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Top Dems imply they’d pressure Israel to end the occupation, but none will even commit to moving the embassy back to Tel Aviv

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Last month, the progressive Jewish group IfNotNow officially became a tax-exempt organization legally permitted to lobby politicians. Since then, IfNotNow activists have been confronting Democratic candidates on the campaign trail and asking them about the occupation of Palestine.

Elizabeth Warren: On July 8, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was questioned by a pair of activists at a town hall event in New Hampshire. University of Michigan student Becca Lubow told her, ““Hi, we’re American Jews, we really love the way you are fighting corruption. We’d really love it if you’d also pushed the Israeli government to end occupation.”

“Yes. So I’m there!,” Warren responded. Her campaign has released no further details on how she plans to end the occupation.

Pete Buttigieg: On July 12, the South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was also approached in New Hampshire. “All my life, politicians have talked about a two-state solution for Israel, but don’t address the ongoing military occupation,” Erin Sandler told him, “Yes or no, are you willing to condemn the occupation?” Buttigieg responded:

The occupation has to end. (Applause) And again, the militarization..even people from, you know, even associated with the Israeli right have to confront..like Sharon [former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] towards the end of his life recognized that this state of affairs is unsustainable. The pathway to peace has to include Israelis and Palestinians living side by side with self determination. And that is the right answer for our own security interest in a stable Middle East as well as for an Israeli future that is Jewish and democratic. And for the future of the Palestinian people. There is, I think, frankly a healthier discussion happening among the American Jewish community today than there has been in some time and frankly a healthier discussion in the American Jewish community than there is in the American Congress right now. What we are starting to see is the awareness in the same way that you can be pro-America without that meaning you’ve got to support our president, you can care about Israel’s future and believe in the U.S. relationship and alliance with Israel without being on board with right-wing policies by the Netanyahu government which is now walking away from peace in a way that I think will harm the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, and in the long run the American people. So, I believe as the most important ally that Israel has, we need to do what you do when you have a friend who’s doing something you think is harmful. Put your arm around your friend and try to guide them into a better place. (Applause)

Joe Biden: That same day former Vice President Joe Biden was asked about the occupation by IfNotNow fellow Elias Newman:

Newman: Hi Joe, my name is Elias.

Biden: Elias, I don’t care what your name is. I don’t have time to answer an essay question. Walk out here with me.

Newman: Ok, I’ll be short. I’ll be short. Okay, so Joe I’m an American Jew who is very concerned about what Netanyahu’s government is doing to Palestinians currently.

Biden: There’s no answer but a two-state solution.

Newman: I’m wondering if you think the occupation is a human rights crisis and if you’ll pressure Israel when you’re president.

Biden: The answer is, I think the settlements are unnecessary, number one….So, here’s the deal…the only answer is a two-state solution, number one. Number two, the Palestinians have to step up to be prepared to stop the hate. So, it’s a two-way street.

Newman: Do you believe that occupation is a human rights crisis, Joe?

Biden: I think occupation is a real problem, a significant problem.

Newman: Will you pressure Israel to end the occupation?

Biden: The answer is…you know anything about my record?

Newman: Of course.

Biden: You know I have.

The next day Biden was confronted by IfNotNow activist Sarah Kate Feferman, who asked him about more specifics regarding what he’d do to pressure Israel and pointed out that his previously cited record on the issue left a lot to be desired.

“We spoke out against their occupation in our administration,” responded Biden, “but they are an ally. They are an ally and the fact of the matter is, they’re entitled to have Jewish state in the Middle East that’s free and secure. They are responding, they are over-responding to what’s happened.”

Beto O’Rourke: This past weekend, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke was also asked about the occupation by an IfNotNow activist named Aviva and asked if he’d commit to putting direct pressure on the Israeli government to stop it. O’Rourke gave a fairly lengthy answer in which he highlighted the need for a two-solution, but didn’t actually mention the occupation once. “I will make sure that we vigorously pursue that two-state solution, get there,” he said at one point, “But I just want to acknowledge that I understand the challenges we have with leadership on both sides right now.”

