House vote against Palestinian statehood actually showed that Israel lobby is losing its grip

Israel/Palestine
on 21 Comments

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed a resolution, H.Res.1765, “condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state.” At first glance, this vote appears to be yet another in a long string of resolutions shoring up unconditional Congressional support for Israeli occupation and apartheid. In reality, however, it demonstrates more a weakening—rather than a strengthening—of support for Israel on Capitol Hill at present.

“How does House passage of another anti-Palestinian resolution exhibit a slackening of Congressional support for Israel?” you might rightfully ask. Allow me to explain the paradox.

As are most “pro-Israel” resolutions, H.Res.1765 was brought to a vote under a procedure known as “suspension of the rules.” This procedure, which is supposed to be reserved for non-controversial resolutions such as the naming of a post office, prohibits the resolution from being amended and limits debate on it. In exchange for these restrictions, the resolution must get at least a 2/3 vote to pass rather than a simple majority.

However, unlike most “pro-Israel” resolutions, which often are not voted on for months after being introduced in order to give the Israel lobby time to marshal an overwhelming number of co-sponsors, H.Res.1765 was pushed through quickly with the co-sponsorship of only 53 Representatives.

In fact, the resolution was done in such a helter-skelter fashion that it was put on the calendar for a vote late Tuesday night while Rep. Howard Berman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was still drafting it. Most Congressional offices did not even see the text of the resolution until a few hours prior to the vote. Many Congressional offices were reportedly infuriated that such an important foreign policy declaration was being treated in such an inconsiderate manner.

The ability of the Israel lobby to pass a resolution before the text of it is even officially made public undoubtedly reflects its still-considerable power. However, the way in which the resolution was debated and voted upon demonstrates that all is not well in the fairy tale world of Israel’s supporters on Capitol Hill.

Berman, who managed the debate on the House floor for the Democrats, appeared flustered and befuddled as he looked repeatedly and anxiously around the chamber for Representatives to appear magically to speak on behalf of the resolution. In the end, Berman mustered only himself and three other Jewish Representatives—Gary Ackerman, Eliot Engel, and Shelley Berkley—to offer full-throated support for the resolution.

The racism and paternalism of these Representatives’ statements make clear why so few of their colleagues wanted to associate themselves with this resolution. Berman patently knows what is best for Palestinians: “The Palestinian people don’t want a bunch of declarations of statehood.” And if Palestinians continue seeking the statehood that they don’t even really want, Berman reminded them that “This body [Congress] has been very generous in its support of their worthy efforts to build institutions and the economy in the West Bank. In fact, I believe that we are the most generous nation in the world in that regard. So I think our friends should understand: If they persist in pursuing a unilateralist path, inevitably, and however regrettably, there will be consequences for U.S-Palestinian relations.”

Without irony, Ackerman affirmed that “The only way to peace is negotiating in good faith and making the hard choices that it demands. Israel has shown time and again that it is ready.” He termed Palestinians’ objections to Israel colonizing their land as “overwrought.”

Engel called it “preposterous” to establish a Palestinian state based on the requirements of UN Security Council Resolution 242. At least he told the truth: “Everyone knows that Israel would never and could never agree with it.”

Last, but not least, Berkley excoriated Palestinians as if she were a teacher and they were students lollygagging in the hall after the bell rings. Palestinians must “return immediately to negotiations,” she thundered. Because “While Israel has a strong country and a good education system, a vibrant economy, a national identity, a cultural identity and a strong democracy, the Palestinians, because of their poor leadership, have absolutely none of those.”

Berman managed to trot out two more Democrats—Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee and, I kid you not, the non-voting delegate of American Samoa Eni Faleomavaega—to make half-hearted statements of support. In her ponderous remarks, Jackson-Lee repeatedly advocated a “two-party state” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Faleomavaega must not have received the memo since he believes that “Palestine should be given as an independent and sovereign state.”

Republicans only eked out two speakers in support of the resolution, one of whom—Rep. Ted Poe—wondered aloud, “Is this [Palestinian state] going to be a sovereign state within the sovereign State of Israel?” Huh? Is this really the best that Israel’s advocates can do these days?

By contrast, Rep. Lois Capps did a masterful job of deconstructing the intent of the resolution. After rising “in very reluctant support” of what she termed “yet another one-sided resolution,” Capps decried the resolution for failing to mention “Israel’s expansion of settlements.” She noted that “Resolutions, like the one we are considering today, are clearly done for domestic political consumption much more than for having any positive impact on the conflict. We should not be ignorant of the fact that this Chamber’s pattern of passing resolutions that are one-sided can, indeed, undermine our credibility to be serious brokers for peace.”

