Adelson-Saban vs Obama

No one suffers any more for pointing out the obvious fact that a powerful lobby defending the maximalist claims of Greater Israel exerts enormous influence in both parties – so as to effectively prevent the US, whoever is in power, from pursuing its own national interest if it might conflict with Israel’s. And in today’s mega-bucks politics, two huge donors dominate each party – Sheldon Adelson handles the Republicans, ensuring that any deviation from Likudnik politics is chilled or choked off; and Haim Saban does the equivalent for the Democrats, with his extremely close ties to the Clintons. They came together this past weekend to declare that no differences in domestic policy would ever create daylight between them when it comes to advancing what they believe is Israel’s national interest. It’s helpful to see this mindset in the light of day:

“Everyone in this room – whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat or Independent … when it comes to Israel, we’re on the same side,” Adelson said.

And so if the US and the major powers achieve a new detente with Tehran that Netanyahu opposes (and he opposes any detente), Saban and Adelson will be at one to destroy and undermine it:

Though Saban generally expressed more moderate views than Adelson on the Palestinian issue, when talk turned to Iran he said that if he were Israel’s prime minister and a nuclear deal between Iran and the West risked Israel’s existence, “I would bomb the living daylights out of those sons of bitches.” On this issue, Adelson was the more moderate, saying only that he would “take action.”

So here you have a leading American Democrat pledge to support a foreign government over his own when it comes to a critical issue of war and peace. And the pledge takes the form of a punitive and cathartic act of mass bombing authorized by no international law or body, and as a rebuke to the duly-elected president of the United States. We’re so used to this astonishing display of extremism and tribalism that it no longer manages to shock.

In the same confab, Adelson again declared that he believes that Palestinians do not really exist and that a two-state solution is anathema. And he has no attachment to democracy, per se:

“So Israel won’t be a democratic state, so what?” he asked Saban, adding that democracy, after all, is not mentioned in the Torah, and recommended that the country build a “big wall” to protect itself, saying, “I would put up a big wall around my property.”

Both men are also media players. Adelson, at least, is frank about what he regards as the point of journalism – pro-Israel propaganda:

“I don’t like journalism,” Adelson said, highlighting what he said was the media’s insistence on focusing on the empty half of the glass.

Then this:

“I wish that Jeff Bezos hadn’t bought The Washington Post,” Saban said, referencing the founder who purchased The Post a year ago. “For $250 million — bupkis — he stole it.” Adelson countered, “Why don’t you and I go after the New York Times?” Saban said that he has “tried over and over to buy it” but that the family-owned Times is not for sale. Adelson quipped, “There is only one way to fight it: money.”

My point here is to note that one of the biggest struggles of the Obama administration is about to take place: an attempt to win a detente with Iran that polices its nuclear program and tries to coax it back to the family of nations. The struggle will be less between Tehran and Washington – although that outcome remains very much in doubt. The struggle will really come when the Israel lobby pulls out every stop to prevent any such deal – using the Congress they have so assiduously courted and the media they acquire or influence.

One crucial sign that the Obama administration really has cemented change in this country is the potential deal with Iran. Along with universal healthcare, it remains an idea that the Washington power apparatus would never have adopted save the Obama elections in 2008 and 2012. That’s why every single measure to kill healthcare reform – including now an absurd Hail Mary pass from the Supreme Court – has been deployed again and again and again. And that’s why these last two years have become as critical as any in the Obama administration’s pursuit of a durable legacy. Iran is the critical test: can the change we believe in survive its final challenges before the Establishment takes over again?