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Cheney and Harman Disagree, Within Limits

At opening panel at AIPAC, specter of Israel as political wedge issue raised

Marc Tracy
March 04, 2012
Jane Harman last month.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Jane Harman last month.(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

At a brief opening panel moderated by David Horovitz, late of The Jerusalem Post and now of his own start-up, the Times of Israel (whose diplomatic correspondent also got some face-time), former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman and Liz Cheney, a Republican operative who serves on the Emergency Commitee for Israel’s board (and is the former vice president’s daughter), agreed on the threat Iran posed to Israel but disagreed over how effective current U.S. policy has been.

Said Cheney: “There is no evidence the sanctions are having any effect at all on the nuclear program.” But Harman pointed to various developments, such as the huge devaluing of the Iranian currency, the rial, and to the way the international community has to a large extent come around, as positive consequences the sanctions have had.

In terms of the Palestinians, the tentative reconcilation between Fatah and Hamas makes agreement easy. “The Palestinians will never have a state if they have terrorists in their government,” said Cheney. Harman concurred.

“Israel loses if we make it a political football in this campaign,” Harman said early on.

But when it came to the end and Horovitz asked the panelists to debate what we would be doing this time next year, at the 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference, Cheney responded: “I predict that when we meet next year it will be to celebrate a restored relationship under a brand-new president.” She added: “Remember there are facts. There is no president who has done more to delegitimize the state of Israel in recent history than President Obama.” This got substantial applause. “Remember,” she continued, “what President Obama said to Cairo in June? When he compared the Holocaust to the situation of the Palestinians?”

Harman responded not angrily but firmly. “As I said before, I think it is a grave mistake to turn Israel into a political football.” This got even louder, more enthusiastic applause.

For his part, here was Yaari’s shrug of a prediction: “We will still be debating the Iranian nuclear program, only the Iranian nuclear program will be quite a bit ahead.”

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.