Now For Something Completely Different: A Few Thoughts on US’ Budget Battle

This space is normally devoted exclusively to the Middle East. But the absolute insanity that has gripped Washington all of my life has reached a new height these days, and so I break here with “something completely different.”

At this writing, Congress has authorized spending cuts of $38 billion, and sent a bill to the President so that the government can continue operation until September.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the leading advocate for "The People's Budget"

“There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.”

As is so often the case with this president, the words sound good, but the actions don’t match the rhetoric. Obama and the Democrats in Congress are faced with Republicans in overdrive; the GOP is rushing to squeeze the few pennies poor and middle class Americans have left for no better reason than to make the rich even richer. Continue reading

Who’s Afraid of a Palestinian State?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has apparently cozied up even further to the Republican Party, if that is possible. He has been invited by the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives to speak at a joint session of Congress next month. It is widely expected that Netanyahu will use the speechto lay out some further steps toward an agreement with the Palestinians and to counter an expected speech from President Barack Obama that is expected to lay out an American plan to restart stalled peace negotiations.

Netanyahu may be worrying that Obama might hang up on him

As usual, the dance here is between the Americans and Israelis, with the Palestinians doing their own waltz solo on the sidelines. But there is a difference this time. The Palestinian two-step is heading in the direction of the United Nations and a proposed vote in September in the General Assembly on recognizing an independent state of Palestine.

There’s a lot to be said about this issue. It is a big gamble on the part of the Palestinians. It is not doubted that such a resolution will have a clear majority of support in the GA. But the real question is whether it will have the support of Europe and even the United States. It is the prospect of the latter that have many on Capitol Hill, both in the government and in the role of lobbyists, shifting into high gear to act on the will of the Israeli right.

How panicked? Well, as I recently reported here, there will be legislation in both houses of Congress to try to push an anti-UN agenda, based on the recent op-ed by Richard Goldstone. Well, consider the words of one Congress member, Joe Walsh (R-IL), who introduced the legislation in the House. This is from a “Dear Colleague” letter he circulated to other members in advance of his introduction of the resolution:

What is worse, the United Nations may use the Goldstone Report as justification to officially recognize a Palestinian state, which could place Israel in the position of occupying lands belonging to a sovereign state and member of the United Nations.  Yet, Goldstone’s confession confirms that the United Nations lacks the moral authority for such a declaration.

So let’s start with the first part, where Walsh seems to be virtually screaming in terror at the very prospect of recognition of a Palestinian state. This bears some examination. Continue reading