AIPAC: The Essential Profile

This week, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its annual policy meeting, and this one was quite different from many that came before it. For years, AIPAC conferences celebrated strong bipartisan support for Israel and for the unqualified U.S. support of Israel. But in 2019, that unity is very clearly fraying.

Where once there had been a significant number of foreign policy realists in the Republican Party who felt that the U.S. approach needed to be more even-handed, the GOP these days is passionately and overwhelmingly supportive of Israel and displays little if any concern about the lives of Palestinians. Democrats, on the other hand, are displeased with the Trump administration’s approach to the regional issues, feeling it has endangered and possibly doomed a two-state solution to the conflict.

But the Republican-Democrat divide is not the only area of division on Israel and Palestine. Within the Democratic party, a schism is widening between those who insist on supporting the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu—which includes the powerful centrist leadership of the party such as Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Eliot Engel, and Hakeem Jeffries— and the more progressive wing, led proudly by women like Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Betty McCollum, and others, who want to open a debate on U.S. policy in the Middle East and orient it more toward universal human rights.

But AIPAC is not just the venue to display these growing cracks in the bipartisan consensus that have made it even more difficult for the United States to play a productive role in resolving this devastating conflict. It is also a major player in the policy process, especially in Congress, as well as a source of intense debate and controversy over the question of why the United States behaves as it does in the region.

At this year’s conference, Ilhan Omar was attacked by members of Congress from both parties as well as by members of AIPAC and by the vice president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel. The reason for these attacks was that Omar had the temerity to call out and challenge AIPAC’s destructive influence, its role in directing the campaign funds of pro-Israel political actions committees (something AIPAC itself is not, despite its confusing name), and its efforts to establish the boundaries of discourse in Washington. Read more at LobeLog

How Far Will Trump’s Unpredictability Disrupt American Policy on Israel?

The shocking victory of Donald Trump in the American presidential election will reverberate around the world. One place where those reverberations will be felt trumpparticularly keenly is Israel. The biggest problem is that no one knows what they will look like. Read more at Haaretz

Not So Fast: The Iran Deal Doesn’t Mean A Victory Over AIPAC

The sense of victory, however, needs to be tempered. Anyone who believes that securing the Iran nuclear agreement in Congress might have an effect on United States policy and its potential actions regarding the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip needs to take a deep breath. Read more at TPM Cafe

AIPAC Directs Congressional Punishment Of Palestinians After UN Vote

This article originally appeared at LobeLog. Please check it out, it’s an outstanding site for analysis of US foreign policy.

The US government has swept into action in the aftermath of the Palestinians’ overwhelming victory at the United Nations on Thursday. No less than three amendments https://i0.wp.com/www.lobelog.com/wp-content/uploads/Palestinians-Celebrate-PostUNBid-300x199.jpgwere brought in the Senate, to be attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — a bill which has nothing to do with Israel and the Palestinians, but is a high-priority bill that the Senate must pass, and as such is a perfect target for frivolous amendments).

Two of the amendments are purely partisan and with a Republican minority in the Senate, they are unlikely to pass. The third, however, is bipartisan and the leading Democrat sponsoring it is Charles Schumer (D-NY) whose position as the Democrats’ lead fundraiser means he gets his senate colleagues’ attention. The partisan amendments are somewhat more draconian than the bipartisan one, which will make the bipartisan amendment look relatively moderate, thereby increasing the chances of its passage.

Along with Schumer, the amendment is sponsored by Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ). It calls for the closure of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) office in the US unless the Palestinians return to talks with Israel. No timeframe is given for the return to talks, nor is there any mention of anything Israel must do to make that return politically feasible for the Palestinians. This amounts to an attempt to force the Palestinians back into talks on Bibi Netanyahu’s terms, which, as I explain here, would be political suicide for the Palestinian Authority (PA). Continue reading

Israel's A Domestic Issue–That's the Problem

In the 21st century, Congress has demonstrated both incompetence in handling its limited responsibility in foreign policy, and how disastrous it is when it oversteps its bounds and tries to get more involved in foreign affairs than it should.

Outside of those working actively in foreign policy, it still seems like Americans have not grasped the magnitude of the

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA, seated at the left) prepares to address a pro-Israel rally

foolish decisions to go into Afghanistan and Iraq. But, for reasons that did not include a clear and sober calculation of American security or even geo-political interests, Bush, Cheney, and their neo-conservative cohorts did, in fact, put us back into a Vietnam-like quagmire.

But this one is worse. Vietnam was predicated on the “domino theory,” which dictated that the fall of a country in Southeast Asia of relatively minor importance would set off a chain reaction and lead to more crucial countries falling to Communism. Once the theory was discarded, it was possible, even if not so simple, to extricate ourselves from the war.

That’s not the case in either Afghanistan or Iraq, particularly the latter. Iraq, a major oil producer, could easily fall under the control or influence of foreign powers, including Iran, which would significantly affect the global economy and the global balance of power. Afghanistan has always been a center of instability, but the American intervention has embroiled Pakistan more deeply in the conflicts there, and the threat of Afghani issues destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear power, is very real. In both cases, these are merely singular examples among many other serious concerns.

No, America cannot just up and leave the Middle East as it did Southeast Asia. America also has very little to gain from staying, but must do so to avoid the consequences of leaving. That’s where the Neoconservatives have left the US. Making such clearly foolish mistakes in when and where to go to war is precisely why (among other reasons) Congress is the only body authorized to declare war. Continue reading