In Washington, where domestic policy is one conversation, foreign policy is another, and the Israel debate is a realm all its own, discussions of the sequester battle and the Hagel confirmation battle are usually separated by a commercial break. But when looked at together, the similarities are striking.
[…]Ronald Wilson Reagain
And on Israel, Reagan said and did things that would turn Ted Cruz’s hair white. Reagan didn’t merely sell AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia over Israeli objections. When AIPAC launched a lobbying campaign to stop the sale, Reagan declared, “It is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy.” When Israel bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, Reagan backed a U.N. resolution condemning the Jewish state and delayed various arms sales. And in August 1982, after Israel bombed Beirut for 11 straight hours, Reagan called Israel’s prime minister, a man whose family had largely perished at Nazi hands, and said, “Menachem, this is a Holocaust.”
The point isn’t that Reagan’s statements and actions were laudable. It’s that once upon a time, Republicans tolerated a level of criticism of Israeli policy that is unthinkable today. As on taxes, the bar for what’s considered “pro-Israel” in today’s GOP has been so dramatically raised that even the staunchest right-wingers are in danger of failing to qualify. On Hagel, right-wing activists didn’t merely demand that Republican senators vote no. They demanded that they support a filibuster, something never before done in a fight over a secretary of defense nominee.
“‘Menachem, this is a holocaust’ Reagan said.
‘Mr. President, I think I know what a holocaust is’ Begin replied, in a voice that Kemp would recall as ‘dripping with sarcasm.’ According to [Deputy Chief-Of-Staff Michael] Deaver, Reagan continued ‘in the plainest of language’ to tell Begin what he thought about the bombing of Beirut, concluding by saying, ‘It has gone too far. You must stop it’
Twenty-minutes later Begin called back and said he had issued the order to [General Ariel] Sharon to stop the bombings. After he had hung up the phone Reagan said to Deaver, ‘I didn’t know I had that kind of power.’”