When pressed for specific details on how he’d pressure Israel on the issue, O’Rourke responded:

Yeah, I think the tough, but honest answer and one that hopefully includes some humility that’s been missing from U.S. foreign policy is that we cannot impose that solution on anyone. We can do our best. We can assist both sides in whatever way that we can make the difference. But ultimately that’s going to have to be a decision of the Israeli and the Palestinian people, which we will support to the nth degree in whatever way that we can facilitate it or help to make it happen but understand that we cannot impose or force that to happen. I will do that. So I just want to be honest with you. I don’t know that any one person can make that happen. But we’ll do everything we can to be helpful so that it could happen.

The only candidate questioned who seemingly didn’t indicate that the occupation is a problem worth pressuring the Israeli government over was New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. When asked if the occupation was a human rights crisis by Becca Lubow, Booker replied, “You’re not going to get me to address that question as you want and I know that that’s the question you’ve been asking every presidential candidate, but I’m working on this issue probably more than any other foreign policy issue.” When pressed on the subject further, Booker told Lubow: “If that’s your issue, I would understand if you want to support someone else.”

Warren, Buttigieg, Biden, and O’Rourke all indicated that the occupation was a problem that had to be stopped, yet none of them provided any examples regarding how they’d go about pressuring the Israeli government to do that. Beyond the lack of specifics, there’s additional cause for concern due to a subject they were recently all asked about.

Thanks to the website Axios we now know that none of the Democratic presidential candidates will confirm that they will move the U.S. Embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv. When Trump moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 2017, the act was condemned by Democrats and praised the Netanyahu government that they frequently criticize. However, not one of them said they’d move it back.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders refused to comment on the issue. Warren, California Senator Kamala Harris, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Buttigieg told Axios, “I don’t know that we’d gain much by moving it to Tel Aviv” last month and O’Rourke’s campaign directed the site to previous comments he had made on the issue: “The decision to move it was unnecessarily provocative but now that it has been made, I don’t know if there’s a lot of sense in reversing it.”

Biden, Booker, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar all gave more detailed answers, but none them proposed moving the embassy’s location.

You can read the candidate’s complete answers at Axios and you can follow IfNotNow’s campaign questions on their Twitter page.

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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14 Responses

  1. LiberatePalestine on July 16, 2019, 12:29 am

    → “Yes. So I’m there!,” Warren responded.

    What the hell does that mean? More and more I find that I cannot understand what people say in my native language.

    Whatever «So I’m there» may technically mean (if anything), the real meaning is «Get lost. Just like every other candidate, I’m committed to the Zionist cause.»

    → All my life, politicians have talked about a two-state solution for Israel, but don’t address the ongoing military occupation,” Erin Sandler told him, “Yes or no, are you willing to condemn the occupation?”

    Wait a minute. We first need to be clear on what «the occupation» is. I maintain that all of Palestine (not to mention much of the Golan) is under Zionist occupation. Some people (quite possibly including Sandler herself) restrict the occupied area to those parts of Palestine that fell under Zionist occupation in 1967. Others might define «the occupation» in some other way.

    → The occupation has to end. (Applause)

    Wait a minute there, too. First, Buttigieg did not answer yes or no, as Sandler requested. Second, don’t applaud until you know which end Buttigieg has in mind.

    → Biden: Elias, I don’t care what your name is. I don’t have time to answer an essay question.

    Shockingly rude from someone who is soliciting votes. Newman was also rude (he should not have presumed to use first names), but Biden was far worse.

    → O’Rourke gave a fairly lengthy answer in which he highlighted the need for a two-solution, but didn’t actually mention the occupation once.

    Again, don’t applaud. Any proposed «two-state solution» needs to include borders, at least approximate ones. If one «state» would be a set of postage-stamp-sized bantustans under Zionist military control, the proposal is bullshit.

