Mark Kirk's recent legislation seeking to cut the number of recognized Palestinian refugees has brought new attention to the senator's track record of being one of Israel's strongest supporters in Congress (no small feat). But it is also well known that Sen. Kirk suffered a very serious stroke in January and has not made a public appearance since. I find it odd that Kirk would be sponsoring legislation during the early stages of his recovery process from a massive stroke. It simply does not make sense that in the course of months-long rehabilitation he would be focusing on the money Americans could save by slashing the funds paid out to UNRWA. Not logical. Look at Gabrielle Gifford's legislation during recovery. Projects for the people of Illinois? Yes. Our troops? Sure. Legislating the number of Palestinian refugees? I don't get it.
To understand where this legislation is coming from, it's helpful to look at who's running the shop in Kirk's absence. A quick review of some of Kirk's key DC staff reveals that this bill shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
The most immediately relevant staffer would seem to be foreign policy assistant Igor Khrestin. Khrestin was a researcher at the American Enterprise Institue (AEI) and has written about Israel and Iran for Daniel Pipes's Middle East Quarterly, which would seem to be relevant as Pipes has been outspoken on the legislation. Khrestin has also written for the Kristol's Weekly Standard, NRO and the National Interest.
Kirk's Deputy Chief of Staff Richard Goldberg also has deep ties to the lobby and is clearly a partisan looking to use his position to help Israel.
There's this call for a Hasbara Fellowships AIPAC After Hours Events:
AIPAC After Hours Event
Sunday, March 4th 2012 8-11 PM
The Warehouse Theater @ The Passenger
1021 7th street, NW (between New York Ave & L street)
200 Young Jewish Professionals & Hasbara Fellowships alumni attended the Hasbara AIPAC After Hours cocktail event. Richard Goldberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Kirk (R-IL) and Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve spoke about the Arab Spring & implications for Israel & a casual "no-holds" bar.
But more importantly this speech he gave to the Ida Crown Jewish Academy last year: Richard Goldberg Addresses Class of 2011
Graduates, when I think about how much has changed in the last 10 years, I am struck more by what has stayed the same.
In June 2001, we sat where you sit now. For us, our childhood memories were of a wall coming down, Scud missiles falling on Israel and a decade of peace and economic boon. On graduation day, as I stood here to deliver the Senior Class address, none of us could have imagined how our world would change in just three short months.
But for you, September 11th defined your childhood – your adolescence spent knowing only an America at war.
At the same time, when it comes to Israel, it’s amazing to think how much has remained the same.
Ten years ago, we watched the explosion of the second Intifida – we prayed for the safety of three Israeli soldiers kidnapped on the Lebanese border – and our parents trembled as we prepared to set out for Israel or college campuses to face unknown danger and persecution.
Today, we prepare for a political tsunami in September with the potential to spur a third Intifada – we pray for the safety of an Israeli soldier kidnapped in Gaza – and I’m certain your parents are feeling the same trepidation that ours felt before them.
This morning, I returned from a week-long Jewish Federation mission to Israel led by one of the greatest champions of the U.S.-Israel relationship in Washington, Senator Mark Kirk.
Our focus was on the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel – and the range of threats now facing the Jewish state.
After meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, IDF Chief of Staff Gantz and many others, I can tell you one thing for certain – Israel needs you now more than ever.
Al tikra banaich ela bonaich. Do not call them your children, call them your builders. Take with you what you learned at the Academy – and together, build a life filled with Torah, chesed, yiddishkeit and an undying commitment to the safety and security of the State of Israel. You are the builders now – and, together, you will succeed.