Old GOP Realist James Baker’s hard Ride among Neocons

By Carlyn Meyer | (Informed Comment) –

(Washington, D.C.) – Neoconservatives are beside themselves over James Baker’s speech at the recent Fifth National Conference of J Street, the pro-Israel lobby. Even before he spoke, some called on Baker to withdraw from the event, then urged Jeb Bush to ‘distance’ himself, even repudiate Baker, one of his twenty or so foreign policy ‘advisors’. Baker is a skilled politician. He oozed support for Israel throughout his remarks while expressing his disappointment at the failure of the Kerry peace talks and calling on critics to hold their fire on an Iran accord until an agreement is actually reached (or not).

Baker’s words were relatively mild but made a clear point about where he stood in relation to peace talks and the Iran negotiations. How much the GOP has changed under neocon leadership from its more pragmatic ‘realist’ days was glaring.

In truth, most of Baker’s speech focused on the simple fact that US ‘iron-clad’ support for Israel ‘will never change’, but the tensions between the two countries today is nothing new. The relationship has been riddled with disagreements since it began. In the 1950s, Eisenhower stopped an adventurist attack on Egypt by Israel, France and Britain to grab the Suez canal. Carter hammered away at Begin during the Camp David Accord process. Not least, Baker recalled his own actions as Secretary of State (George H.W. Bush administration) when he suspended $10 billion in loan guarantees to Israel to ‘nudge’ PM Shamir into the Oslo talks.

Baker is a skilled politician who knew exactly what he was saying and what podium he stood behind. In reiterating support for a two-state solution as well as cautioning against pre-emptive Congressional action on Iran, Baker sought to widen political space for the Administration’s efforts, particularly as we head into the deadline for an Iran agreement. Meanwhile the hysteria raised by the Right only widened the credibility gap that Netanyahu and his American supporters share.

For years, the GOP and neoconservatives have tried to win over the Jewish Vote. Yet the ratio of Jewish votes for the Democrats has not wavered from about 70% to 30% for the GOP, give or take a few points, for decades That kind of steadiness is rare in American electoral politics. Recent polls, like those before, show that American Jews put ‘support for Israel’ number eight when asked to identify their concerns during Presidential elections. American Jews overwhelmingly vote on social justice and economic issues.

The GOP underestimates the growing unpopularity of Mr. Netanyahu among Americans as a whole and Jews in particular. Some of the same mainstream Jewish organizations that called Jstreet traitorous a few years ago have had it with the PM for embarrassing President Obama and siding with partisan maneuvers by the GOP. Netanyahu added fuel to the fires with his pre-election remarks renouncing negotiations with Palestine and using fear of Arab voters to pull out a win. Even Abe Foxman spoke against his offensive antics.

Despite working tirelessly to box Middle East peace and the Iran talks into an Israel/Jewish or Obama vs. Netanyahu issue and using false litmus tests to gauge who’s an authentic supporter of Israel and who’s not, the GOP track record in attracting Jewish voter blocks is zero.

What gives? It happens that the same campaigns targeting liberal Jews and others who disagree with the Netanyahu government, act as dog whistles to the GOP Evangelical Christian base. Two panelists at the Jstreet conference highlighted the irony. Jim Gerthein, a Democratic campaign consultant, noted Hillary Clinton strongly backs the Obama Administration’s diplomacy with Iran. . He interpreted Clinton’s uncharacteristic willingness to differ from the Israeli view as a dwindling of fear among Democrats to alienate the Party’s Jewish base by taking positions at odds with the current Israeli government. James Antle,111, well-known Republican libertarian commentator, emphasized that the Evangelical Christian vote in the GOP dwarfs the entire Jewish vote by several degrees.

It’s a coincidence that some of the most vocal neoconservatives in America – Wolfowitz, Krystal, Pearle – are Jewish. Nevertheless, they use their Jewish identity creatively to advance their agenda in American politics. While energizing the GOP’s Israel right-or-wrong Evangelical base to support a militaristic foreign policy, they seek to neutralize the progressive influence of liberal Jews through a divisive campaign to discredit any Jew who criticizes the current government.

Only in America!

