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
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 →
My report at IPS on John Kerry’s recent trip to Israel and Palestine. More important, I look at the broader strategy that seems apparent from the new Obama-Kerry-Hagel triumvirate on Middle East peace.
My report for Inter Press Service on how the options, or lack thereof, are shaping up for renewing the lifeless corpse called the “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians in Obama’s second term.