One of the major foreign-policy themes of this week's news cycle should have
been the strength of the alliance between Israel and the United States.
Remarks made Monday night at the Republican National Convention by former New
York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani linked terrorist attacks on Israel down through
the years. He rightly cited the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre and the continued perfidy of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and linked them to the Sept. 11
assault on America.
These words should have resonated even more after the following day's carnage
in Beersheva, Israel, when a double terrorist bus bombing took the lives of
at least 16 innocent Israeli men, women and children, and wounded 100 more.
But instead of focusing on the common fight against Islamic terrorists and
the common threat to both countries from a terror sponsor, such as Iran
acquiring nuclear weapons, something else seemed to dominate conversations in
Washington and elsewhere: Accusations that an Israeli "mole" as some headlines put
it was operating in the Department of Defense.
The shocking allegations were leaked first to CBS News on Friday night and
then spread across the media. By Sunday, the alleged "mole" was revealed to be
a non-Jewish, low-level official who had also worked as a defense attaché at
the American embassy in Israel. The alleged middleman was supposedly someone at
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pre-eminent pro-Israel
But even as the charges echoed throughout the country, serious questions
about the credibility of the charges and their seriousness were being raised.
A NUMBER OF UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
If the Feds were really hot on the trail of an Israeli "spy" and had the
goods on him, why would they run to Leslie Stahl of CBS (and, subsequently,
journalists at Newsweek, The New York Times, etc.) instead of acting quietly,
getting an indictment and arresting the miscreants?
Was the case about to fizzle for lack of proof or substance, and was a media
splash the best way to keep a specious charge alive?
Why would so many characterize the case as one involving "spying" when what
was supposedly involved was not intelligence material, but merely the
discussion of a draft of a rejected policy paper urging stronger action against Iran?
Why would Israel need to spy on the United States to get information on Iran
policy when it is well-known that a large percentage of Washington's
intelligence on Iran comes from Israel? The initial CBS report claimed that the "mole"
got Israel "inside the decision-making loop." But the Israelis already have
access to this discussion at the very top of the Washington food chain.
Why would Israel do anything that might undermine the Bush administration's
extremely supportive posture toward the Jewish state? And why would AIPAC be a
party to anything that might tarnish its standing in Washington?
There may be good answers to all these questions. We'll have to see if the
subsequent leaks, which promised imminent charges and arrests, prove to be more
than hot air.
But the bottom line here is that all of this remains extremely suspicious,
especially at a time when relations between some in the intelligence apparatus
and the Department of Defense are so shaky. And considering the smears that
have been put about against the office of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith
and other "neoconservatives" who advocated for the ouster of Iraqi
dictator Saddam Hussein and a tougher policy toward Iran one has to wonder.
The coming weeks may reveal that someone did something wrong and deserves to
be punished for breaking the law. But if what we are talking about is little
more than the routine sharing of opinions (over lunch, no less) about policy
that goes on everywhere in Washington, is this worthy of a yearlong
Doesn't this story, based solely on anonymous sources, sound more like the
canards about the Jews in the administration manipulating America into a war
that were pushed by extremists, rather than a solid story that journalists can
back up on their own?
None of it makes much sense except for the subsequent anonymous claims from
those close to the investigation that the publicity will hurt their ability to
follow through on the case. That seems like a convenient way to alibi their
way out of pursuing a case that may be much ado about almost nothing.
What also makes sense is that there are many people in Washington who want
desperately to cut AIPAC down to size, and wouldn't flinch from smearing them,
and a possibly innocent public servant, to do that.
For years, the great "power" of AIPAC to help Israel in the capital has been
a legend, but the truth is their power is a function of nothing more than an
efficient organization, hard work and a good cause that has the overwhelming
bipartisan support of both the Congress and the American people.
Another plain fact is that there are some in the intelligence apparatus, the
State Department and the media who would like to separate Israel and the
United States. They are uncomfortable with the willingness of the Bush
administration to tell the truth about Arafat and to go farther toward supporting Israel
than their predecessors.
And there's another point that must be raised here. A terrible mistake
committed by Israel 20 years ago lends some credibility to even a wild story like
this tale the Jonathan Pollard affair.
The saga of Pollard has gone on so long that it has assumed almost mythic
proportions among his supporters and detractors. But no matter how you approach
it, the mere fact that an American Jewish employee of the U.S. Navy was paid by
Israel to hand over vast stores of intelligence materials will always make
Israel guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of some.
Pollard's life sentence may have been excessive, and no purpose may be served
by keeping him in jail after 19 years in prison, but the damage he and his
feckless Israeli handlers did to the alliance lives on.
In spite of all this, the bottom line remains that, whether some in
Washington want to admit it or not, America and Israel are fighting a common war
against common foes. As Guiliani said, "terrorism did not start on Sept. 11, 2001."
Both Israel and the United States need to stay, as Guiliani said, "on
offense," against the murderers, and anything anyone does that distracts from that
task is a grave disservice to the dead and to those who will pay with their
lives for our failure to continue to act aggressively against a determined enemy.