Lenny Ben-David and Walt and Mearsheimer, together at last


Jews at the White House! A shift in Middle East policy! The media’s in on it!

Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer back at it? No! This time the evidence is in — and not from just anyone!

A former AIPAC staffer!

To be even more precise, a former AIPAC staffer who isn’t MJ Rosenberg!

Who, who, who is peddling these notions of overweening lobbyists misdirecting U.S. policy from its natural inclinations?

Who, who, who, is suggesting that a pro-Israel group is nothing less than un-American?

Lenny Ben-David, that’s who.

Here he is at Pajamas Media, putting the dots together in a retrospective of the crisis precipitated when Israel announced  a building project in eastern Jerusalem during Joe Biden’s visit:

On March 12, in a move coordinated with the White House, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unleashed a 43-minute telephone harangue of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Clinton called the settlement approval a “deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship … which had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process.” The State Department spokesman said Clinton stressed that “the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words, but through specific actions, that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process.”

On March 13, Netanyahu convened a meeting of his inner cabinet to discuss the Clinton call and to announce that he was setting up a government committee to oversee building announcements. On March 14, Netanyahu discussed the issue with the full cabinet and declared that the incident was “regrettable and should not have taken place.” Ostensibly, the issue was over, at least as far as Israel was concerned.

Yet the White House — still! — had other plans.

Hours later, presidential adviser David Axelrod went on Sunday’s TV news shows to attack the settlement decision. He said it was “very destructive … an affront … an insult. … What it did was it made more difficult a very difficult process.”

Over the next few days, anti-Israel and critical columnists and bloggers unleashed their venom against Israel. 

And what else happened around March 12 and March 13? You wanna know, don’tcha? Well, Lenny has got the goods:

According to newly released White House visitors logs, J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, and vice president of policy and strategy, Hadar Susskind, came to the White House to meet with officials in the White House Office of Public Engagement, headed by Obama’s close friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett.

On March 11, and then again on March 12, the logs show Ben-Ami set a meeting for March 15 in the Old Executive Office Building with Danielle Borrin, who served on the vice president’s staff and in Jarrett’s office. On March 17, another meeting was set in the West Wing, the White House’s inner sanctum, for the next day with Tina Tchen, Jarrett’s principle deputy and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Yes! J Street plotted it all!

I will give Lenny credit for one thing — at least this involves a little original research, as opposed to the secondary and tertiary sources that characterize the Walt-Mearsheimer approach.

But c’mon. Lenny — who’s one of the smarter U.S.-Israel analysts out there and who I’m thinking has only temporarily taken leave of his senses — knows this game almost better than anyone.

Jewish lobbyists check in with the White House during tensions? This is news? What do the logs say about visitors from AIPAC, the ADL and the American Jewish Committee?

The White House sets foreign policy. Period. It solicits assistance from sympathetic groups to help manage the perception of its policy — d’oh. It calls in the others to try and maintain calm.

Flipping this relationship — suggesting J Street pushed the White House to punish Israel — is classic conspira-babble. It’s beneath Lenny.

Sometimes, the sympathetic groups push back a little. What’s interesting about Lenny’s account is that he quotes J Street as making an issue in its public statements of Palestinian incitement. Might its lobbyists have argued in their White House meetings that naming streets after terrorists, as much as building announcements, exacerbates the deterioration of the peace process?

Also: Andrew Sullivan was never a Journolist member.

Recommended from JTA