Next Week and the Future of Bipartisan Support for Israel

Feb. 24 2020

Next week, notes Shmuel Rosner, three significant events will take place. On March 1, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will hold its annual conference; the next day is Super Tuesday—when primaries are held in a number of states, possibly leaving one Democratic candidate with a lock on the nomination—and on the next, Israel will have its second do-over election. The outcome of the two elections could have serious repercussions for the U.S.-Israel alliance:

AIPAC is the epitome of bipartisan support for Israel. Yet the presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has vowed to skip it. AIPAC strongly supported moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, yet Bernie Sanders says moving it back to Tel Aviv “would be on the table” under certain circumstances. [By contrast, in 1995, an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress called for relocating the embassy to Jerusalem.] Can AIPAC forge a path for a bipartisan U.S. policy under such terms? And what would it be? A relocation of the embassy to Modi’in, about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

The larger question about bipartisanship isn’t the one about this or that leader. . . . It is the question about general public support for Israel and all that comes with it. The elected leaders usually reflect their voters’ beliefs; hence, one must wonder about these [American] voters. Do they deem Israel an ally, or a rogue [state]? Is it seen as a model, or as a pariah? Is it seen as a country deserving sympathy, or condemnation; assistance, or pressure?

Debates about Israel-related policies always have been a part of public discourse, and no one expects the two main parties to agree on all the details. However, some tenets were considered foundational to the idea of bipartisan support, and these also seem under threat. Military aid to Israel is one such topic. When Sanders says, “Aid can be conditioned on Israel taking steps to end the occupation and move toward a peace agreement,” that’s a change.

Bipartisanship is defined by basic agreement on some fundamental features of policy toward Israel. But when everything—including the embassy’s location, the [Palestinians’] “right of return,” aid, the Iran threat—is open for discussion, what is left of bipartisanship is very little: namely, the cliché that all candidates make sure to repeat about “Israel’s right to exist.” Well, thank you. You have a right to exist, too.

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Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: 2020 Election, AIPAC, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, US-Israel relations

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy