opposite effect—of giving the illusion that Congress is really doing something to stop or slow down a bad deal when it is not.
The only way, Kristol argued, to salvage the situation—meaning to abort any prospective nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1—was to pile on amendments that would be unacceptable to Tehran, or, in his words “to implant teeth to the legislation’s clammy gums.” Of course, the more amendments that are added to the bill, the more likely that Democrats will rally to the administration’s side in sufficient numbers not only to sustain a presidential veto, but quite possibly to sustain a filibuster against it. Significantly, Graham has already taken a stance against Kristol’s strategy. He told Congressional Quarterly Wednesday:
To the critics of the bill, most of you haven’t lifted a finger to solve this problem. Most of you haven’t met with one Democrat so don’t parachute in at the end with this idea that would destroy what I think is one of the most important pieces of legislation that I’ll ever deal with.
…Anybody that monkeys with this deal is going to run into a buzz saw.
Kristol also attacked AIPAC, albeit not by name, much as he did 14 months ago when the premier pro-Israel lobby threw in the towel over the Kirk-Menendez bill, which sought to impose new sanctions on Iran. At that time he argued that “it would be terrible if history’s judgment on the pro-Israel community was that it made a fetish of bipartisanship—and got a nuclear Iran.” Referring to AIPAC’s support for the Corker bill, he complained Thursday:
Not just the Obama administration, but the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the leading establishment pro-Israel lobbying group, all prefer quiet acquiescence to and approval of a toothless bill rather than a serious debate and a series of votes over our Iran policy.
So what is going on? Admittedly, it’s hard to tell. But it will be very interesting to hear or read what comes out of the RJC convention this weekend. After all, Adelson just held a fundraiser for Graham who has made it clear that he definitely needs RJC funding to get him through the crucial primaries. But if Kristol feels so strongly—and the RJC, incidentally, also attacked AIPAC’s retreat last year presumably because its chairman (Adelson) felt that the lobby’s efforts to keep Democrats in the fold was bullshit—it’s hard to believe that the RJC wouldn’t take the same line. Poor Lindsey: his campaign may never get off the ground, his Vegas invite rescinded at the last moment.
But this split within the “Israel lobby” between the hard-line neocons led by Kristol, ECI, and the RJC on the one hand and the more pragmatic and “bipartisan” mainstream groups led by AIPAC also raises the question of where Netanyahu stands at this rather critical moment. Will he and his Republican activist-ambassador, Ron Dermer, line up with Kristol to cheer on Republican amendments that are clearly designed to sabotage the P5+1 negotiations and are likely to ensure the Corker bill’s defeat? Or will they take AIPAC’s more cautious approach in light of the growing tide of elite Israeli opinion that Bibi needs to tamp down the partisanship if he has any real hope of influencing a final Iran deal?
In any event, the RJC convention promises to be a lot of fun. Here’s the program as presented on its website:
Please join the RJC for our 2015 Spring Leadership Meeting!
Venetian Resort and Hotel in Las Vegas, NV
Friday, April 24 – Sunday, April 26*
This is the “can’t miss” political weekend of the year. Stay tuned as we announce an incredible program with the biggest names in the Republican Party.
Events during the weekend include:
RJC Golf Tournament*
RJC Poker Tournament
Saturday Morning Business Meeting
Saturday VIP Lunch hosted by the NWC
Special Saturday afternoon Breakout Sessions
Saturday night Gala Dinner
Sunday morning breakfast and discussion
*Optional programming, the golf tournament, and Board activities begin on Thursday, April 23 [Editor’s Note: Apparently, participation in the poker tournament is mandatory.]