Paul Ryan’s foreign policy: Spinning straw into gold

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 20 Comments
paul ryan
Paul Ryan, the GOP’s presumptive vice-presidential candidate. (Photo: Chicago Tribune)

This article originally appeared in IPS‘s lobelog.com

Republican vice presidential designate Paul Ryan is in Las Vegas today to meet with casino magnate and would-be political kingmaker Sheldon Adelson. He will also hold a public rally and private fundraising event at the Adelson-owned Venetian. Laura Myers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted, “The Sands Corp. chief is a generous GOP donor who already has contributed $10 million to a political action committee, Restore Our Future, supporting Romney’s campaign.” The advocacy group, ProgressNow Nevada, has announced it will be holding a counter-rally.

In making his obeisance to the moneyman upon whom Mitt Romney is staking his political fortune (Romney’s paltry net worth of $250 million is only a tad over 10% of Adelson’s nearly $24.5 billion), Ryan will no doubt try to assure Adelson that they are on the same page about Israel, or rather, Adelson’s own view of what is good for Israel.

Ryan’s congressional website outlines his position on Israel under the header of National Security:

America has no better friend in the Middle East than the nation of Israel. Not only is Israel the region’s only fully functioning democracy, with a government based on popular consent and the rule of law, but it is also a valuable ally against Islamic extremism and terrorism. Our shared democratic values and national interests are supported by maintaining a close friendship with Israel. Americans also have a strong interest in Israel achieving a lasting peace with its neighbors – including the Palestinians.

Reasonable people – including those who live in the Middle East – differ about how the conflict between Israel and Palestine can be resolved. However, I believe at least one thing is clear: we cannot advocate for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that jeopardizes Israel’s safety or legitimizes terrorism. Hamas, which is one of the two major Palestinian political factions, is an Islamist terrorist group whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence, and calls Osama Bin Laden a ‘martyr.’

While I do not have a role in the diplomatic discussions over the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America should not pressure Israel to agree to a peace deal that is unlikely to result in peace and security. Real peace will require Palestinians to recognize that Israel has a right to exist, even as it will require two states for the two peoples. Introduced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on May 13, 2011, H. Res. 268 reaffirms the United States’ commitment to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through direct negotiations. I co-sponsored this legislation, and it passed the House on July 7, 2011 by a vote of 407-13. I was also a cosponsor of H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, also introduced by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, which passed the House on May 9, 2012 by a vote of 411-2. H.R. 4133 states that it is United States policy to reaffirm the commitment to Israel’s security as a state, provide Israel with the military capabilities to defend itself, expand military and civilian cooperation, assist in a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and encourage Israel’s neighbors to recognize its right to exist.

It should be noted that H.R. 268 had 356 co-sponsors and H.R. 4133 had 304. Legislation deemed to be “pro-Israel” (for better or for worse) almost invariably attracts bipartisan sponsorship and support, and passes the House by an overwhelming majority. As Haviv Rettig Gur writes in the Times of Israel:

…Ryan, like Romney himself, has little experience or visible record in dealing with foreign policy issues. He is a signatory to letters and bills presented by fellow members of Congress, especially from the Republican side of the aisle, which deal with Afghanistan, Pakistan, the UN, Israel, and other issues, but none of these was initiated by Ryan.

So, there is nothing particularly remarkable about Ryan’s voting record on foreign policy issues. Touting his record as one of a pro-Israel advocate, Ryan is grasping at straw, hoping to spin it into gold. It is noteworthy, however, that Ryan doesn’t go out of his way to draw pubic attention to the numerous House appropriations bills he’s voted in favor of that have included generous aid for Israel.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren recently met with Ryan and praised him for being “very supportive” of Israel. The Republican Jewish Coalition gleefully seized upon Oren’s approval of Ryan, depicting it as an enthusiastic endorsement:

…we are pleased that by picking Paul Ryan, Gov. Romney has opted for a running mate who has a record Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, has already praised as ‘very supportive’ of the Jewish state. Paul Ryan has earned appreciation from pro-Israel voters by rejecting the Obama administration’s tactic of pressuring Israel to make concessions its leaders believe will undermine its security – and he rightly insists that a rejection of violence and incitement on the Palestinian side is an essential precondition for a meaningful peace agreement.

