Netanyahu, who dug in deeper this weekend with a high-profile showing on Meet the Press, seems to have swallowed the myth of the power of the Jewish Lobby so completely that he has bet his reputation and his country's future relationship with its most important ally on it. But here's the problem: Whatever lobby exists for Israel, it neither lives up to its press clippings nor to what it may have been in the past. And this week before Rosh Hashanah proved it.
In the first, instance, the Obama administration bravely kicked off last week with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's outright rejection of the idea of red lines, a strong message that they would not be bullied, even in an election year, regardless of the political consequences. This was further underscored later in the week when the Obama administration allegedly rejected a meeting with Netanyahu. The rejection was leaked by the Israelis hoping the lobby would be outraged. The administration held its ground, in part because they knew something that Netanyahu did not: American Jews do not vote as a monolith, they don't vote Israel's interests first, they don't like foreign leaders trying to meddle in U.S. elections, and the polling results show it.
Since Romney and Netanyahu first started making their play to harness the power of "the lobby," their standing in the polls has slipped. In Florida, Obama has gained ground since this effort started and is up by as much as 5 points in the most recent NBC News poll for that state. In fact, even with Netanyahu making the rounds of the Sunday morning television shows this past weekend, he found his points being publicly rebuffed by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, showing yet again that the Obama team is not giving in to the power of the approach -- or that somehow AIPAC's puppet masters have lost their touch. Michele Bachmann may be calling for Obama to meet with Netanyahu. Paul Ryan may be howling. But here's the problem: Romney and Ryan and their cheerleader Bibi are very likely to end up on the wrong side of the November results.
In short, this year is getting off to a good start for those of us who have always found the notion of some dark Jewish conspiracy of super-K Streeters to be laughable. Jews are just as divided, just as sometimes impotent and sometimes successful as anyone else. Of course, if I said it, the list of commenters suggesting that somehow I was part of the cover operation for this lobby would be long. But when it is none other than the prime minister of Israel who proves once and for all the limitations of the lobby and, by November, will have proved that estimations of Jewish political influence of all types are overstated, well, then that's something worth celebrating.
And if the myth survives the drubbing the facts are giving it this fall, well, then it will at least prove once and for all that it is what many of us, like Jeff Goldberg and I, have been arguing for a long, long time: The Israel Lobby is just another boogie monster cooked up to serve the nasty agenda of people all too eager to sacrifice the truth on the altar of their prejudices.
Happy New Year, everybody.