The Jews and Iraq

A reader writes:

I thought very highly of your latest column on growing isolationist impulses in the U.S.

I was curious, though, about one of your statements, that "the Israel lobby may panic at signs of swift disengagement." What's your thinking behind that? I ask, because my sources indicate that many within AIPAC would welcome disengagement from Iraq as soon as possible - since, in their view, they'd prefer the administration to devote what little energy and credibility it has left to resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis.

Indeed, when Cheney urged AIPAC to oppose a timetable for withdrawal back in March, he got a very cool reception from the delegates.

The Washington bureau chief for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency described the scene to Juan Cole thusly:

"I was one of the reporters noting the relatively cool reception for Cheney's remarks, an impression I confirmed later in extensive conversations at the conference. (Similar accounts appeared in Ha'aretz, the Forward and the Jerusalem Post.) There were whole chunks of the Iraq portion of Cheney's Iraq speech that were met with silence - even the clear applause cues. And those portions that were applauded never got even half the hall; I saw most of the hall seated, arms crossed at those times. The boos for Pelosi, by the way, came AFTER she got cheered for her call for a withdrawal. I.e. applause, cheers and then a few scattered boos. The cheers for Pelosi's Iraq withdrawal call, it must be said, were basically polite - not at all overwhelming; but the boos were even weaker . . ."

Likewise, Olmert urged a visiting delegation of leaders of the Reform Movement to reconsider a motion urging the U.S. government to set a firm timetable for an American withdrawal from Iraq. The movement's executive, representing some 700 Reform congregations across the U.S., approved the motion by a large majority. But the Reform leaders refused his request, saying they believe a rapid withdrawal would serve Israeli and Western interests better than a prolonged American stay in Iraq.

Long story short, I don't see much enthusiasm among any large Jewish organizations for remaining in Iraq. Given that many in Britain already appear to have a misguided view of the "Israel lobby's" role in the U.S. decision to go to war in Iraq, I think it's important to choose words carefully.