During the summertime war in Gaza, the two most progressive members of the US Senate stirred up controversy among their backers with expressions of uncritical support for Israel. At a town hall meeting, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the lone Senate independent, responded to a questioner that Israel had “overreacted” with its 52-day bombardment and ground incursion, but then proceeded to justify Israel’s actions with the usual pro-Israel talking points about “missiles fired from populated areas” and “sophisticated tunnels.” An audience member began to shout objections, to which Sanders said, “Shut up.”
Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from Massachusetts, went further in her defense of Israel at a meeting with constituents on Cape Cod. She said it was right for the United States to send $225 million in aid to Israel, a “democracy controlled by the rule of law,” as the bombing continued. She ventured no criticism at all of the extensive damage to civilian lives and livelihoods in Gaza. When another constituent suggested that future US aid be conditioned on Israel halting settlement construction in the West Bank, Warren replied, “I think there’s a question of whether we should go that far.” Read more at the Middle East Research and Information Project
My latest report for Inter Press Service, this one is about a new poll commissioned by pollster Shibley Telhami. The poll examines American attitudes in the event of the failure of a two-state solution. The results may surprise many.
Discussing his outspoken opposition to diplomacy with Iran, Republican Senator Mark Kirk said in a phone briefing for his supporters: “It’s the reason why I ran for the Senate, [it] is all wrapped up in this battle. I am totally dedicated to the survival of the state of Israel in the 21st century.” This is an important statement, and one which bears intense scrutiny at a time when the Obama Administration is trying to walk the United States back from a war footing with Iran, against the wishes of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and, especially, Israel and its domestic allies.
I hurried to congratulate my colleagues, Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton, for their reporting on Kirk’s private briefing call. I tweeted the following: “Thanks to @AliGharib and @EliClifton, we have Mark Kirk on record stating that he values Israeli interests over US’.” Naturally, I was attacked for “questioning Kirk’s loyalty.” I certainly confess; Twitter is a place for shorthand and bombastic statements, and no doubt, Kirk’s position is more complicated vis a vis US vs. Israeli interests. That’s why the interaction I had with a more sober-minded individual around this, Prof. Brent Sasley of the University of Texas at Arlington, was more probative. Continue reading
Israel, AIPAC and their fellow travelers are already hard at work on the next 10-year aid package, which would start in 2017. Aid to Israel is sacrosanct in Washington, but the request for an upgrade faces some new challenges this time. But AIPAC has a powerful tool in a 2008 law passed by Congress. I explore at Inter Press Service.
My report for Inter Press Service on the renewal of peace talks between Israel and the PLO.
There have been several very good pieces written about the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing to confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of defense. Here’s a
Chuck Hagel with President Obama
My own early piece on the lunatic right’s opposition to Hagel, a Republican former Senator from Nebraska: http://www.muzzlewatch.com/2012/12/27/chuck-hagel-and-israel-the-wrong-question/
A brief but brilliant piece by Stephen Walt: http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/02/01/id_like_to_thank_the_senate_armed_services_committee
Yousef Munayyer on the number of appearances, or lack thereof, of various words: http://blog.thejerusalemfund.org/2013/02/the-hagel-hearing-snapshot.html
John Judis in The New Republic http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112306/chuck-hagel-confirmation-hearings-ted-cruz-john-mccain-grill-him
Matt Duss in The American Prospect https://prospect.org/article/senate-hearing-circus-session
And Jim Lobe at Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/02/its-all-about-israel/
That’s plenty of good stuff. I want to throw in one more point, which some of these folks touched on. Continue reading
My piece today in LobeLog offers one suggestion for something Obama can do even if there’s no diplomatic opening in the Israel-Palestine conflict. he can at least try to undo some of the damage his predecessor, George W. Bush did and maybe even build on the better but very flawed of Bill Clinton as well.