    → Booker told Lubow: “If that’s your issue, I would understand if you want to support someone else.”

    Booker lacked the courage of his convictions (if any). Rather than just answering the question and standing by his position, he just told Lubow that he didn’t want her vote. I certainly won’t be found participating in the sham of electoral «democracy» under corporate capitalism, but if I did I would cheerfully and honestly answer questions about my political views.

    → “I don’t know that we’d gain much by moving it to Tel Aviv” … “The decision to move it was unnecessarily provocative but now that it has been made, I don’t know if there’s a lot of sense in reversing it.”

    Those answers are actually reasonable. Even an anti-Zionist might reasonably say that moving the embassy would be a waste of money. My position: leave the embassy where it is but close it until it can be reopened as the embassy to a single Palestinian state for all of Palestine’s people.

  2. wondering jew on July 16, 2019, 2:16 am

    The embassy will not be moved back to Tel Aviv. That’s a bridge too far. What for? The problem with the move is symbolic and the fact that many Palestinians in Gaza were killed that day because of the symbolism. They won’t be brought back to life by moving the embassy back to tel Aviv.

    Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak were very close to negotiating a peace treaty with the Palestinians, but a large majority of Israelis are against the parameters of such an agreement. If someone says, we know what an agreement would look like and we need to figure out how to pressure a Likud leader into agreeing to such an agreement that would be the “step forward”. In fact given the fact that the Israeli public opposes this agreement there is a genuine problem here and one that cannot be fudged. No one will step forward and say, that the contours of an agreement are clear and the majority of Israeli Jews oppose it and we need to figure out how to pressure them into changing their minds or succumbing. it’s easier to say, Bibi is to blame.

    • eljay on July 16, 2019, 8:05 am

      || wondering jew: The embassy will not be moved back to Tel Aviv. That’s a bridge too far. What for? The problem with the move is symbolic and the fact that many Palestinians in Gaza were killed that day because of the symbolism. They won’t be brought back to life by moving the embassy back to tel Aviv. … ||

      In other words: We (Zionists) stole Jerusalem, it’s ours now, there’s no need to give it back.

      Figures.

    • Misterioso on July 16, 2019, 10:04 am

      @wondering jew

      “Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak were very close to negotiating a peace treaty with the Palestinians,…”

      Nonsense:

      Regarding the much touted 2000 Camp David Summit, working in tandem, Barak and Clinton tried to shove a very bad deal down Arafat’s throat. It could only be rejected. Suffice to quote Shlomo Ben-Ami, then “Israel’s” foreign minister and lead negotiator at Camp David: “Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well.” (National Public Radio, 14 February 2006.)

      The “offer” made in 2008 by then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert was never seen as serious because it lacked cabinet approval, he was under indictment for corruption with only a few weeks left in office, had only a 6% favorable rating, and therefore, couldn’t have closed the deal, even if the Palestinians had accepted it. (Olmert was imprisoned.)

      For the record:
      The Likud Party Platform:
      a. “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”
      b. “Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem”
      c. “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”
      d. “…. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”

      • Mayhem on July 16, 2019, 9:32 pm

        @Misterioso, a very bad deal for the Palestinians is one where they don’t get 100% of what they want. They need to realise they have lost the 100 years war and move on from their pipe dream of destroying Israel.

      • Talkback on July 17, 2019, 8:45 am

        Mayhem: “@Misterioso, a very bad deal for the Palestinians is one where they don’t get 100% of what they want.”

        Mayhem, a very bad deal for the Jews is one where they don’t get 100% of what they want. See how easy it is to use hollow phrases?

        Mayhem: “They need to realise they have lost the 100 years war and move on from their pipe dream of destroying Israel.”

        It was the colonizers who waged war and has destroyed Palestine as much as they could. And the time is running out for Apartheid and settler colonialism.

