Posted on May 28, 2015 in Countdown

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Settlements Come, and Settlements Do Not Go

Congress is close to passing a two-sentence amendment to a Senate trade bill, and a similar one attached to a House customs bill, that will entirely change the U.S.’s policy in regard to Israel and its illegal settlements. The amendments (offered by Senator Cardin and Representative Roskam) are framed as a righteous slap on the hand of the European countries participating in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). But in truth, they also erase the Green Line completely by conflating Israel and its illegal settlements. When first considered, the amendment was heatedly debated because it will in fact limit our trade relations with any country participating in BDS. But the most controversial part regarding the phrase “Israel and Israeli controlled territories” went without debate. It will be the first time in history that U.S. law conflates Israel and the settlements. Radical anti-Palestinian, pro-Israel maneuvers in Congress are never in want of friends and supporters. Illinois’s own Rep. Peter Roskam got major play in the Wall Street Journal (don’t click on this link!) selling this amendment as a way to beat back BDS movements in Europe. But we are not fooled, Mr. Roskam. The sum total of these amendments is not about BDS, but is a fundamental, monumental, unprecedented shift in U.S. Policy legitimizing Israeli settlements. Join AAI’s campaign to tell your Representatives to remove the amendments.


American Rand-stand

The ongoing debate regarding the USA Patriot Act has resulted in some very interesting alignment among 2016 Presidential Candidates. Several announced and unannounced candidates have weighed in on the issue and staked their position within this debate. Republican Gov. Chris Christie commentedthat U.S. citizens couldn’t enjoy their civil liberties if they are dead and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) called Gov. Christie’s comments “political pornography,” going as far as telling Gov. Christie that he should be more calculated about the use of his words if he wants to be taken seriously. Strangely, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) became an interesting pair of bedfellows when normally the two candidates’ stances could not be more different.  Both have stated that they believe the House’s USA Freedom Act does enough to protect civil liberties and uphold national security. Of all the 2016 candidates who have weighed in, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has made this debate a cornerstone of his image. While some political analysts thought that Sen. Paul might scale back on his libertarian rhetoric, his ten and a half hour unofficial filibuster showed that he is doing the opposite. Sen. Paul told reporters that he would do everything humanely possible to ensure that the Patriot Act is not extended and it seems as though he’s putting his money where his mouth is. Sen. Paul coined the motto “Stand With Rand” and his latest actions may suggest that by standing with Rand you are standing in defense of civil liberties. 


Call to Action

Following ISIL’s capture of the critical city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, and its push into Palmyra in Syria, the Washington echo chamber became flooded with calls for a rethink of the Obama Administration’s efforts to combat the terrorist group. Voices are coming in from all corners to criticize the lack of progress on a coherent or effective strategy. It was no surprise that ISIL dominated the discussion across the Sunday talk shows over the long weekend. While we don’t agree with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on many issues, we can’t help but accept his recent assessment, at least in part. Speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation” McCain stressed “We need to have a strategy” and further that he would “prefer not to have American ground troops” but a presence on the ground could help pinpoint targets and improve the current campaign of air strikes against ISIL. It is indeed agonizing to watch the continuing march of the terrorist group unhindered by anything but some air strikes. ISIL has for too long brought a level of medieval-era barbarity to the modern era. Every day that ISIL fighters continue their bloody campaign should be a mark of shame on the U.S. and all powers in the world with the capacity to end this ongoing catastrophe.


So What Was It All About Then?

For nearly 8 years Gaza has been almost completely blocked off from not only the world, but the rest of occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank. Late last year, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (MOD) —let’s not forget anything beyond the Green Line was captured through military means and under international law continues to not be part of Israeli territory, don’t let Congress fool you— partially lifted a not-so-insignificant ban from the myriad restrictions on Gaza. Late last year, for first time since June 2007, Israel started allowing some goods (agricultural at first, and now furniture and textiles) from Gaza to be sold in the West Bank. On its blog the Israeli non-profit Gisha covered the inexplicable MOD response to questions about the thinking behind the ban on Gazan goods to the West Bank. We know what you’re thinking, they’ll claim it’s a security threat. Nope. The long report by the MOD bureau in charge of the territories does not reference security a single time. MOD claims they considered “manufacturing capacity, supply and demand in the relevant markets.” Frankly, we’re stunned. You strangle an economy for 8 years (85% of Gazan goods were previously traded with Israel and the West Bank) and the reason is not security but rather how competitive Israel determines Gazan goods are in West Bank markets? Next thing they’ll tell us is the Israeli government freezing of Palestinian Authority taxes was a rounding error.


A Not So Timeless GOP Tradition

During every election cycle, there are particular presidential cattle-call events such as the Iowa Straw Poll and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference that draw out GOP presidential candidates. This year appears to be a turning point for these once respected traditions. At the Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC), GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson walked away with the straw poll win and finishing behind him was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) finished with just 4 percent despite being considered serious contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. While Ben Carson’s victory in the straw poll is positive for his campaign, the larger take away was that serious GOP presidential candidates did not see the value in participating. For a candidate such as Jeb Bush, who already has a solid financial base and a recognizable name, there is much to be lost by investing political capital into a straw poll. Jeb Bush and 2008 GOP Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee have already said that they would not participate in the upcoming Iowa straw poll. Thus, even if Ben Carson also wins the Iowa straw poll, it’s still very unlikely that his name will be on the ballot come election day. Sorry Ben.