AlterPolitics New Post

Is AIPAC’s Iron Grip Over The US Congress Waning?

by on Friday, December 17, 2010 at 2:43 pm EDT in Middle East, World

A new column by Josh Ruebner, who heads US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, gives a behind the scenes look at what actually transpired in the latest AIPAC-sponsored Congressional Resolution which condemns any unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state.

AIPAC, of course, would have you believe (this message came via twitter) that everything was ‘business as usual’:

By voice vote, the House passed a resolution opposing a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. No member claimed time in opposition.

Ruebner, however, reveals that “H.Res.1765 was pushed through quickly with the co-sponsorship of only 53 Representatives,” using a procedure called Suspension of the Rules.  This procedure, “supposed to be reserved for non-controversial resolutions such as the naming of a post office, prohibits the resolution from being amended and limits debate on it. In exchange for these restrictions, the resolution must get at least a 2/3 vote to pass rather than a simple majority”.

Ruebner gives us a picture of what actually occurred on the House floor:

… the resolution was done in such a helter-skelter fashion that it was put on the calendar for a vote late Tuesday night while Rep. Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was still drafting it. Most Congressional offices did not even see the text of the resolution until a few hours prior to the vote. Many Congressional offices were reportedly infuriated that such an important foreign policy declaration was being treated in such an inconsiderate manner. […]

Berman, who managed the debate on the House floor for the Democrats, appeared flustered and befuddled as he looked repeatedly and anxiously around the chamber for Representatives to appear magically to speak on behalf of the resolution. In the end, Berman mustered only himself and three other Jewish Representatives—Gary Ackerman, Eliot Engel, and Shelley Berkley—to offer full-throated support for the resolution. […]

These staunchly pro-Israel Representatives’ proceeded to take the podium and spew pure propaganda — the kinds of misrepresentations that are all but certain to please AIPAC and Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu.

One bright note was Representative Lois Capps’s upbraiding of Berman for his shameless hawking of this AIPAC resolution:

After rising “in very reluctant support” of what she termed “yet another one-sided resolution,” Capps decried the resolution for failing to mention “Israel’s expansion of settlements.” She noted that “Resolutions, like the one we are considering today, are clearly done for domestic political consumption much more than for having any positive impact on the conflict. We should not be ignorant of the fact that this Chamber’s pattern of passing resolutions that are one-sided can, indeed, undermine our credibility to be serious brokers for peace.

Having been put in his place by Capps, Berman called for a voice vote rather than a recorded vote. Fewer than ten Representatives then on the floor voted by “unanimous consent” to adopt the resolution, giving the illusion that the entire House gave its imprimatur to it.

Reubner’s entire post is worth reading, and can be found over at Mondoweiss.

Ha’aretz: E.U. Presidency Document Calls For Division Of Jerusalem & Return To 1967 Borders

by on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm EDT in Middle East, World

The pressure continues to mount on the far-right Likudnik government in Israel.  Ha’aretz has just obtained a copy of a document, drafted by the European Union Presidency, which effectively backs a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, based on the 1967 borders.  The document follows:



The world is clearly getting sick and tired of Netanyahu’s refusal to abandon his expansionist/ethnic cleansing policies.  Just last week U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Special Envoy George J. Mitchell simultaneously responded to Netanyahu’s claim that he had suspended new settlements in Judea and Sumeria, by conveying it was not enough, and then evoking the 1967 lines as the legal borders:

They did not bless the Israeli non-freeze, explaining it fell short and that they expected more, and that “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. […]”

But the new language came in Secretary Clinton’s description of what American expects the outcome of negotiations to be – for an “independent and viable [Palestinian] state based on the 1967 lines”. Senator Mitchell quoted Clinton in repeating the call for a Palestinian state “based on the 67 lines.”

Every conflict and every situation has its own lingua franca. In the Israeli-Palestinian context, a state based on the 67 lines is the dog-whistle for what constitutes a real, no-B.S. two-state outcome. It is also language that the US has conspicuously avoided using – avoided that is until today.

I have to wonder if these calls — first by the U.S. and then by the E.U. — for two independent states along the 1967 borders (with East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital), wasn’t coordinated so that it would be received by the Netanyahu government as a subtle threat that the tide is turning against his Zionist vision of a greater Israel.  Let’s hope the pressure continues …

Hillary Clinton’s Pandering To Israel Destroys U.S. Credibility On Middle East Peace

by on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm EDT in Middle East, Politics, World

U.S. Middle East policy has effectively come full-circle again, as it has done repeatedly for the past forty-plus years.  Every blue moon we get a U.S. President who dares to challenge Israel on its ethnic cleansing — as demonstrated by continued Palestinian home demolitions and Jewish-ONLY settlement expansion within the occupied territories (all interconnected by Jewish-ONLY roads).  And as usual, the world holds its breath wondering if this U.S. President will have the balls to apply pressure behind his rhetoric and actually force Israel to cease its illegal activities and engage in peace negotiations.