Right-wing Jewish news sites and blogs are cherry-picking and parsing Ryan’s pro-Israel platitudes and voting record. Ryan’s mention on his website of “reasonable people” differing about how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being ignored, as is Ryan’s reference to “two states for the two peoples.” Nevertheless, a criticism of Romney’s pro-Israel position published back in June, in the very conservative and orthodox-oriented Jewish Press, is equally applicable to Ryan’s position:

The Romney campaign literature states that ‘with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mitt’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s,’ but continues to state that ‘as president, Mitt will reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations by the Oslo Accords is unacceptable.’

Essentially, it means that Romney endorses Oslo, but with a better behaved Palestinian partner. And although his campaign threatens that ‘the United States will reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas,’ it still envisions a reality in which a more compliant Palestinian Authority will be rewarded with a state.

In other words, any “two-state solution” is unacceptable to right wing Jews. This includes Adelson, who told Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt that “the two-state solution is a stepping stone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people” and that he sees no distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Also being politely overlooked is Ryan’s silence and evident lack of enthusiasm about Israel or the U.S. attacking Iran. Ryan has, like the overwhelming majority of members of Congress, consistently voted in favor of increasingly stringent Iran sanctions. Nonetheless, Matt Yglesias of The American Prospect points out that in a foreign policy speech to the Alexander Hamilton Society on June 2, while Ryan “called for America to ‘speak boldly for those whose voices are denied by the jackbooted thugs of the tired tyrants of Syria and Iran,’ he did so without embracing neoconservative demands for military action.” In the same speech, Ryan mentioned Israel only once: “What we can do is affirm our commitment to democracy in the region by standing in solidarity with our longstanding allies in Israel and our new partners in Iraq.”

In a joint interview on CBS’s Sixty Minutes this past Sunday, the subject of Israel never came up while Iran came up once in passing. Romney described Ryan to Bob Schieffer — who had been gently blowing puffball questions at the political newlyweds — as a “…policy guy. People know him as a policy guy. That’s one of the reasons he has such respect on both sides of the aisle.” Romney also tried to attach the “policy guy” description to himself: “…believe it or not. I love policy. I love solving tough problems. And we face real challenges around the world, places like Syria, Egypt, Iran.”

Neither Romney nor Ryan offered any clue as to how either of these two policy guys would deal with the “challenges” Romney alluded to during the interview. In response, Schieffer quickly returned the feel-good interview to chatter about Ryan’s role in the upcoming campaign.

Haviv Rettig Gur offers what is probably the most clear-eyed assessment about the real impact of Middle East foreign policy questions on the 2012 presidential election:

While Israel’s media is currently in the grip of a government leak-fueled obsession with the question of whether Israel is about to strike Iran — and whether the US can be relied upon to thwart an Iranian bomb if Israel holds its fire — even this issue, with its potential to prompt radical regional drama, isn’t figuring in the presidential campaign.

Barring significant developments, such as an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, it is likely that Israel, or any foreign policy agenda, is now tabled for the duration of the campaign. The American people are simply not listening. The Romney campaign now views foreign policy differences as a distraction from the business of hammering the president on the economy, and the Obama campaign can’t afford to get distracted from the battle to control the narrative on the country’s economic and fiscal woes.

Except when it means spinning straw into gold.

About Marsha B. Cohen

Dr. Marsha B. Cohen is a foreign policy analyst specializing in Israel and Iran.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

20 Responses

  1. gazacalling
    August 14, 2012, 3:42 pm

    Neither Romney nor Ryan offered any clue as to how either of these two policy guys would deal with the “challenges” Romney alluded to during the interview.

    That’s because they don’t have a clue.

    But it matters less now that last decade. A bankrupt nation has to look inward and solve its own problems before it goes on a neocon warpath. The days of the US blithely invading other countries has come and gone. So whoever is president matters less.

    And Obama has been a disaster anyway. Anyone see this Goyte parody? The money line: “Nobel Peace Prize winners shouldn’t have kill lists.”

    Presidential elections matter much less than the existence of sites like this on the internet. The Lobby isn’t going to die because of some election. It’s going to die first because of people like Phil Weiss, and then elections will reflect that.

    Anyway, thanks for this analysis, it’s very interesting and helpful.

  2. Abierno
    August 14, 2012, 3:53 pm

    This is the candidate who, although he attended the funeral, could not bring himself to speak out on the Oak Creek massacre – even though it happened in his district. The silence speaks for itself and informs all who listen of his bias. link to newyorker.com

  3. Woody Tanaka
    August 14, 2012, 4:19 pm

    While I do not have a role in the diplomatic discussions over the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, America should not pressure Israel to agree to a peace deal that is unlikely to result in peace and security. Real peace will require Palestinians to recognize that Israel has a right to exist, even as it will require two states for the two peoples.