Having been put in his place by Capps, Berman called for a voice vote rather than a recorded vote. Fewer than ten Representatives then on the floor voted by “unanimous consent” to adopt the resolution, giving the illusion that the entire House gave its imprimatur to it.

It is common for only a few Representatives to be on the floor when a unanimous consent vote is taken; however, it is highly unusual for the Israel lobby not to ask for a recorded vote so that its supporters can be rewarded and opponents can be punished. In the case of H.Res.1765, Berman clearly feared that a recorded vote would have led to an embarrassing outcome: more Representatives agreeing with Capps’ assessment and voting to express their displeasure at the resolution.

Growing unease on Capitol Hill over these “one-sided resolutions” is attributable to several factors: Israel’s deliberate humiliation of President Obama on settlements; recognition that Israeli and U.S. interests are not one and the same; and a hard-to-define yet palpable Israel fatigue.

Driving and reinforcing this change of sentiment on Capitol Hill is an increasingly effective grassroots movement demanding a change in U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. A few hours after breaking the news about the vote on H.Res.1765, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation collected nearly 9,000 signatures on a petition opposing the resolution that was delivered to Berman prior to the vote. At least a half a dozen national organizations, and many more local ones, put out similar alerts.

Several Congressional offices marveled at this efficient outpouring of coordinated opposition and said yesterday that they were receiving many calls against H.Res.1765. While the Israel lobby retains enormous power and influence, the tides are beginning to turn. Join this growing movement today!

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 325 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. He is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.

21 Responses

  1. Oscar
    December 16, 2010, 5:03 pm

    Josh, great stuff. “Israel fatigue” captures the sentiment precisely. We have an actually unemployment rate of approximately 27%, and the dollar is on the verge of collapsing dangerously, and yet Berman focuses his effort on ramming through yet another resolution that damages America’s credibility abroad.

    “Honest broker?” Not with the usual suspects Berman, Ackerman, Engel, and Berkley pushing this heinous piece of garbage through.

    Is it any wonder that they just recorded the lowest rating of Congress ever since they took the survey? Just 9% approve of the job Congress is doing. With Berman and his Israel-first cohorts prioritizing Likudnik concerns over the debate over extending the Bush tax cuts, is it any wonder that constituents are wondering whether our Congress is more interested in doing the work of the Israelis rather than the American people?

    • Psychopathic god
      December 16, 2010, 6:17 pm

      Ilean Ros-Lehtinen has been named chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. On Dec. 1, 2010, that Committee convened to hear testimony from William Burns and Stuart Levey on “Iran Sanctions.” In her opening remarks, Ros-Lehtinen said, “History repeats itself.”

      It does indeed.

      In the course of their meeting, Howard Berman, Ros-Lehtinen, Gary Ackerman, Ed Royce, Stuart Levey, etc. discussed the progress of their AIPAC-driven agenda to starve and dispossess Iran and Iranians of their sovereign rights to their own government, their own financial and economic relationships, their rights to trade with other states in the world community.

      A very small expenditure of critical listening and thinking applied to Ros-Lehtinen’s comments reveals her Israel-first bias, and her — as well as the rest of that committee and of WINEP-anointed Stuart Levey — jaw-dropping failure to recognize the extent to which the activities that group is carrying out against Iran, for the sake of Israel and Israel’s continued oppression of Palestinians, is hurting the American people.

      In November, the American people were motivated by a panic induced by rising unemployment, issues swirling around energy, and soaring national debt. The election of a Republican majority that resulted from that panic eventuated Ros-Lehtinen’s acquisition of the chair of the foreign affairs committee.

      In her comments in the hearing, Ros Lehtinen emphasized that US was working very hard to cripple Iran’s energy industry, an achievement in which Ros-Lehtinen and the rest of the group derived a great deal of satisfaction. Further, Ros-Lehtinen listed the states that, based on her ideological bias, were failing to cooperate with US demands to strangle Iran but were instead continuing and even expanding trade with Iran. Those states include Russia, China, Brazil, Turkey, and Armenia.

