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Monday, December 17, 2007

Lieberman to endorse McCain: What does it mean for Israel?

William Kristal is reporting on the Weekly Standard's campaign blog that Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew who was the Democratic party's candidate for Vice President in 2000, will endorse Arizona Republican John McCain for President at a press conference tomorrow morning. Other sources have the endorsement taking place on the Today Show tomorrow morning.

With my one-track mind, this got me poring through my archives and trying to figure out what this means for Israel. Obviously, it's a big blow to Rudy Giuliani's candidacy, and I remain persuaded that Giuliani is the best candidate for Israel in this race.

But what about McCain? Going back through my archives, I discovered that I first had my doubts - and they were serious doubts - about McCain here:
FrontPage Magazine.com has an article on John McCain's views on Israel, and it's not pretty. It seems that McCain has suddenly become a Carter-like liberal when it comes to Israel. McCain's choices for Mideast envoys would be James "F*** the Jews - they don't vote for us anyway" Baker and the equally hideous Brent Scowcroft.

FrontPage notes:
McCain’s statements are jarring not only because they reflect the view, long championed by the State Department and both the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic party, that the U.S. can somehow "micromanage" a fair and equitable Mideast peace (code for unilateral Israeli concessions, since the Palestinians have nothing concrete to concede), but as well for the almost cavalier dismissal of concerns about an interlocutor on the order of a James Baker.

(McCain’s mention of Scowcroft, whose Mideast views and chilly attitude toward Israel are indistinguishable from those usually attributed to Baker, is equally instructive and should serve as one more caveat for McCain supporters in the pro-Israel community.)

Judging from the Mideast-related mishaps of previous high-profile presidential wannabes, the reaction to McCain’s comments would have been far less muted had he made them later in the campaign cycle (the first presidential primaries are still some 20 months away and McCain, as noted by Amir Oren, hasn’t officially declared his candidacy). Time will tell whether his remarks in Haaretz were an aberration or a harbinger.
Those kinds of views don't sound like views held by someone Joe Lieberman would endorse. Have they changed? Here's McCain two months later, during the Lebanon war:
Various Republicans on this week’s talk shows, Newt Gingrich, John McCain, and George Allen among them, have provided the links among Israel’s fight, our battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, India’s fight with Islamic terrorists over Kashmir, and other Muslim-Western conflicts around the globe (find a conflict, and it’s a good bet that it fits this pattern). Seeing a bigger picture, and accepting that war is sometimes the answer, is different than a philosophy that follows the dictum that the best policy is to always turn down the temperature and stop the fighting. Senator McCain said of the Iranian nuclear program that attempting to take out this program by military means would be a terrible thing, but not as bad as seeing Iran succeed in completing its program. This of course, is not a defense of bad wars, or unnecessary wars, or poorly conducted wars.
That sounds better. In December 2006, McCain came out against Baker and Scowcroft's Iraq Study Group, which recommended offering Israel up as a sacrifice for backing of the US war in Iraq:
Senator John McCain (R - Ariz.) has issued a statement on the Iraq Study Group that has me thinking seriously of backing his 2008 Presidential bid:
Arab-Israeli Peace: The report embraces the idea that peace between Arabs and Israelis - which, the report states, can only be achieved through land for peace - is a necessary element of success in Iraq. All of us desire peace in the region and peace between Arabs and Israelis. But it is impossible to see how such a peace can be achieved so long as Hamas, a terrorist group that rejects a two-state solution and the very existence of Israel, stands at the helm of the Palestinian Authority. We must not push our Israeli ally to make concessions to groups that refuse to recognize its right to exist.

In addition, the linkage the ISG report makes between this issue and the violence in Iraq seems tenuous at best. While I desire peace for Israel in its own right, it is difficult to see how an Arab-Israeli peace process will diminish Sunni-Shia violence in Baghdad or al Qaeda activity in Anbar Province.