      • Mayhem on July 24, 2019, 8:27 pm

        @Talkback, the Jews didn’t get 100% of what they were promised when one considers historic Palestine. Jordan comprises 78% of the territory of Palestine under the League of Nations 1922 Mandate for Palestine – and Jews were denied the right to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in any part of that area of Palestine under article 25 of the Mandate.

    • oldgeezer on July 16, 2019, 12:45 pm

      @wj

      Violating international law and breaking covenant with the UNSC is ok. Correcting that and getting back in line with that is a step too far. Zionist supremacy at it’s best for sure.

      “No one will step forward and say, that the contours of an agreement are clear and the majority of Israeli Jews oppose it and we need to figure out how to pressure them into changing their minds or succumbing. ”

      Millions have. Why do you think BDS exists and is growing? Left wing zionists like to blame bibi because that diverts attention from the fact that it’s the zionist project itself which is racist, criminal and to blame.

  3. FightTribalism on July 16, 2019, 1:15 pm

    IfNotNow does great work. I just sent some money their way.

    • Mayhem on July 16, 2019, 9:47 pm

      “Amid the recent eviction of a Palestinian family from the neighborhood of Silwan, East Jerusalem, the radical left-wing organization IfNotNow pleaded with their community through Twitter to “…stand against the Judaization of East Jerusalem.”

      Ignoring the particular history and presence of the Jewish people in that region, IfNotNow subconsciously invoked a term used by some of the vilest antisemitic figures and texts in modern history.”

      Refer IfNotNow Proves Its Anti-Israel Bona Fides

      Congratulations @FightTribalism for supporting a mob of kapos who would sell their own kind down the river and who put their political machinations above their own identity.

      Ask IfNotNow how they plan to end the occupation. Their tactics have no substance because they do not drive forward any process that could lead to a resolution. They are loud mouths who are full of themselves.

      • Talkback on July 17, 2019, 8:52 am

        Well Mayhem, That happens if you qoute such an idiotic source as the algemeiner.

        “Judaization of the Galilee (Hebrew: ייהוד הגליל Yehud ha-Galil; Arabic: تهويد الجليل, tahweed al-jalīl) is a regional project and policy of the Israeli government and associated private organizations which is intended to increase Jewish population and communities in the Galilee, a region within Israel which has an Arab majority.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaization_of_the_Galilee

        Which means that Israel uses the rhetoric of Adolf Hitler according to the algemeiner.

        Mayhem: “Ask IfNotNow how they plan to end the occupation. Their tactics have no substance because they do not drive forward any process that could lead to a resolution. They are loud mouths who are full of themselves.”

        Sounds like Israel, too.

      • Mooser on July 17, 2019, 12:55 pm

        “would sell their own kind down the river”

        “Their own kind?” Do you mean that genetically, or socially, or religiously or politically?

        Not quite getting what “their own kind” is supposed to mean.

        And BTW, Mayhem, what plans, what possible coercion, can you apply to keep Jews from “selling their own kind down the river”?

      • eljay on July 17, 2019, 1:44 pm

        || Mayhem: … Ignoring the particular history and presence of the Jewish people in that region … ||

        No-one ignores the fact that prior to the advent of Zionism:
        – some of the people living in geographic Palestine were people who had embraced the religion-based identity of Jewish; while
        – most of the people living in geographic Palestine were people who had not embraced the religion-based identity of Jewish.

        This un-ignored fact did not give to people all over the world – citizens of homelands all over the world – who had also embraced the religion-based identity of Jewish the right to:
        – steal, occupy and colonize geographic Palestine;
        – establish in it a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”; and
        – do decades-worth (and counting) of evil unto others.

  4. seancbreathnach on July 16, 2019, 6:14 pm

    The only way the brutal occupation of the Palestinians will end, is for the US to end its unconditional support for the racist Israeli State. Israel will never do the right thing by the Palestinians while the US continues its support. The elephant in the room, of course is AIPAC.

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