      According to an entry in the Nov. 24, 2010 CIA Factbook, Israel carries a debt burden of 77% of its GDP (most of which debt is borrowed from US); additional economic information from the CIA Factbook about Israel is as follows:

      Israel population: 7 million* GDP purch power $207 billion

      In order to cement America’s special relationship with that one state, Ros-Lehtinen, her fellow committee members and Stuart Levey are actively engaged in jeopardizing American relationships, with all their potential for trade, cultural exchange, and future development with:

      Russia population: 139 million GDP purch power $2.1 trillion
      China population: 1.33 billion GDP purch power 8.8 trillion
      Brazil population: 201 million GDP purch power 2.01 trillion
      Turkey population: 77.8 million GDP purch power 880 billion
      Armenia population: 3 million GDP purch power 16.25 billion

      plus Iran:

      Iran population: 76.9 million GDP purch power $826 billion

      For a total of 1.797 billion men, women, and children, with total purchasing power GDP of $14.79 trillion.

      Look at that up close:
      In exchange for sustaining a ‘special relationship’ with

      Israel, pop. 7 million, GDP ppp $207 billion, 77% of it borrowed,

      the US House Foreign Affairs Committee and Stuart Levey are actively working to jeopardize US relationships with five of the world’s up-and-coming economies with a

      combined population of 1.797 billion people,

      and combined GDP ppp of $14.79 trillion.

      Is it GOP logic or skewed ideology or the goal of enhancement of Israel’s oil opportunities that induces the House Foreign Affairs committee to believe that constraining the flow of energy to and from a major energy resource state is a wise and prudent plan for America’s future?

      Why is the international community allowing Israel to get away with assassinating civilians, dispossessing Palestinians, waging wars of aggression?

      Why are Americans allowing persons who appear to have Israel’s interests, but not American interests, at heart, permitted to hold seats of power to determine the future prosperity of the American people?

      • MRW
        December 16, 2010, 10:07 pm

        PG,

        Your population/GDP analysis is an interesting point. You ought to expand on this, and ask Phil to print it.

      • yonira
        December 16, 2010, 11:57 pm

        According to an entry in the Nov. 24, 2010 CIA Factbook, Israel carries a debt burden of 77% of its GDP (most of which debt is borrowed from US); additional economic information from the CIA Factbook about Israel is as follows:

        According to the CIA Factbook, This entry records the cumulative total of all government borrowings less repayments that are denominated in a country’s home currency. Public debt should not be confused with external debt, which reflects the foreign currency liabilities of both the private and public sector and must be financed out of foreign exchange earnings.

        How does the information given above lead you to assume that ‘most’ of this debt is borrowed from the US?

        You are a dishonest anti-America firster PG.

      • Citizen
        December 17, 2010, 2:24 am

        Israel usually posts sizable trade deficits, which are covered by large transfer payments from abroad and by foreign loans. Roughly half of the government’s external debt is owed to the US*, its major source of economic and military aid. The global economic downturn affected Israel’s economy primarily through reduced demand for Israel’s exports in the United States and EU, Israel’s top trading partners. Exports account for about 45% of the country’s GDP. link to cia.gov

        *US loans to Israel are actually grants as they are never repaid. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid in US history. There are no conditions to these direct annual grants. The US borrows from other countries, especially from China, to make these grants to Israel. Israel collects interest on these grants. The US debt grows by the day like Topsy; it’s in the multiple trillions now, and effectively is turning generations of Americans into indentured servants.

  2. William Burns
    December 16, 2010, 5:49 pm

    I wouldn’t get my hopes up here. The next Congress is going to be even more pro-Aipac than this one.

  3. Avi
    December 16, 2010, 5:49 pm

    In fact, I believe that we are the most generous nation in the world in that regard. So I think our friends should understand: If they persist in pursuing a unilateralist path, inevitably, and however regrettably, there will be consequences for U.S-Palestinian relations.”

    For the deadpan delivery, Berman wins the Snake Oil Salesman Award of the day.

  4. Jeffrey Blankfort
    December 16, 2010, 6:17 pm

    Josh’s comments are welcome and the efforts of the Committee to End the Occupation to mobilize opposition to this resolution are to be applauded, although it should be noted that there have been a number of pro-Israel resolutions in the past that have been approved the House by unanimous consent so that in itself is not an indication of an impending sea change.

    Had Capps been serious in her objections to the resolution, she would have asked for a roll-call vote, as would have other House members who opposed it, but that would have put her or any member of Congress who did so squarely in AIPAC’s cross hairs since it clearly preferred a “unanimous” vote on what they obviously consider to be a critical issue.

