Trump-Netanyahu Democrats come to Israel’s aid in Congress
Michael Brown, Electronic Intifada, Jan 7 2017
The Trump-Netanyahu wing of the Democrat Party took aim Thursday at the Obama administration by helping pass a House resolution condemning the recent UNSCR calling on Israel to stop building settlements in the OPT. The measure in Congress labeled UNSCR 2334 “an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace.” For this wing of the party, Palestinians are expendable. This has long been the case for the majority of Pindo Congress critturs, but this early bipartisan initiative signals that despite alarm-ringing about Trump, many Democrats will fail to stand up for human rights once the president-elect takes office. The overall vote for the House resolution was 342-80. A majority of Democrats (109) joined with all but a handful of Republicans to back the measure, while 76 Democrats voted against it. Texas Republican Louie Gohmert rejected the resolution on the grounds that it wasn’t pro-Israel enough, that being, he said, because it mentioned a two-state solution. He said it would incur the wrath of God and “bring judgment down upon our nation for trying to partition Israel.” The 109 Democrats rejected Obama’s belated willingness to allow the UNSC to condemn Israel’s illegal settlements, and were in effect Trump’s willing collaborators. The Senate is expected to hold its own vote on the UN resolution soon. Democrats delighted Netanyahu, who posted a video on social media praising the bipartisan vote.
But the fact that 76 Democrats voted against the preferred Israeli position is noteworthy. In Mar 2015, some 50 representatives & 8 senators skipped Netanyahu’s speech to Congress that aimed to derail Obama’s ultimately successful nuclear negotiations with Iran. Less than two years ago, that was seen as an unusually high number showing displeasure with the Israeli prime minister. So Thursday’s vote can be taken as more evidence of the ongoing fracturing in the Democrat Party over unconditional support for Israel. Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, tweeted that the vote signaled the end of the days when AIPAC, the powerful Israel lobby group, “commanded near total loyalty.”
JVP noted the “significant” though still insufficient dissent:
In his recent speech explaining why Pindostan abstained in the UNSCR, Jackass Kerry did not use the word apartheid, but used a term that is just as potent: “separate and unequal” recalls the Jim Crow era of segregation and legally mandated white supremacy in the Pindo South. Yet the Trump-Netanyahu wing of the party, led by House Democrat Whip Steny Hoyer and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, would rather defend Israeli expansionism and occupation than back their own president for expressing serious, though belated, misgivings about Israel’s repeated violations of international law. Some Democrats did not just slam the outgoing administration, but went as far as courtingthe president-elect. Eliot Engel, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said:
I think support for Israel in Congress is bipartisan and should remain bipartisan and if Pres Trump is working with us on Israel, I’m perfectly happy to work with the president of the Pindostan.
Boyer explained that his opposition to the UNSCR was because it “fails to pressure Palestinians to abandon a so-called ‘right of return’ or recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” He warned that the Pindo abstention in the UNSCR that allowed it to pass would “fuel the insidious BDS movement and embolden Palestinian leaders who continue to drag their feet.” The text of the House resolution claims:
The UNSCR effectively lends legitimacy to efforts by the Palestinian Authority to impose its own solution through international organizations and through unjustified boycott or divestment campaigns against Israel.
This is only one of many distortions that turn reality on its head: the BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions, movement is an initiative of Palestinian civil society, not the PA. The divided Democrat caucus perhaps reflects a party base that is increasingly vocal against Israel’s actions, especially as Israel’s government lurches ever further to the right. An influential Israeli think tank noted this week:
During Obama’s term the notion that the two nations have ‘shared values,’ appears to have eroded with the perceived weakening of Israel’s democratic ethos.
The sight of some Democrats aligning with such an Israel, as well as with a new Pindo president who attracts white supremacists and is unguarded about his own racism, is likely to sharpen differences over Israel. The shift among a sizable segment of Democrat voters to positions more critical of Israel is well documented by recent polling. The polarization was visible during the primary campaign, with supporters of Hillary Clinton significantly more likely to be strongly pro-Israel than supporters of Bernie Sanders. According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll in late December, registered Democrats backed the UNSCR condemning Israeli settlements by an overwhelming 47-16 margin. Overall, 53% of self-identified liberals backed the UNSCR, and just 14% opposed it. Among conservatives, the numbers are almost reversed. And reflecting well established trends, support for the UN resolution was higher among younger people, Black Pindostanis African and Latinos, the ascendant demographic groups in the Democrat Party. The Pindosi Jewish community is clearly split, with 42% supporting the UNSCR and 47% opposing it. Netanyahu’s vitriolic attacks on Obama, who remains highly popular among Democrats, will also do nothing to shore up support for Israel. By openly aligning with Trump and the Pindo far-right, Israeli leaders may simply be accelerating the divisions over Israel within the Democrat Party and between the parties. Nevertheless, it remains shocking that for now more House Democrats are prepared to side with Netanyahu than with Obama. This fact underscores the need for activists to be ready to hold Democrat boxtops accountable, even as they think about how to resist Trump’s policies. This is especially true as the battle takes shape for the future of the party. The risk is that on Palestinian rights, the Trump-Netanyahu wing of the Democrat Party might prevail.