Carlyn Meyer, former editor of the blog Read Between the Lines, writes on politics from her home in Chicago.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit General News: “Jeb Bush ‘disagrees’ With Baker’s Position on Israel”

8 Responses

  1. BUT . . . the white Evangelical Christian segment of the USA population is rapidly decreasing in size because, as their members die off due to age, they are not being replaced replaced by younger members. In fact, All religions in the USA (and Europe for that matter) are decreasing in size. Even those people that profess to be “religious” usually do not actually practice their religion. Only a very small part of the USA population attends church per the attendance numbers of the churches themselves. this is why many of the Evangelical Mega Churches have had to consolidate or close.

    This is the BIG problem the republicans have. All their core constituencies (Evangelical Christians, white racists, elderly, social conservatives, misogynistic men, etc.) are decreasing in size and the constituencies that are increasing in size strongly dislike the republicans ideals. Right now, republicans tend to have lots of vacant land, but very few people, whereas the democrats tend to have the population centers. For an example of where this leads look at California.

    There is a very good reason why the rural counties of California want to form their own (poverty stricken) state. The rural counties are powerless because the population centers which trend democratic now have enough population and wealth to control the entire state mechanism. As the rural areas of the USA further de-populate a similar thing will probably happen in the USA, no matte how gerrymandered the districts are.

    Israelis are stupid to align themselves with the republicans because the republicans are sitting on a demographic time bomb that will blow up in their face.

    • Yet is it a coincidence that Israel is sitting on the same demographic time bomb in the Palestinians? It’s as if our white Christians converged with Israel out of a common fear that has long lurked in US politics: the terror of a minority becoming a majority. Israel now gets away with Jim Crow/Apartheid acts that 40 years ago we considered unacceptable; this mainstreams those policies so that the GOP/Christian Right can propose them as necessary for the survival of “real” Americans. The same for the Likud’s militarization, privatization, and surveillance assaults, all automatically made non-unthinkable for Israel’s US loyalists.

      It’s as if the Neocons use Israel as a prototype for the holy whorehouse they want to turn America into. Israeli opinion polls show it works; Jews are embracing violent racism and ignoring corruption while liberal Jews plan to flee. Our Right is in a race against time to implement the same outcome here.

      • Violent racism by a minority against a majority can only work for a limited amount of time. In the end the oppressed majority always gets their revenge and I do not know of any oppressed majority that has been gentle when they finally take power.

  2. I have never understood why USA presidents and Secs of State always say (and apparently sometimes also mean) that a negotiated just and lasting (or some other sort of) I/P peace is in the USA’s national interest. Why should the USA care? But apparently some portion of the American oligarchy (all those BIGs who normally dictate USA’s policies) wants I/P peace or the appearance of a concern for human rights or international law. I doibt that the BIG here is BIG-DEFENSE or BIG-ZION (AIPAC et al.).

    But President Obama is making the same show these days.

    I wish them all good luck.

  3. Regarding James Baker, it was during the time when BiBi gave speech in congress that I read where Baker then as Secretary of State had similar problems with Israel and withdrew some support of what Israel wanted to do. James Baker stood tall at that time just like Obama is doing now.

    Media was carrying that heavy bucket of water for GOP spewing out their pro BiBi talking points and railing against Obama that this bit of history fell on their editorial board floors. Continual Obama hating narrative was just too juicy to let pass by.

    • “Baker blocked the creation of Palestine by threatening to cut funding to agencies in the United Nations. As far back as 1988, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) issued a “declaration of statehood” and changed the name of its observer delegation to the United Nations from the PLO to Palestine.
      Baker warned publicly, “I will recommend to the President that the United States make no further contributions, voluntary or assessed, to any international organization which makes any changes in the PLO’s status as an observer organization.”

      “Work is love made visible.” KG
      As Usual,

  4. If he wants Sheldon Adelson’s $100 million , Jeb Bush would be foolish to agree with James Baker or even admit he knows him.

    “James Baker is just a family friend and MUCH closer to my dad. They’re about the same age too….90.”

  5. Baker has his finger on the pulse of the global oligarchy, because he is one of the global oligarchs. Question: how do his fellow American plutocrats feel about the growing divide between them and the new capitalist oligarchies in the rest of the world.? Do they intend to conquer it, like the Neocons, or withdraw from it and maintain Israel as a forlorn Crusader castle that shares its Jim Crow-like backwardness? Or are they really just sucking ordinary Americans dry for as long as they can before absconding to a fantastic penthouse in Dubai?

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