    On the positive side, I think other than the known Israel-Firsters such as Berman, a number of the members of Congress may be coming increasingly uncomfortable with Israel’s in your face belligerence coupled with the news that 26 former leaders of EU states have sent a strong seven page letter to the EU condemning Israel’s violations of international law and backing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders while not recognizing any illegal adjustments to those borders that Israel has arbitrarily imposed.

    In addition, with little time left and Congress left with a heavy agenda, I also suspect that a number of members of Congress resent the fact that Israel’s agents, not just AIPAC, but Berman, Engel, Berkeley, Ackerman et al, had no hesitation in inserting Israel’s demands at the top of the House agenda.

    It is still distressing that not only did Capps not call for a roll call vote but that none of the handful of House members who have voted against pro-Israel resolutions in the past make an effort to do so either.

    At some point in time this may change. In the meantime, those in districts represented by “liberal” Democrats need to publicly demand to know from “their representatives” if they agree with the resolution and to make public the results of their inquiry.

  5. Shingo
    December 16, 2010, 6:30 pm

    Superb post Josh.

    I don’t share your optimism per se. If this is passed in the Senate, it does tie Obama’s hands, but it is another step towards the growing irrelevance of the US on the international arena, which has to be a good thing.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    December 16, 2010, 8:04 pm

    RE: “Berkley excoriated Palestinians as if she were a teacher and they were students lollygagging in the hall after the bell rings…” – Josh Reubner
    MY SNARK: Shelley Berkley is Sheldon* Adelson’s personal congressional lapdog!
    * or “Shelly”, as R. Silverstein likes to call him
    FROM WIKIPEDIA:

    (excerpts) Sheldon Gary Adelson (born August 6, 1933) is an American billionaire businessman. Adelson is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., the parent company of Venetian Macao Limited which operates The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center…
    …According to the New Yorker, Adelson is “fiercely opposed to a two-state solution” for Israel and Palestine, which former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert supports, as a “betrayal of principle.” Adelson opposed the 2007 Annapolis Peace Conference.[4] Adelson has been a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has since retaken that office and proposed a demilitarized Palestinian state with limited sovereignty.[22]
    The New Yorker article also described how Shelley Berkley, a Nevada Democratic Party congresswoman who had worked for Adelson in the nineties as vice-president of legal and governmental affairs, quoted Adelson as saying that “old Democrats were with the union and he wanted to break the back of the union, consequently he had to break the back of the Democrats.” The Boston Globe also noted that Adelson has “waged some bitter anti-union battles in Las Vegas”.[4][6] Congresswoman Berkley also claimed in the New Yorker article that Adelson “seeks to dominate politics and public policy through the raw power of money.”…

    ENTIRE WIKI ARTICLE – link to en.wikipedia.org
    ALSO SEE – SHELDON ADELSON: ‘CRAZY JEWISH BILLIONAIRE’, by Richard Silverstein, 06/25/10
    LINK – link to richardsilverstein.com

  7. DICKERSON3870
    December 16, 2010, 8:15 pm

    RE: “Berkley excoriated Palestinian…Because “While Israel has a strong country and a good education system…” – Josh Reubner
    FROM URI AVNERY, 12/02/10:

    …Thanks to the massive support of the Zionist leadership, the “national-religious” camp grew in Israel at a dizzying pace…
    …There are now three religious educational systems – the national-religious, the “independent” one of the Orthodox, and “el-Hama’ayan (“to the source”) of Shas. All three are financed by the state at least 100%, if not much more. The differences between them are small, compared to their similarities. All teach their pupils the history of the Jewish people only (based, of course, on the religious myths), nothing about the history of the world, of other peoples, not to mention other religions. The Koran and the New Testament are the kernel of evil and not to be touched.
    The typical alumni of these systems know that the Jews are the chosen (and vastly superior) people, that all Goyim are vicious anti-Semites, that God promised us this country and that no one else has a right to one square inch of its land. The natural conclusion is that the “foreigners” (meaning the Arabs, who have been living here for 13 centuries at least) must be expelled – unless this would endanger the Jews.
    From this point of view, there is no longer any difference between the Orthodox and the national-religious, between Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Seeing the “youth of the hills”, who terrorize Arabs in the occupied territories, on screen, one cannot distinguish among them anymore – not by their dress, not by their body language, not by their slogans…

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to counterpunch.org

  8. kalithea
    December 16, 2010, 9:24 pm

    I find this optimism rather inflated. I do have a good idea as to how to get a message across to these idiots in Congress.

