There are moments that make you stand back for a second and just marvel at how quickly things have changed. The possibility that opposing the Iran nuclear deal is causing so much blowback for Chuck Schumer that it could possibly (maybe?) cost him his expected promotion to the leadership is one such moment. It wasn’t too long ago that Democrats–historically, the more broadly supportive of Israel going back to the creation of that nation–were afraid to even go public with criticism of Israel outside of the usual suspects–your Barbara Lees and Dennis Kuciniches and Maxine Waterses so on. Just look at this nonbinding approval vote from 2009, just after Israel’s election-focused overkill bombings of Gaza–only a handful of Representatives voted no. Nancy Pelosi (then Speaker of the House) introduced the bill. Obviously, there are differences between the votes: one is a sort of interest-group pleasing bill with no real consequences, while the other is easily Barack Obama’s most aggressive push for peace during his whole presidency. Which says something since what is fundamentally a nuclear inspection agreement is his most aggressive push for peace. But that’s another discussion. In 2009, only a few dozen Representatives even risked to be seen as questioning Israeli policy. Almost none actually did. This was how it had long been, and there was no particular reason to think it might change.

What you see here is six years’ worth of the Israel hawks’ chickens coming home to roost. It’s been obvious that Benjamin Netanyahu has been working on mobilizing the Republican Party behind his agenda for Israel for the past six years, even though the only Republican who actually voted no in 2009 is Ron Paul, who is no longer in office, and his son has from the start tried to play a double game with daddy’s supporters on Israel. Netanyahu raised the volume of these issues perhaps, but he’s won no new converts because he had them all already. Meanwhile, by spending years insulting senior Obama Administration officials, by refusing to hold peace talks in good faith and by attempting to interfere with American diplomacy, among other things, Netanyahu has repelled nearly all progressives and Democrats who were, not so long ago, reliable supporters for Israeli interests for this, his “biggest” issue, leaving only a few New York-based pols to provide token bipartisan cover. Schumer in this case resembles nobody more than Gerald Ford, the “clumsy” accidental president (actually a very graceful man, a former athlete and model) who fumbled so often in office because he operated like the old Republican moderate-conservative he’d always been, only the ground had shifted and he didn’t understand or know how to deal with it. The Republican Party he led had changed and was changing rapidly, as was the entire country. The many equivocations, failures and reversals of the Ford era were the sign of a whole political generation struggling to adapt to a changing time.

Obviously, we’ll have to see what happens. It’s doubtful that Schumer derails the nuclear deal, and it remains to be seen if Schumer actually winds up getting stung by it. And AIPAC is still going to get its way on smaller, less public issues. But regardless, this is a big change in power and influence that is occurring. It’s hard to see how the Israel hawks are able to find the resources to punish 40% or so of the United States Congress, let alone come up with an effective angle to hit Democrats with when broad majorities of Democrats support the Iran deal. No doubt they’ll try to claim a scalp or two, but it may well wind up like the NRA’s recall of two Colorado State Senators who backed gun control laws: immediately undone at the next general election, and not intimidating enough to stop the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee from campaigning on the issue. It sure seems to me like the Israel hawks have given up a lot in exchange for basically nothing, giving up broad Democratic backing on their self-stated top issue for a delusional goal of splitting off the Jewish vote from Democrats. That American Jews approve of the nuclear deal shows the ignorance and solipsism of their tactics and perhaps of their overall objective too. With all apologies to Doug Feith, these may be the stupidest fucking guys on the planet.

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