    Notice that puppets like Ryan never tell us what “real peace” will require the israelis to “recognize”??

    The Romney campaign literature states that ‘with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mitt’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s,’ but continues to state that ‘as president, Mitt will reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

    How about if the “measure” is from Israel? Will he reject that???

    He will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations by the Oslo Accords is unacceptable.’

    Clearly not.

    • Hostage
      August 14, 2012, 11:37 pm

      He will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations by the Oslo Accords is unacceptable.’

      No doubt the Romney campaign cites the Oslo Accords, because the members of the Middle East Quartet are obligated to promote international recognition of the Palestinian State including possible UN membership in Phase II of the Road Map. Those are not issues designated for the Phase III final negotiations. link to avalon.law.yale.edu

      Oslo is also irrelevant. The PLO declared the establishment of the State of Palestine in November 1988. The Interim Agreement of 1995, which is the major post-Oslo agreement, specifies that neither party shall be deemed “to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights, claims or positions” (Art. 31-6). Statehood was never mentioned or enumerated as an issue designated for final status negotiations in the Oslo Accords.

      Oddly enough, the armistice lines were adopted as a provisional measure pending a final negotiated settlement in accordance with Article 40, Chapter VII of the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions 62 and 73. Phase II of the Road Map only requires “the Creation of an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders”. All in the world the PA has asked is that the 4 June 1967 borders be accepted as, wait for it, the basis for the final negotiations.

      If you can’t come up with better excuses to provide cover for a policy of apartheid than Obama and Romney, then you really shouldn’t be conducting foreign policy without some training wheels and a Chaperone.

  4. joec
    August 14, 2012, 8:55 pm

    “Hamas, which is one of the two major Palestinian political factions, is an Islamist terrorist group whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence, and calls Osama Bin Laden a ‘martyr.'”

    I didn’t even have to look at Hamas’ 1988 charter (link to thejerusalemfund.org) to confirm that never mentions Bin Laden’s 2011 death. (For the curious, it never mentions him at all, either.)

    • Fredblogs
      August 15, 2012, 1:42 pm

      Very clever. Even more clever would be to understand what the person meant, which is that those (refusing to recognize Israel and calling Bin Ladin a martyr) are characteristics of Hamas, not characteristics of the charter.

      Of course, given that you are deliberately misinterpreting the VP candidate of the party that deliberately misunderstood Obama’s speach about “you didn’t build the roads and infrastructure” as “you didn’t build your business”, it is perhaps forgivable.

      • Hostage
        August 23, 2012, 11:57 am

        Even more clever would be to understand what the person meant, which is that those (refusing to recognize Israel and calling Bin Ladin a martyr) are characteristics of Hamas, not characteristics of the charter.

        It might interest you and Ryan to know that the latest issue of the Israel Law Review features a new section called Opposing Viewpoints and that the first debate involves an exchange over the legality under international law of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

        Although none of the participants belong to Hamas, some take the view that the United States acted illegally. So there are divergent approaches to the issue on how to qualify the situation in Pakistan, how to assess the legality of US policy, membership of non-state armed groups, and the proper relationship between human rights law and IHL even among people who aren’t members of Hamas.

        The articles are available for free from the Israel Law Review/Cambridge Journals Online.
        link to journals.cambridge.org

  5. Scott
    August 14, 2012, 9:08 pm

    Great piece. I share Marsha’s (implicit) sense that Ryan isn’t an altogether spoken for total neocon. Most people from the Midwest aren’t, perhaps especially Catholics.

  6. CloakAndDagger
    August 14, 2012, 9:11 pm

    If Obama’s advisors were worth a damn, they would be telling him that Israel has already made clear that it will be supporting Romney. Romney is not going to get elected. Moreover, 70% of the jews in the US are going to vote for Obama no matter what.

    This presents him with the unique opportunity to go to the nation and make a strong case against war with Iran as well as the cessation of all current wars on Israel’s enemies, and a redirection of our depleted funds to domestic issues.

    Of course, his advisors are not going to tell him that, and Obama is too spineless to come up with that strategy himself.

    Pity.

