Another of my Jewish journalist friends met with Nita Lowey yesterday, who firmly rejected the notion that she'd coordinated her hold with AIPAC. According to the reporter, Lowey sounded completely sincere and he believed her. The State Dept. also seemed to approve of the hold believing (falsely imo) that it will give them "leverage" in the upcoming summit with Olmert and Abbas. In reality, I think the party we really need leverage with is Israel, not the Palestinians. State also claims the hold will only last "two weeks." We shall see.
I do wonder though whether Lowey ever stopped to consider how her action would look to others, especially those in the peace camp and among Arabs. I'll concede that it's possible she was entirely sincere and not following someone else's agenda. But given the history of actions like hers, the world would be entirely justified in suspecting an ulterior motive. What, I wonder, is Lowey prepared to do to advance the cause of peace in terms of bringing the two sides together to negotiate? Because putting a hold on $86 million doesn't do that.
UPDATE: I just spoke to Nita Lowey's foreign affairs press representative who again confirmed that Lowey has "legitimate concerns" that the $86 million might not end up in the right hands. When I asked on what basis she made that judgment, he replied that it was based on a "classified briefing" whose content Lowey could not reveal. When I pointed out to him that Reuters reported that Lowey had also not made clear what answers she needed before she would remove her hold, he said that the answers Lowey needs also are in the realm of classified intelligence. I noted to the press rep that some outsiders might construe this as Lowey saying that nothing could allay her concerns.
Lowey's staffer assured me that the hold was not indefinite, but rather was meant for a short time until she received the answers she needed. I reminded him that Shmuel Rosner has not reported this, but rather has mentioned the hold was indefinite, thus giving the impression that Lowey might not intend to remove it. The Lowey rep told me that was unfortunate and that the NY Sun had also gotten the story wrong and issued a correction. When I mentioned that Rosner was reporting the hold as an act of the "U.S. Congress," rather than a single representative, he said such a statement was "flat out erroneous." I suggested he get in touch either with Rosner or Haaretz to tell them that.
I closed the interview by saying that while some in the Jewish community and neocon camp might be happy with this hold, many other might construe it as a act hostile to the possibility for peace.
UPDATE II: Lowey's rep pointed me to a New York Sun story which renews my suspicions of AIPAC complicity in the entire 'hold' deal:
The original push for delaying the funding for security training came from Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking minority member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who first asked Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the Democratic chairman of the committee, to place a hold on the $86 million. Only committee chairman are allowed to place information-related holds on foreign operations funding.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Lantos, Lynne Weil, said the congressman declined Ms. Ros-Lehtinen's request in January because the White House had yet to announce its intention to send the money to the Palestinian Authority. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen then took up the matter with Ms. Lowey, who placed the hold on the funding last week.
The $86 million, intended for the training of a small security service loyal to Mr. Abbas, has been a worry for America's pro-Israel lobby…
Ros-Lehtinen is a devout Republican neocon, notorious anti-Castro warrior who also supports the most conservative pro-Israel positions. It is telling that Tom Lantos, no slouch when it comes to supporting Israel's interests in Congress, would not do Ros-Lehtinen's bidding. One wonders why Nita felt compelled to do so.
To be fair, Lowey's press rep said the Sun ran a correction on this story, but I don't see any link to it on the Sun site.
Lowey’s Hold on $86-Million Palestinian Appropriation, AIPAC’s Reply to Mecca Accord
I wrote yesterday about Nita Lowey's semi-mysterious hold on the $86-million appropriation approved by Congress recently which was meant to bolster Mahmoud Abbas' position within Palestinian politics. My surmise was that first of all this was done at the behest of AIPAC and that it was meant as a shot across the bow aimed at Condi Rice as she prepares for the three-way (Israel, Palestine, U.S.) summit on Monday.
A journalist writing for a nation Jewish publication provided some eye-opening background. He says this move is "typical of AIPAC's influence in Congress." The hold was invoked before the Mecca conference, almost "reflexively." In other words, Lowey placed the hold in the expectation that a Palestinian unity government might come out of the talks. And she wished to signal that such a government, no matter what it's composition or platform, would NOT receive any support from the U.S. government, just as Hamas' government has not until now. The reporter surmises that Lowey may not have even consulted AIPAC because it was something "she knew they'd want."
Amazing. That would make members of Congress something like the Golem. AIPAC programs them with its acronym engraved on their foreheads like the word emet on the Golem's, and they go out and do the masters bidding without even a needing specific directions to do specific acts. They're internally programmed. What does this say about our legislative process and AIPAC's influence upon it?
As if to buttress the point, the journalist adds, "a lot of stuff that makes AIPAC happy happens without their even asking for it." In this particular case, Lowey knew it was common practice to "slow down any allocation for the Palestinians." This also reminds me of your trusty pet dog who brings you your slippers in the morning and then rolls over for you to scratch her tummy. What do you think Nita's reward might be? A scratch on the tummy? Or a few more tens of thousands in pro-Israel PAC money? Or a behind the scenes call when she wants a committee chairmanship (a la Jane Harman)?
I understand from my source that dovish groups which favor the allocation - Israel Policy Forum and Americans for Peace Now - "are pushing back." Keep on pushing.
And on the Rosner front, those of you who read yesterday's post will remember my critique of Rosner's abysmally inaccuate reporting on this story. After writing to David Landau, Haaretz's English editor, the paper retained yesterday's erroneous article on the site. But now, they've put up a newer version which corrects two small mistakes which I reported to them. But of course, it still leaves a whole host of other mistakes, some even more significant. The new headline still mistakenly describes Lowey's individual hold as a hold placed by the "U.S. Congress." But it no longer refers to the $86 million as destined for the "PA." Instead it more correctly notes it is meant for "Abbas." The new article no longer claims "a number of congressmen [sic] are skeptical about the funding." Instead it now says: "Due to the uncertainty of a few legislators, the transfer has been postponed." Which is virtually the same intent. I'd noted to Landau that Lowey couldn't reasonably be called a "congressman." So they changed the word to "legislators," but retained the unsupported charge that others beside Lowey supported the hold. The new article also retains the mistake of calling Mahmoud Abbas "chairman" of the PA, when he is "president." Gotta watch that Rosner. He'll carry water for AIPAC every time. Just like Lowey.