There are still a few races to be decided, but the overall results of the 2018 midterms are clear. The hoped-for “blue wave” turned out to be a blue trickle, but Donald Trump’s era of completely unfettered action is over. Voter suppression and gerrymandering stack the deck in favor of Republicans, yet there was enough disgust with Trump and congressional Republicans to swing about 30 seats in the House of Representatives to the Democrats. Republicans still gained at least two—probably three—seats in the Senate, despite the fact that Democrats got nearly 13 million more votes in the Senate races. That’s not a great indicator for the state of democracy in the United States.
It wasn’t the rebuke of Trump’s behavior and policies that some hoped for, but given the ongoing strength of the U.S. economy, the Republican losses still mean something. Democratic control of the House creates a check on Trump’s worst excesses, at least domestically.
In foreign policy, the gains will be more meager and harder to gauge. Congress still holds considerably more power over domestic affairs than foreign, and that is even more true for the opposition party in a divided Congress. Read more at LobeLog
As midterm elections near, it is becoming clear that there is an opportunity in Washington to take the first few steps toward measurable change in U.S. politics around Israel and Palestine. Increasingly belligerent Israeli actions toward the Palestinians and toward Jews who oppose the occupation, a U.S. administration with unabashedly pro-settler leanings, and the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to shift away from bipartisan efforts in the U.S. and depend on unflinching Republican support have combined to create a strong groundswell in the Democratic party for a change in policy.
This groundswell has not yet made a significant impact in Washington. Occasional letters of admonishment from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (who is not a Democrat, but caucuses with them in the Senate), or Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have little impact on the ground. Meanwhile, after New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was photographed at a progressive conference holding a sign that read, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go,” he scrambled to disavow the sign, claiming he didn’t know what it said. Read more at LobeLog
On Wednesday Israel and the United States finally signed a new Memorandum of Understanding(MOU), committing the United States to provide Israel with $38 billion in military aid over the ten years spanning 2019-2028. The sum includes $5 billion for missile defense, which Israel had previously had to lobby Congress for each year for a $200 million per year increase in basic aid. The MOU makes some changes to the system by which the US provides aid to Israel, and was also unusually difficult to negotiate. Here are five takeaways: Read more at Facts On The Ground, An FMEP Blog
I know many of you out there have been busily debating the Iran nuclear deal with friends, family and colleagues. I’ve been doing what I can to help provide people with good information. The bottom line is that the arguments against the deal are threadbare and reflect the fact that the sanctions, for the ultra-hawks, neo-conservatives and Likudniks, have never been about Iran’s nuclear violations (real though those are) but about crippling Iran.
For that reason, they have no substantive case against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). So, they are instead using distortions of what the JCPOA says, and on distracting arguments like the appalling spectacle of their abuse of the real issues of antisemitism by falsely accusing Obama of that bigotry.
On the latter point, Matt Duss and Todd Gitlin wrote a great rebuttal in Tablet Magazine that I urge you read. But today, I really want to urge you to read this entry on the Foundation for Middle East Peace’s web site by Richard Nephew, Program Director for the Center on Global Energy Policy. Nephew simply uses the facts to demolish the latest attempt by AIPAC to fool people about the Iran deal and the real consequences to the United States if Congress votes it down.
Please share it widely. Nephew’s piece is here.
Now that the Iran nuclear agreement is done, the Republicans, AIPAC, the neocons and the Israeli government have gone on the warpath (in more ways than one) to try and get Congress to kill the deal.
I have written a piece for FMEP that takes on some of the most common criticisms of the deal and demonstrates that they are almost entirely smoke. In some cases, they’re based on outright falsehoods, in others on distortions of the facts. Please check out the piece and, if you are so inclined, share it with your contacts, friends and lists. There is also a link there to a PDF version that you can print out and distribute if that would be helpful.
A few other points should be stressed in addition to the ones I listed in my piece. Continue reading
When President Barack Obama signed the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill last week, a precedent was set. The bill included a provision that “…requires the U.S. Trade Representative to discourage European Union countries from boycotting ‘Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories’ during free-trade negotiations between the U.S. and the EU.”
In effect, this amendment treated Israeli settlements, for the first time in American history, as being part of Israel and therefore deserving the same protection. It was a small step; there is no enforcement mechanism in the bill.from boycotting ‘Israel or persons doing business in Israel or Israeli-controlled territories’ during free-trade negotiations between the U.S. and the EU.”
However, it cracked the dam and opened the potential for a flood. This small amendment was a first step in reversing long-standing American opposition to the settlements, and its support for the two-state solution. Read more at Talking Points Memo
On Wednesday, the Senate adopted an amendment to the Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA) designed to defend Israel against the global “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement” (BDS). A similar amendment was adopted in the House of Representatives. Whatever one thinks of the bill’s intentions, the actual content of it is troubling enough that it must be opposed, whether or not one opposes the global BDS movement.
Let’s dispense with one point right away. There is no comparison between the sort of actions this bill is targeting and the Arab League boycott of Israel, from which the United States has been defending Israel through legislation since 1977. The Arab League boycott had one purpose and that was to destroy the Israeli economy. It sought no change in policy. What it was protesting was Israel’s very existence. Read more at FMEP