    Someone should print this Resolution on toilet paper and put rolls of it in all the bathrooms of Congress, this way, the Zionist members of Congress who weren’t present and everyone else can also share in the value of this session.

  9. Ian
    December 16, 2010, 9:35 pm

    AS Berman and his colleagues who pushed through this resolution are acting on behalf of a foreign power they are in breach of their official Oath of Office. How do we get them sanctioned?!

  10. Potsherd2
    December 16, 2010, 9:52 pm

    According to your explanation, if suspending the rules requires a 2/3 vote to pass the resolution, and there was no roll call vote, there was no 2/3 vote. Does this not mean that the resolution didn’t pass?

  11. sherbrsi
    December 16, 2010, 10:52 pm

    Waning enthusiasm for automatically rubber-stamping Israel’s latest agenda in the American Congress hardly qualifies as a sign of the Israeli lobby losing its grip. In front of the repeated position of the US administrations up till the present affirming that there must be two-states, the question to be asked is why the US Congress failed to unanimously in favour of an initiative that falls right within stated American policy. More importantly, even if the US is not interested in affirming or supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state as it claims, there is still no reason for it to bar (or conclusively condemn) any such effort towards Palestinian statehood. This was a purely Zionist driven resolution with a predictable Israel-first result. Far from being an optimistic outlook, it has shown yet again that the Congress is strictly Israel-occupied territory.

    • Citizen
      December 17, 2010, 2:42 am

      And nothing will change with the new Republican membeship. The signal is absolutely clear, that is, the appointment of Ros-Lehtinen, a notorious ideological hawk, to chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I cannot think of anything that might change this status quo except a “best intentions gone astray” scenario
      caused by an air attack on Iran coupled with the continued decline of the US economy and dollar, and the ever bloating Pentagon budget. This will happen before there is ever any effective reform of our political campaign funding system which got a boost from the SCOTUS ruling giving corporte entities the human civil right of pouring endless anonymous dollars into their favorite human candidates TV ads.

  12. Citizen
    December 17, 2010, 7:44 am

    AIPAC’s network has been on the move, giving the fresh faces in the US Congress their obligatory Israel First lesson. link to jpost.com

  13. Citizen
    December 17, 2010, 8:12 am

    If AIPAC is losing its grip then why hasn’t the AIPACgate case revealed to the American people that Wikileaks of our classified documents is nothing compared to the regular AIPAC custom of giving the Israel Embassy our classifed information with the regular approval of top US leaders? link to mycatbirdseat.com

  14. Citizen
    December 17, 2010, 8:27 am

    After his appointment as Chairman of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, California’s representative Howard Berman told The Forward, “Even before I was a Democrat, I was a Zionist.” This is the man, one of the Zionist lobby’s most influential stooges in Congress, who introduced subject House Resolution 1734 which gives President Obama his new orders.

    Thoroughly disingenuous, the resolution, which was drafted by AIPAC and some think is an indication of panic on its part, was approved unanimously by the House of Representatives on 15 December.

  15. piotr
    December 18, 2010, 10:14 am

    I like the sentiment to add Armenia to sanctioned countries (besides Turkey, Brasil etc.

    Armenia should be punished. For starters, they claim that they ALSO had a Holocaust. Next, they are not friendly to Israel, they do not show understanding that expropration of the land holdings of Armenian patriarch in Jerusalem is a GOOD thing given 3000 years of Jewish connections to the place while Armenians do not quite make 2000 years (1700?) Third, some halachic authorities suspect that Armenian are Amelek, more precisely, Haman the Amelek was actually an Armenian. Fourth, due to hostility of our pet, Azebaijan, to Armenia and Turkish cooperation with Azeris, landlocked Armenia would be like Gaza Strip if not for the trade with Iran. And they should be like Gaza Strip, given the Amelek connection!

    Sanctioning Russia makes most sense, of course. Basically, if Russia can be goaded to deliver their best surface-to-ship missiles to Iran, the conflict with Iran is over, at least, military option will be on the table only as Iranian option to shoot down our fleet in the Gulf, and to close tanker traffic untill we say “sorry, we are vewy sowwy”. Allegedly, there is no defence against those supersonic missile with larger range than the Gulf is wide.

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