As the White House has waged a political war against the pro-Israel lobby in Washington over Iran sanctions, the Obama administration has engaged in some lobbying of its own in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The Daily Beast has learned that Martin Indyk, the administration’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and his team have quietly been meeting with Israeli reservist generals and other leading national-security experts to discuss American ideas for securing the Jordan River Valley without a permanent Israeli troop presence. That’s an idea the current Israeli defense minister opposes, and strongly.
On the surface, these informal meetings may not sound like lobbying—at least, not the stuff-cash-in-congressmen’s-pockets style of lobbying we hear about in Washington. There’s no hard sales pitch, just a genteel discussion of issues. But the conversations are part of a larger effort to “prepare the Israeli public” to accept hard compromises for peace with the Palestinians, as one U.S. official working on the negotiations put it. And some senior members of the Israeli government, including Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, are not happy. Yaalon views the get-togethers with the Israeli reservist generals as a way to circumvent his own objections to any security plan that would require Israel not to have troops on the border with Jordan.
Yaalon was so upset that, earlier this month, he was quoted by an Israeli newspaper as wishing that Secretary of State John Kerry would “take his Nobel Peace Prize and leave [Israel] alone.”. Yaalon made two apologies for those remarks, the second of which came after the State Department’s spokesperson criticized them publicly.