Sunday, 2 May 2010

Fight Terror. Support Israel

By CAROLINE GLICK, The Jerusalem Post
April 30, 2010

By using support for Israel as a wedge issue in the upcoming
elections, Republicans will do more than simply constrain Obama’s
ability to harm the Jewish state.

Bipartisan support for Israel has been one of the greatest casualties
of US President Barack Obama’s assault on the Jewish state. Today, as
Republican support for Israel reaches new heights, support for Israel
has become a minority position among Democrats.

Consider the numbers. During Operation Cast Lead ­ 11 days before
Obama’s inauguration ­ the House of Representatives passed Resolution
34 siding with Israel against Hamas. The resolution received 390 yea
votes, five nay votes and 37 abstentions. Democrats cast four of the
nay votes and 29 of the abstentions.

In November 2009, Congress passed House Resolution 867 condemning the
Goldstone Report. The resolution urged Obama to disregard its
findings, which falsely accused Israel of committing war crimes in
Cast Lead. A total of 344 congressman voted for the resolution.
Thirty-six voted against it. Fifty-two abstained. Among those voting
against, Thirty-three were Democrats. Forty-four Democrats abstained.

In February 2010, Fifty-four congressmen sent a letter to Obama urging
him to pressure Israel to open Hamas-ruled Gaza’s international
borders and accusing Israel of engaging in collective punishment. All
of them were Democrats.

In the midst of the Obama administration’s assault on Israel over
construction for Jews in Jerusalem, 327 congressmen signed a letter to
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for an end to the public
attacks on the Israeli government. Of the 102 members who refused to
sign the letter, 94 were Democrats.

These numbers show two things. First, since Obama entered office there
has been a 13-point decline in the number of congressmen willing to
support Israel. Second, the decrease comes entirely from the
Democratic side of the aisle. There the number of members willing to
attack Israel has tripled.

As discouraging as they are, these numbers tell only part of the
story. The pro-Israel initiatives the remaining Democrats agree to
support today are less meaningful than those they supported before
Obama entered office.

Resolution 34 during Cast Lead was substantive. It unhesitatingly
blamed Hamas for the conflict, supported Israel and asserted that
future wars will only be averted if Hamas is forced to fundamentally

Last month’s letter to Clinton was much more circumscribed. It focused
solely on ending the Obama administration’s very public assault on
Israel, and ignored the nature of that assault. At the insistence of
the Democrats, the administration was not criticized for its bigoted
demand that Jews not be allowed to construct new homes in Jewish
neighborhoods in Israel’s capital city.

This week, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat visited Washington. Reps. Eric
Cantor and Peter Roskam ­ the Republican co-chairmen of the House’s
Israel caucus ­ held a public event with Barkat where they voiced
strong support for Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem without

In contrast, their Democratic counterparts refused to meet publicly
with Barkat. They also refused to issue any statements supporting
Israel’s right to its undivided capital.

In the midst of administration’s assault on Israel’s right to
Jerusalem last month, Representative Doug Lamborn drafted Resolution
1191 calling for the administration to finally abide by US law and
move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Lamborn gathered 18 co-sponsors for
the resolution. All of them were Republican.

THEN THERE is Iran. Acting on orders from Obama, House and Senate
Democrats have removed from consideration the sanctions bills that
passed overwhelmingly in both houses. This week Obama asked
congressional Democrats to water down the sanctions bills to permit
him to exempt China and Russia. In so doing, Obama exposed the entire
push for sanctions as a dangerous, time-consuming joke.
No sanctions
passed in Congress or at the UN will make Iran reconsider its decision
to build a nuclear arsenal.

This, of course, has been apparent for some time to anyone paying
attention. And recognizing this state of affairs in January, Lamborn
and Rep. Trent Franks authored a letter to Clinton and Defense
Secretary Robert Gates urging the administration “to support Israel’s
sovereign right to take any action it feels compelled to make in its

Their letter was signed by 22 other congressmen. All were Republican.

Similarly, since November, Rep. Louie Gohmert has been working on a
resolution supporting Israel’s right to attack Iran’s nuclear
installations. Gohmert’s resolution condemns Iran’s threat to commit
nuclear genocide against Israel and expresses “support for Israel’s
right to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear
threats posed by Iran, defend Israeli sovereignty, and protect the
lives and safety of the Israeli people, including the use of military
force if no other peaceful solution can be found within a reasonable

To date, Gohmert has racked up more than 40 co-sponsors. All are Republican.

Recent opinion polls show that the Republican-Democrat divide on
Israel in Congress reflects a growing partisan gap among the general
public. A Gallup poll conducted in February showed that whereas 85
percent of Republicans support Israel (up from 77% in February 2009),
and 60% of Independents support Israel (up from 49% in February 2009),
only 48% of Democrats support Israel, (down from 52% in February

To date, both the Israeli government and AIPAC have denied the
existence of a partisan divide. This has been due in part to their
unwillingness to contend with the new situation. One of Israel’s
greatest assets in the US has been the fact that support for the
Jewish state has always been bipartisan. It is hard to accept that the
Democrats are jumping ship.

