Israeli officials close to the prime minister told Ynet he recently held talks with members of Congress, government officials and AIPAC officials, to explain the importance of American military action against the Assad regime. Incoming Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer explained in Washington the Israeli position on the attack.
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The official Israeli position in recent weeks has been one of relative quiet, in order to deliver the message that the attack is an American issue. But the deep involvement of AIPAC, an organization that is in on many briefings and receives information from Israeli sources regarding sensitive issues such as Iran'spush for nuclear capablities or the war in Syria, shows that Israel is not really sitting on the sidelines – at least not in terms of the need to punish Assad for using chemical weapons.
In addition, 250 members of AIPAC are expected to flood the Capitol for the historic vote to put pressure on members of Congress in support of the attack.
After announcing that he intended to turn to Congress, President Obama was sharply criticized. Israel, however, asked he be "given a chance." An Israeli official explained, "His commitment to act is very important and we must wait and see what he will do." However, there were those in the government who expressed concern that Obama's stance and hesitancy would send a problematic message to Iran.
Now, in view of the battle for votes in Congress, there is again growing concern in Israel that Obama has sabotaged himself by turning to the legislative branch, and in the end the US will completely lose its credibility in the Middle East.
Calls of persuasion from the plane
Obama returned to the White House from the G20 summit in Russia, where he experienced strong opposition from the Russians regarding the attack. Already on the plane on the way back, Obama began making phone calls to Democratic congressmen from the air, reflecting the importance that every vote to be secured before Congress returns from its recess on Monday. According to estimates, the vote will not pass without the support of Democrats, and many of them have not yet determined their positions.
On Tuesday, Obama is expected to deliver a speech to the nation, which will be in effect the first time he stands in front of millions of citizens and presents his version of the obvious reaction to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. So far, Obama has failed to convince the public of the need to attack, nor has he succeeded in making the public believe that the action being considered was limited in scope and would not involve American soldiers setting foot on Syrian soil.
Television networks stand at the ready to carry the speech during peak hours, which is a great opportunity for Obama, perhaps the last for him to "reach" the American citizen directly. Even before this speech, Obama will be interviewed by six major TV networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX and PBS.
Obama will not win the support of Congress without a significant increase in public support for the strike. The representatives who are supposed to be up for re-election next year – and a third of the hundred senators – fear their public. They are attacked at town meetings by an angry electorate, in a manner never seen before. On this basis, the president made it clear to them that there comes a moment in the life of a public figure in which he must make a decision according to his conscience and understanding.
Obama stands before a triple challenge: Persuading his traditional supporters – left-leaning Democrats who pushed him toward the presidency on the basis of his opposition to the war in Iraq; persuading security-minded Republicans who despise him personally and are angry at him for not acting on Syria sooner and who demand a strategy for overall victory; and persuading dissident Republicans, Tea Party members who are actually lost to Obama.
The political situation will become clearer following the president's speech, but for now, Obama's political struggle has begun on the wrong foot and things do not bode well for his government.
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