U.S. Aid To Israel: What You Need To Know

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has drawn some criticism from the left for avoiding the topic of Israel-Palestine. It’s actually a wise decision on her part. It was obvious during her campaign that she is not well-versed on the issue. N ew members of Congress ought to avoid this dangerous minefield of an issue unless they are very clear about what they want to say and how they want to say it.

But AOC may be learning. Earlier this week, she was asked if she favored reducing aid to Israel and she replied that it is “…certainly on the table. I think it’s something that can be discussed.”

Reducing aid to Israel is perhaps the highest voltage third rail in Beltway politics. But in a marker of how much things have changed in Washington—as well as how far they still have to go—the reactions to AOC’s statement have been far less animated than usual. The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) issued a condescending but relatively mild statement, telling AOC to consult with three mainstream Democratic leaders—all prominent Jewish members with strong pro-Israel records—on the “correct” U.S. policy. “US-Israel ties must supersede politics,” the statement concluded. Surprisingly, the JDCA did not condemn AOC’s statement, despite its tired implication that support for Israel must be unconditional, unquestioned, and independent of any considerations except what is best for Israel. Read more at LobeLog

Presbyterians’ Divestment Proposal Stirs BDS Battle

This article originally appeared at LobeLog.7490913460_db2a152742_b

On June 14, members of the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) will gather in Detroit, Michigan for their biennial General Assembly meeting. A lot of eyes will be focused on this gathering, particularly those who have managed to maintain interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict in the wake of the collapse of the “peace process.”

The Presbyterians are going to revisit a vote on divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation that failed in 2012 by a mere two votes. Given that narrow margin of victory (the final tally was 333-331 with two abstentions), many believe it might just pass this time. As a result, pro-divestment groups have reinvigorated their efforts to support Presbyterian divestment, while opponents have redoubled their efforts to oppose the resolution. Continue reading

Kerry Draws Israel Hawks’ Ire Amid Failed Talks

My report for Inter Press Service on the row that has erupted over John Kerry’s use of the word “apartheid” to describe one possible future for Israel.

The One-State Burden

In the American Prospect today, Gershom Gorenberg raises the key argument against a one-state solution: that nationalism is too strong

Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg

on both the Jewish and Palestinian side for them to reasonably exist in a single state.

I agree with much of Gershom’s argument. But it is worth pointing something out, something I have been arguing forcefully about in my series of three articles this week (see them here, here and here). It is summed up in Gershom’s closing paragraph:

“The challenge to one-staters is to explain how two national groups, Jews and Palestinians, will peacefully put together a single state, live together in that state, and prevent it from ripping apart. Expecting that their nationalism will disappear is even less realistic than expecting the gold, red and blue flag to vanish from Catalonia.”

Yes, that is the challenge to one-staters. But where is the challenge to two-staters to explain how a Palestinian state with full sovereignty (meaning the right to self-defense and a total absence of Israeli forces in its territory), viability (where the area is not broken up by settlement blocs like Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim), connection between the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in East Jerusalem, and an acceptable resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue (which is both a human rights issue and a central issue in the very Palestinian nationalism Gershom discusses) is to be achieved under the two-state formula.

Oslo fails on all of those points. Yet somehow, for Gershom and many other sincere two-staters who recognize the need for Palestinian freedom and are not only concerned about Israeli security, this challenge does not have the same force as the one they bring up for one-staters. In my series, I explained why this is—because two-states has an international consensus behind it, arrived at by circumstance, happenstance and a 40-year old Palestinian decision, but not because it was necessarily the best path, while one state solutions have no political backing.

But the message for Gershom, Jeremy Ben-Ami and other purportedly pragmatic two-staters is how we get to a truly workable resolution if we begin from a point where we discount some possibilities because they have serious problems while ignoring problems of at least equal magnitude in other solutions simply because the latter is the path preferred by those enforcing an unhelpful and no longer viable consensus.

Splitting the Child

I’ll be writing a follow-up to my piece from earlier this week about the various one- and two-state formulations shortly, where I’ll be

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, champion of the two-state solution

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, champion of the two-state solution

focusing more on the one-state side. But today, I saw a very important example of one of the problems in the two-state crowd, especially from the Israeli side.

The Middle East Policy Council put on a very interesting panel about the future or lack thereof of the two-state solution. The leading two-stater on the panel was Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street. Let me say that I like Jeremy, and I think he and J Street come in for criticism from the left that is often over the top and much too harsh (and, I’ll admit, sometimes I’ve been guilty of that myself). I’ve known Jeremy for the better part of a decade and I am convinced his heart is in the right place and that on balance, J Street has done good work.

On this particular panel, Jeremy defended the two-state solution in various ways, and I found some of them problematic. He echoed the “pragmatic” view that the two-state option, and particularly the Oslo formulation is the only viable option, and sometimes implied that those who advocated some other option were naïve and utopian thinkers. But he made one point that I think reflects a deeply problematic mode of thought in even the most progressive pro-Israel thinking. Continue reading