But then a familiar pattern unfolds: The Israel Lobby applies its pressure, Congress obediently issues ridiculously dishonest resolutions, and before long the U.S. Administration sheepishly backs down, changes course, and proceeds to embarrass itself by actually praising Israel for its indefensible conduct.

Rewind to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March, 2009:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday blasted Israel’s plans to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem as a violation of its international obligations and “unhelpful” to Middle East peace efforts.

“Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the ‘road map’,” Clinton said, referring to the long-stalled peace plan.

“It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem,”

Now let’s revisit Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s strong language in May, 2009:

Rebuffing Israel on a key Mideast negotiating issue, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the Obama administration wants a complete halt in the growth of Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory, with no exceptions.

President Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions,” Clinton said.

Next, let’s move on to President Obama’s Cairo Speech in June, 2009:

Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Fast forward five months later — to this week — as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, backpedals on U.S. Middle East policy, while speaking in Israel:

Having failed to force Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, to meet US demands for a total settlement freeze, Mrs Clinton switched tack during a one-day visit to Jerusalem when she called on both sides to resume peace talks.

What the Prime Minister has offered in specifics of a restraint on the policy of settlements . . . is unprecedented,” Mrs Clinton said…

The comments by Mrs Clinton were in contrast to the previous stance of the Obama Administration, which has pressured Israel to halt all settlement construction. In May, after President Obama’s first meeting with Mr Netanyahu, Mrs Clinton said that the US “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions”.

And the angry response in the Arab world is as one might expect:

Nabil Abu Rudeinah, a spokesman for Mr Abbas, said: “The negotiations are in a state of paralysis, and the result of Israel’s intransigence and America’s back-pedalling is that there is no hope of negotiations on the horizon.”

Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian Authority spokesman, said:

“I believe that the U.S. condones continued settlement expansion.  Calling for a resumption of negotiations despite continued settlement construction doesn’t help because we have tried this way many times,” Khatib added. “Negotiations are about ending the occupation and settlement expansion is about entrenching the occupation.”

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said:

“If America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze, what chance do Palestinians have of reaching agreement with Israel on permanent status issues?”

So it appears Obama has concluded — as did all his predecessors — that going head to head with the Israel Lobby is not worth the political price.  So Hillary Clinton does a 180 — yanking the rug out from under President Abbas — thereby ensuring his popularity will plummet further just before the Palestinian elections.  She’s also given the right-winged Likud government a strategic ‘out’ from any peace negotiations.   Netanyahu is now free to accuse the Palestinians of blocking peace, as Fatah demands that Israel cease its settlement expansion as a precondition for peace negotiations.

Is there any wonder why terrorists in that part of the world are motivated to target American interests, considering that we are essentially Israel’s enabler?

Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist for Harretz, blasts the U.S. Administration in his recent column for always “sucking up to Israel” :

No other country on the planet does the United States kneel and plead like this. In other trouble spots, America takes a different tone. It bombs in Afghanistan, invades Iraq and threatens sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Did anyone in Washington consider begging Saddam Hussein to withdraw from occupied territory in Kuwait?

But Israel the occupier, the stubborn contrarian that continues to mock America and the world by building settlements and abusing the Palestinians, receives different treatment. Another massage to the national ego in one video, more embarrassing praise in another.

Now is the time to say to the United States: Enough flattery. If you don’t change the tone, nothing will change. As long as Israel feels the United States is in its pocket, and that America’s automatic veto will save it from condemnations and sanctions, that it will receive massive aid unconditionally, and that it can continue waging punitive, lethal campaigns without a word from Washington, killing, destroying and imprisoning without the world’s policeman making a sound, it will continue in its ways.

Illegal acts like the occupation and settlement expansion, and offensives that may have involved war crimes, as in Gaza, deserve a different approach. If America and the world had issued condemnations after Operation Summer Rains in 2006 – which left 400 Palestinians dead and severe infrastructure damage in the first major operation in Gaza since the disengagement – then Operation Cast Lead never would have been launched. […]

Israel of 2009 is a spoiled country, arrogant and condescending, convinced that it deserves everything and that it has the power to make a fool of America and the world. The United States has engendered this situation, which endangers the entire Mideast and Israel itself. That is why there needs to be a turning point in the coming year – Washington needs to finally say no to Israel and the occupation. An unambiguous, presidential no.

Stephen Walt succinctly describes the mess the United States is helping to create for the state of Israel and for those whom Israel continues to occupy:

The two-state solution was on life-support when Obama took office, and at first it appeared he might make a serious effort to nurse it back to health and make it a reality. At least, that’s what he said he was going to do. Instead, he and his Secretary of State are in the process of pulling out the plug. But what will they do when “two states for two peoples” isn’t an option and everybody finally admits it, and the Palestinians begin to demand equal rights in “greater Israel?” Will the United States support their claims for equality, democracy, and individual rights, or will it continue to defend and subsidize what will then be an apartheid state? Well, if it’s up to our courageous reps in Congress, you know what the answer will be.

“If America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze, what chance do Palestinians have of reaching agreement with Israel on permanent status issues?” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.