    • Fredblogs
      August 15, 2012, 1:39 pm

      The danger of upsetting your base is not that they will vote for the other guy, it’s that they will stay home on election day. Also that they won’t write as many checks. Obama will get 70% of the Jewish vote because we tend to support liberal policies. Also because regardless of what Romney says, Obama has been good to Israel. If he gets up and says openly “we’re going to let Iran have the bomb”, it will cost him support and energize Romney’s base as well.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    August 14, 2012, 11:26 pm

    RE: “People know him [Paul Ryan] as a policy guy. That’s one of the reasons he has such respect on both sides of the aisle.” ~ Romney describing Paul Ryan to Bob Schieffer

    MY SNARK: Paul the Plummer? The “Can Do” Kid? Stop me before I . . .

    INTERESTING TO WATCH IN LIEU OF JERRY SANDUSKY
    “Escape is a childish fantasy.”
    King of Devil’s Island (Kongen av Bastøy),2010, NR, 116 minutes
    This gripping drama tells the true story of the uprising at the notorious Bastoy Boys Home correctional facility on a Norwegian island. When a new boy arrives, he inspires the inmates to rise up against the daily brutal treatment they experience.
    Director: Marius Holst
    Language: Norwegian
    Format: DVD and streaming
    Netfix listing – link to dvd.netflix.com
    Internet Movie Database – link to imdb.com
    KING OF DEVIL’S ISLAND / KONGEN AV BASTØY – official trailer with ENG SUBS [VIDEO, 02:28] – link to youtube.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      August 14, 2012, 11:47 pm

      RE: “INTERESTING TO WATCH IN LIEU OF JERRY SANDUSKY”

      SHOULD HAVE READ:
      “AN INTERESTING FILM TO WATCH IN THE WAKE OF THE JERRY SANDUSKY/PENN STATE SCANDAL”
      Language: Norwegian (English subtitles)

  8. Kathleen
    August 14, 2012, 11:57 pm

    Great chart of how much of the election pie Adelson controls over at Prof Coles site Informed Comment. Sorry unable to link

  9. sydnestel
    August 15, 2012, 12:09 am

    “Romney’s paltry net worth of $250 million is only a tad over 10% of Adelson’s nearly $24.5 billion”

    Actually, that’s a tad over 1% of Adelson’s worth. Adelson is worth 100 times what Romney is.

    So if Romney is part of the 1%, Adelson is simply another species entirely. Adelson could give $100 million to the Republican campaign – as he has threatened to do – and then do that again for the next 240 election cycles!

    Money talks. Adelson’s money commands.

    • Fredblogs
      August 15, 2012, 1:35 pm

      Actually, even if invested in government bonds, the interest would be more than enough for him to give that much for every election cycle from now on.

  10. Abuadam
    August 15, 2012, 6:29 am

    Although I long suspected, even though the MSM says it is becoming recent, that the average European American is now a minority like everyone else, I am always amazed how they always vote against their self interest and give credence to people like Romneyhood and Paul”the boy wonder”.
    Anything but to admit other than white European Americans are humans !!!!

  11. Kathleen
    August 15, 2012, 1:10 pm

    ” Legislation deemed pro Israel almost invariably attracts bipartisan sponsorship and support and passes the house with an overwhelming majority” I generally never like to say “always” and do not like it when others say “always” But on this one I think it would be accurate to say ALWAYS attracts bipartisan sponsorship and support.

  12. Kathleen
    August 15, 2012, 1:15 pm

    What I can not figure out his how Ryan and others promote him as a fiscal conservative. Nothing in his voting record would back that up. Voted for medicare increase, bank bailout, auto bailout, Bush’s pharmaceutical plan, unnecessary and immoral wars huge cost in blood and treasure, tax cuts with no revenue producing equivalency to balance. Where is this guy a fiscal conservative?

    I really do think the Ayn Rand devotee Ryan is going to get punched out hard by Catholics who actually believe in taking care of those less fortunate. This is going to be quite the battle over do you talk or walk the talk for both Ryan and Romney when it comes to their alleged religious beliefs. Get out the popcorn

  13. JLWarner
    August 23, 2012, 2:39 am

    Romney’s wealth is 1% of Adelson’s; not 10%.

  14. seanmcbride
    August 23, 2012, 9:20 am

    Sheldon Adelson is worth 100 times more than Mitt Romney? Would that be $25 billion compared to $.25 billion?

Leave a Reply