U.S. President Barack Obama is waging a desperate war this week. Not against Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose country he threatens to attack, but against the American majority that opposes military action in Syria and conveying its disinclination for war to its congressional representatives. This, just as Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are making a supreme effort to persuade both the Congress and America’s allies to support a U.S. attack on Syria, which would preserve the United States’ traditional position as “the world’s policeman.”
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In the context of this effort, Obama asked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to use its influence with Congress to obtain approval for an attack on Syria. Members of the pro-Israel lobby unleashed a torrent of letters arguing for a strike on Capitol Hill, AIPAC’s home turf.
After years of cool relations with the White House, AIPAC has now cast its lot with the Obama administration. As a result, a congressional veto or, alternatively, a poor outcome from a strike on Syria, will undermine not only Obama but also AIPAC.
As U.S. citizens, AIPAC lobbyists are entitled to express their views to, and to try to influence, elected officials. These rights, however, do not apply to the Israeli citizens, including policy-makers and cabinet ministers, who are speaking out in favor of an attack and even urging the United States to carry it out. They must understand that AIPAC is not Israel, and it is not authorized to express Israeli policy.
It is not yet clear whether a military operation in Syria is indeed necessary to protect American interests. The government in Jerusalem, which is responsible for protecting Israel's interests, has yet to formulate an official position on whether Assad's fall would be good or bad for Israel.
The collapse of the Assad regime would indeed break up the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis, but there’s no way of knowing whether the new regime, or the disintegration of the state into cantons and no man’s lands, would be more dangerous or less. In any event, and under any scenario, Israel has no right to send others to conduct military operations, much less in the indirect service of the Syrian rebels and Al-Qaida.
Only the American people are sovereign to make decisions of war and peace regarding their country’s army. Israelis and Israeli decision makers should give up any pretense of intervening.