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Obama's Achilles Heel and the Israel Lobby

By Paul J Balles, Redress, March 16, 2009

Paul J. Balles views the Obama administration's first major humiliation at the hands of the Israel lobby, arguing: “Unless Obama can deliver on his campaign promises to control the lobbies that have been controlling America, including the Israel lobby, it may turn out to be his Achilles heel.”

"Yes we can!" was the chant of Obama supporters during the many months of his presidential campaign. It would have been preferable if the chant had been "Yes we will!"

The difference between the ability to do something (Yes we can) and the will or promise to do something (Yes we will) is extremely important when assessing the changes that President Obama offered to his supporters.

What did Obama offer as can-do policy promises in connection with the way that Washington functions? The most courageous was the promise to eliminate the influence of lobbies.

"The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long," Obama said in a recent weekly radio and video address. "But I don't. I work for the American people."

Judging from the mandate given to the president by the voters, the American people expect just that: Obama at work for the American people without sacrificing the people’s interests to the interests of Israel and its lobby.

When the mainstream media headlines the success of the Israeli lobby, it exposes the most influential of the Washington lobbies at work. "Israel stance was undoing of nominee for intelligence post" – an amazing headline for the New York Times (11 March 2008)!

The reference was to the lobby's killing the choice of Charles W. Freeman, Jr, for a top intelligence post in the Obama administration. Freeman was a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush.

Apparently, some of Obama's advisors worried that Freeman's "selection could be controversial and an unnecessary distraction". Some in the White House are close enough to the Israel lobby that they saw trouble on the horizon.

Freeman accused the Israeli lobby of running a concerted campaign to victimize him and angrily withdrew his name from consideration.

The New York Times reported that on one occasion Freeman said: "Left to its own devices, the Israeli establishment will make decisions that harm Israelis, threaten all associated with them and enrage those who are not.”

Freeman had some deservedly harsh descriptions of the lobby's influence: "The tactics of the Israel lobby plumb the depths of dishonour and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the wilful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods and an utter disregard for the truth."

Freeman accurately described the aim of the lobby as

...control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favours.

Perhaps the best description of the influence of the Jewish lobby in America comes from James Petras who observed that it has “systematically undermined the principal pillars of our fragile democracy”, adding:

While the US Congress, media, academics, retired military and public figures are free to criticize the President, any criticism of Israel, much less the Jewish lobby, is met with vicious attacks in all the op-ed pages of major newspapers by an army of pro-Israeli “expert” propagandists with accompanying demands for firings, purges and expulsions of the critics from their positions or denial of promotions or new appointments.

While the activities of the Israel lobby have been coming under some increased scrutiny, mainly from a few retired academics, they still pose a threat to US and other world interests.

Unless Obama can deliver on his campaign promises to control the lobbies that have been controlling America, including the Israel lobby, it may turn out to be his Achilles heel.

Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see




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