New House Will Be Less Terrible on Israel/Palestine

I couldn't think of anything that isn't horrific about what is likely to happen on Tuesday until I saw this in the Forward. A GOP House might make it easier for President Obama to make progress toward his goal of peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.

Citing the sanctions bill as an example, New York Democrat Gary Ackerman, argued that Israel's best bet for addressing any concerns about Obama's policy would be for Democrats to retain power. "I'm not saying that if the Republicans take the House it would be doomsday for Israel, but if they want positive influence on the White House, that's us," said Ackerman, who chairs the subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Ackerman and other Jewish Democrats point to the forceful criticisms they conveyed to the White House when they thought that Obama was leaning too hard on Israel.

"If you need the president, you need us as chairs of the committees," Ackerman said as he listed what he called the "first-class team" of Jewish pro-Israel Democrats who chair key House committees: Berman at Foreign Affairs, Barney Frank at Financial Services, Henry Waxman at the Energy and Commerce committee, Sander Levin at Ways and Means, and Ackerman himself in his role as head of the Middle East subcommittee. "We are all pro-Israel and we all have major, major, major influence in the executive branch."

Forget Ackerman's overwrought "doomsday for Israel" phrase. The fact is that liberal Democrats have been the most determined and effective supporters of the Israeli-Palestinian status quo for decades. The Republicans use more extreme rhetoric but the action (or forced inaction) comes from liberal Democrats.

With very few exceptions, Democratic liberals who are antiwar doves everywhere else in the world are the most zealous hawks on Israel, the most ardent defenders of atrocities in Gaza, the most enraged opponents of Judge Richard Goldstone. Some are hawks out of conviction. More do it for campaign dollars.

Regardless of why, it is Democrats not Republicans who rush to the floor every time a possible peace initiative raises its head and shoots it down. Republicans are godawful too but defending the occupation hardly ranks on their radar screens although Muslim-bashing does (along with gay and immigrant bashing). Also, Republicans understand that no matter what they do on Israel, there is far less money in it for them and even fewer votes.

The same applies to Iran. The most effective and tenacious Iran hawks are Democrats. The case for sanctions or war (not negotiation) will be weakened considerably when it is Ileana Ros Lehtinen and Dan Burton making the case, not Howard Berman and a host of other liberals).

Bottom line: the Republican surge could free Obama from the handcuffs that Gary Ackerman, Anthony Weiner, and the rest of the "Israel, right or wrong" crowd puts on him. The only question is: will he put them back on himself?