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
Every year, anyone who works on United States policy toward Israel, Palestine, or the broader Middle East watches the annual policy conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee
US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley
(AIPAC) very closely. At that conference, we expect not only to find out a great deal about where the US and Israeli governments stand at the moment, but also what is likely to occupy the attention of Congress for the coming year regarding Middle East policy.
At last year’s conference, then-candidate Donald Trump’s appearance and warm reception caused one of the deepest divides in the Jewish community in recent memory. AIPAC’s day-after public apology to President Barack Obama for the ovations that Trump’s sharply critical words drew was a landmark event, and was an incident that the powerful lobbying group was hoping to bury this year.
AIPAC wanted their 2017 conference to be one that brought its supporters–who span a considerable political spectrum apart from Middle East policy–back together, and one that also set a clear agenda for the group’s activities for the first year of the Trump Administration. It was not entirely successful in either goal. 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
The spectacle of Donald Trump getting standing ovations at AIPAC was appalling to a wide range of Jews and others across the United States and the world. But that same spectacle can create opportunities for finally cracking apart the wall that prevents a serious debate on US policy in the Middle East. I explore how in The New Republic today.
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.
In the wake of the collapse of the last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks last April, it’s become widely accepted that the continuing growth of Israeli settlements is a key obstacle to an agreement. This has created difficulties for those inclined to support the Israeli government’s ability to do whatever it wants. One way to make it easier to defend the settlements and the occupation that sustains them is to obscure the difference between them and Israel proper. As I wrote last month, a method that lobbyists like the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been employing lately to accomplish that is to target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS).
Several recent pieces of legislation demonstrate how this is accomplished. In Illinois, a billprohibiting Illinois from contracting with businesses that are boycotting Israel passed unanimously in both the State Legislature and Senate. The language of the bill specifically includes “territories controlled by the State of Israel” – that is, territories occupied by Israel after the 1967 war, which no country in the world, including the U.S., recognizes as part of Israel. Read more at the FMEP blog.