Now There Are Two Israel Lobbies — One Is Good!

Jonathan ChaitThe pro-Israel lobby was never the shadowy, government-controlling entity portrayed by its most paranoid critics. It was, however, an important influence on American politics. Zionism is to Jews what the civil-rights movement is to African-Americans, a political program organized to protect basic survivalist concerns. Jews participate disproportionately in political life in every way: voting, intellectual debate, donating, and organizing. The pro-Israel lobby organized an important constituency in American politics that shared a relatively unified understanding of its collective self-interest.

A month ago, that lobby was gearing up for a massive national campaign to block the Iran nuclear deal, using every medium at its disposal: television ads, face-to-face lobbying, impassioned pleas from the bimah and in the Jewish press. The campaign has not only failed, it has appeared almost completely ineffectual, and its failure has left its members stupefied. The deal’s anticlimactic success shows that the world has moved beyond them, and they fail to understand how or why this happened…

The deal’s opponents not only misjudged public opinion as a whole, but more astonishingly, they misjudged the state of American Jewish opinion in particular. Congress might have been moved to oppose the Iran deal if the American Jewish community had viewed it as an existential threat to Israel. But Jews did not, on the whole, take that view. A detailed survey of American Jewish opinion by The Jewish Journal found, on the whole, that American Jews support the deal, 53 percent to 35 percent…

Liberals like the deal, and conservatives don’t, by roughly equal margins. But most Jews are liberals. Rising polarization of American life has cleaved in two everything in its path. There is no more “Israel lobby”; there is a red Israel lobby and a blue one.

—Jonathan Chait
The Iran Deal and the End of the Israel Lobby

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