The Other Israel Lobby

Jan 23 2014 @ 12:30pm

J Street is fighting against the new Iran sanctions bill:

By decoupling support for Israel with support for new sanctions against Iran, the group is making it easier for lawmakers inclined to support the White House. “We’ve been working diligently on Capitol Hill and in the Jewish-American community to raise support for the president’s diplomatic efforts vis-a-vis Iran, and oppose any legislation which would threaten it,” said Dylan Williams, director of government affairs at J Street. “We feel very strongly that the current bill in the Senate would threaten diplomacy.”

J Street’s influence is also clear in the money it spends. Among pro-Israel groups, JStreetPAC was the largest single political donor during the 2008 and 2012 cycles, contributing nearly $2.7 million to federal candidates, parties, and outside groups. And some lawmakers supported by J Street have been vocal in support of the group’s position. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, for instance, has spoken out strongly against the new Iran sanctions. As one congressional aide put it, “Those are the political calculations that are made easier when a group like J Street gives you cover.”

Sargent notes that Patty Murray and Elizabeth Warren now oppose a vote on the sanctions bill:

Those who favored a vote were far more vocal at first — as of now, 16 Dem Senators have signed on. But the continued silence of many Dem Senators signaled a broad unwillingness to join the bill, even as many were unwilling to publicly declare this to be the case, since Dems apparently see allowing negotiations to proceed, without getting a chance to vote in favor of getting tougher on Iran, as a politically difficult position to take.

If current conditions remain, a vote is starting to look less and less likely. Right now, the bill has 58 co-sponsors. On the other side, 10 Dem Senate committee chairs have signed a letter opposing a vote. Around half a dozen Dem Senators subsequently came out against it. With Murray and Warren, the number of Dems against a vote has comfortably surpassed the number who want one.

Which means the US will not be the actor in this that sabotages negotiations. Which is good for the US, Israel and Iran.