By Daniel Luban
In March, former AIPAC chief lobbyist Douglas Bloomfield wrote a very interesting piece for the New Jersey Jewish News. In it, he revealed that although AIPAC publicly professed support for the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, it was secretly coordinating with then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and working behind the scenes to sabotage the process. By illustrating AIPAC’s willingness to work against the policies of both U.S. and Israeli governments when they proved insufficiently hawkish, Bloomfield noted, this information could “not only validate AIPAC’s critics, who accuse it of being a branch of the Likud, but also lead to an investigation of violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”
Bloomfield had another interesting piece in Tuesday’s Jerusalem Post, in which he interviewed AIPAC’s former top Iran analyst Keith Weissman. Weissman, of course, is best known for his role in the recently-dropped “AIPAC Two” espionage case, which revolved around accusations that he and AIPAC political director Steve Rosen received classified information from Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin and passed it to reporters and Israeli embassy officials. Franklin pled guilty in 2006 and was sentenced to over 12 year in prison, but this month government prosecutors decided to drop charges against Rosen and Weissman after concluding that they would be unlikely to win convictions.
Now that he is out from under the espionage charges, Weissman is free to speak his mind, and in his interview with Bloomfield he attacks the Iran hawks (including, implicitly, his former bosses at AIPAC) in startlingly blunt terms. The whole thing is worth reading, but I’ve included a few excerpts below the fold.
First, Weissman attacks the hawks’ premise that military action would be effective:
There’s no assurance an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities – even if all of them could be located – would be anything more than a temporary setback, Weissman told me. Instead, a military strike would unify Iranians behind an unpopular regime, ignite a wave of retaliation that would leave thousands dead from Teheran to Tel Aviv, block oil exports from the Persian Gulf and probably necessitate a ground war, he said.
He also attacks the idea, propagated by Netanyahu among others, that Iran’s rulers are a “messianic apocalyptic cult” and therefore undeterrable:
Weissman said Israel’s worries about Iran getting a nuclear weapon are understandable, but despite some of the rhetoric coming out of Teheran, the Iranian leaders “are not fanatics and they’re not suicidal. They know that Israel could make Iran glow for many years.”
He endorses the Obama administration’s argument that progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front is necessary for progress on the Iranian front, and attacks Netanyahu’s claim that the Iranian threat is sufficient to unite Israel with the so-called “moderate Arab states”:
Trying to separate the issues, even refusing to endorse the two-state approach, “is part of the sophistry of people like [Binyamin] Netanyahu who want to avoid confronting the peace process,” he said. “Iran’s ability to screw around in the Israel-Arab arena would be severely impaired by pressing ahead on the Palestinian and Syrian tracks instead of looking for excuses not to.”
Finally, he argues that the U.S. and Israel will “have to end up accepting some kind of peaceful Iranian nuclear energy program – and they actually need it; it’s already too late to stop it entirely.”
Weissman’s apostasy on the Iran issue puts him much closer to the likes of Roger Cohen than to his former compatriots at AIPAC. It will be interesting to see whether the neoconservatives who rallied to his defense during the AIPAC Two affair will now try to bury him the same way they have tried to bury Cohen.