Regional conference: The report recommends the establishment of a regional diplomatic conference on Iraq, to include Iran and Syria. We must be both cautious and realistic about what Iranian and Syrian participation is likely to achieve. Our interests in Iraq diverge significantly from those of Damascus and Tehran, and this is unlikely to change under the current regimes. I do not object to reasonable efforts that might modify these countries' behavior in Iraq, but if the price of their cooperation is an easing of pressure on Tehran over its nuclear ambitions, or on Damascus over the Syrian role in Lebanon, then that price is too high.
Does that mean that McCain would no longer trust Baker and Scowcroft to be his envoys to the Middle East? The question needs to be asked.

Later that month, McCain and Lieberman traveled to Israel together (could that be when they became close?) and attacked the ISG report again together:
US Senators John McCain (R - Az.) and Joe Lieberman (D? - Conn.) are here in Israel visiting. (The question mark was intentional - the Jerusalem Post is calling Lieberman an Independent, but I thought he had decided to join the Democratic caucus). According to 'officials present at the meeting,' they told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday that they are against the recommendations of the Iraq Study Surrender Group Report that the US 'engage' with Syria and Iran.
Lieberman said it was as if former secretary of state James Baker, one of the heads of the committee and an architect of the Madrid conference, re-cycled 15-year-old ideas.

McCain, touted as one of the leading Republican presidential hopefuls in 2008, alluded to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry's current trip to Damascus, when he told Olmert that he was opposed to fellow senators visiting Syria.

It is a mistake, McCain was quoted as saying, added that these visits not only made Damascus look legitimate but gave the impression that the US was not united vis- -vis Syria.

McCain and Lieberman were part of a five-person congressional delegation that arrived in Israel on Sunday for two days of talks after visits to Afghanistan and Iraq. The other members of the delegation were senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and John Thune (R-South Dakota), and Representative Mark Kirk (R-Illinois).


The senators, according to the officials at the Olmert meeting, also criticized the Baker-Hamilton report for linking the current instability in the Middle East to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Has McCain come around? If he has, it's pretty recent. In August, Youssef Ibrahim wrote in the New York Sun:
To date, Mitt Romney and Senator McCain of Arizona, along with virtually all the Democrats, are dancing in a no man's land, sticking to the safe haven of supporting Israel while promising nirvana to the Palestinian Arabs maybe, someday, only after an impossible set of things happen that includes internal reforms, renunciation of terror, and the introduction of civil society. Every responsible person knows these goals are unattainable among all the Arabs, let alone the Palestinians.

Holding out false hopes is duplicitous and condescending to the Palestinian Arabs, who are in need of urgent real-time help.
His recent courtship of Retired General James Jones, who is to be Condi Rice's eyes on the ground to measure compliance with the 'road map' also does not thrill me. But I hope that Lieberman's endorsement means that McCain has turned more positive on Israel.

We should find out pretty soon.


At 5:32 AM, Blogger Daniel434 said...

Now do you see why Huckabee is gaining ground? The whole lot of 'em should go. There is not one strong conservative running for the GOP. I liked McCain a bit, but now, I'm rethinking. See how much power you have as a blogger? ;) Pulling out info I had no idea about as a voter, but probably should have. Oh, and to top things off, we have Ron Paul running in the GOP. Horrible, horrible...

At 7:03 AM, Blogger HaS said...

I have to ponder this (potential) endorsement... or wait for the spin and then ponder. That's alot of wind stolen from Giuliani's sails. Windthievery is a crafty guild.

P.S. Carl, is there a place you can be contacted re an aliyah question?

At 5:57 AM, Blogger Jack Steiner said...

Johnny Mac isn't going anywhere. His campaign is floundering.

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lieberman's endorsment is not a good thing. Jews who are important in Goy countries are generally not interested in whats good for the Jewish people out of fear this will designate them as having dual loaylty. While Lieberman isnt as bad as some Jewish politicians he still falls into this category.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


You can write to the address on the home page, but most of my aliya information is hopelessly out of date.


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