AIPAC also has institutional reasons for papering over the erosion in
Democratic support for Israel. First, most of its members are
Democrats. Indeed, AIPAC’s new President Lee Rosenberg was one of
Obama’s biggest fund-raisers.

Then, too, AIPAC is concerned at the prospect of its members
abandoning it for J Street. J Street, the Jewish pro-Palestinian
lobby, is strongly supported by the Obama administration.

According to congressional sources, AIPAC’s desire to hide the
partisan divide has caused it to preemptively water down Republican
initiatives to gain Democratic support or torpedo Republican proposals
that the Democrats would oppose. For instance, an AIPAC lobbyist
demanded that Gohmert abandon his efforts to advance his resolution on
Iran. Sources close to the story say the AIPAC lobbyist told Gohmert
that AIPAC opposes all Iran initiatives that go beyond support for

And now, of course, as Obama makes a mockery of AIPAC’s sanctions
drive by watering them down to nothingness, AIPAC’s sanctions-only
strategy lies in ruins. But, again in the interest of promoting the
fiction of bipartisan support for Israel, AIPAC can be expected to
pretend this has not happened.

And many prominent Republican congressmen are loath to call its bluff.
Like the Israeli government itself, Republican House members express
deep concern that blowing the lid off the Democrats will weaken
Israel. As one member put it, “I don’t want to encourage the likes of
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attack Israel by exposing that the Democrats
don’t support Israel.”

WHILE THIS argument has its merits, the fact is that many Democrats
remain staunch supporters of Israel. Representatives like Shelley
Berkley, Nita Lowey, Steve Israel, Anthony Weiner, Jim Costa and many
others have not taken stronger stands in support Israel because,
thanks to AIPAC, they haven’t been challenged to do so.
If going into
the November midterm elections House Republicans were to initiate an
aggressively pro-Israel agenda as members like Lamborn, Franks,
Gohmert, Cantor, Roskam, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and others are already
doing, they would compel Democratic members to join them or risk being
criticized for abandoning Israel by their Republican opponents in
November’s elections.

And that’s the thing of it. While under Obama bipartisan support for
Israel has eroded, popular support for Israel has grown.
Indeed polls
show a direct correlation between Democratic abandonment of Israel and
popular abandonment of the Democrats. What this means is that the
partisan divide on Israel is a good election issue for Republicans.

If as projected Republicans retake control of the House of
Representatives in November, they will be in a position to limit
Obama’s ability to adopt policies that weaken Israel.
And due to the
widespread expectation that Republicans will in fact take over the
House, if the Republicans set out clear policy lines on Israel today,
their declared policies will immediately impact Obama’s maneuver room
on Israel. So, too, a clear Republican policy on Israel will motivate
pro-Israel Democrats to more stridently distance themselves from Obama
on issues related to Israel.

Take the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s threat
that he will unilaterally declare Palestinian independence in August
. To date, Obama has refused to say if he will recognize such a
unilaterally declared Palestinian state. Fearing that he may recognize
such a state, Israel has gone out of its way to appease Obama.

If House Republicans and Republican House candidates were to
collectively pledge to cut off US funding for the PA in the aftermath
of such a declaration, they could neutralize the threat. And if they
pledged not to fund a US embassy in such a Palestinian state, they
would make it impossible for Obama to continue holding his decision
over Israel’s head.

As for Iran, if Republicans win the House, they will be in a position
to use omnibus budgetary bills to force the administration to provide
Israel with the military equipment necessary to win a war against Iran
and its allies. This would limit Obama’s capacity to threaten Israel
with an arms embargo in the increasingly likely event that the Iranian
axis attacks the Jewish state.

In some House races, Democratic abandonment of Israel is already a key
issue. For instance, in Illinois, the race between Republican
challenger Joel Pollak and incumbent Democrat Jan Schakowsky has been
dominated by Schakowsky’s close ties to J Street and tepid support for
Israel. And recent polling data indicate that once a long-shot
candidate, Pollak is steadily closing in on Schakowsky’s lead.

Exposing the Democrats’ abandonment of Israel will be an unpleasant
affair. But it won’t add to the dangers arrayed against Israel.

Israel’s enemies are already aware of Obama’s animus towards the
Jewish state. Demonstrating that the Democrats on Capitol Hill are
following his lead on Israel will not add or detract from Iran’s
willingness to attack Israel either directly or through its Arab
proxies, or both.

Moreover, forcing Democrats to account for their behavior will have a
salutary long-term effect on their party and on the US as a whole.
Support for Israel is a benchmark for support for US allies generally.
Obama’s abandonment of Israel has gone hand in hand with the cold
shoulder he has given Colombia, Honduras, Britain, Poland, the Czech
Republic, Japan, South Korea and other key US allies worldwide. In the
long-term, it will be catastrophic if one of the US’s two political
parties maintains this strategically disastrous policy.

By using support for Israel as a wedge issue in the upcoming
elections, Republicans will do more than simply constrain Obama’s
ability to harm the Jewish state. They will be setting a course for a
Democratic return to strategic sanity in the years to come. And
nothing will guarantee the return of bipartisan support for Israel
more effectively and securely than that.


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