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“You Know, The United States Needs More Of This”: In The Race To The Bottom On Immigration, Walker Makes His Move

Over the weekend, Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to unveil an actual immigration plan. It wasn’t quite what reform proponents were hoping for – Trump’s vision includes mass deportations for roughly 11 million people, a Mexican-built wall, ignoring provisions of the 14th Amendment, and quite possibly deporting U.S. citizens.

If there’s a race to the bottom underway among Republicans battling for anti-immigrant voters, it was a fairly bold move. As Bloomberg Politics reported yesterday, it left one of Trump’s top rivals scrambling to tell conservatives how similar his plan is to the leading GOP candidate.

Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker said Monday his immigration plan is “very similar” to the policy blueprint released Sunday by Donald Trump which amounts to a comprehensive attack on legal and illegal immigration.

“I haven’t looked at all the details of his but the things I’ve heard are very similar to the things I’ve mentioned,” the Wisconsin governor said on Fox & Friends.

Yes, we’ve reached the curious stage of the 2016 cycle at which prominent Republicans boast about how in sync they are with Donald Trump. Last week, it was Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Yesterday, it was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R).

As viewers of last night’s show know, the degree to which Trump is actually influencing the direction of Republican politics is increasingly difficult to ignore. Sure, that’s to be expected by a White House candidate who’s dominating the race, but given Trump’s clownish reputation, it’s nevertheless striking to see the dynamic unfold before our eyes.

As for the far-right governor, as the day progressed, Walker’s approach to immigration came into sharper focus. He still doesn’t have a detailed plan, per se, but he’s offering more than just “I’m like Trump” on this key issue.

For example, Walker is now the latest national Republican candidate to oppose birthright citizenship – more on this point later today – and he’s on board with mass deportations. So how is this different from Trump? BuzzFeed noted that the Wisconsin governor is eyeing a very different model as a source for inspiration.

Walker repeated his call for a border fence between the U.S. and Mexico on Monday similar to the one separating Israel from Palestinian territories in the West Bank. […]

“I was in Israel earlier this year, they built a 500-mile fence and they have it stacked and it’s lowered terrorist attacks in that region by about 90-plus percent. We need to do the same along our border, we’ve obviously got a bigger border, about four times that, but we’re a country that should be able to hold that,” Walker said while speaking on the Des Moines Register soapbox at the Iowa State Fair.

Let’s not brush past Walker’s point of comparison too quickly. Who looks at the barriers separating Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and thinks, “You know, the United States needs more of this”?

As for the broader debate, 2012 exit polls suggest Mitt “Self-Deportation” Romney won about 27% of the Latino vote in the last presidential election. Driven by a rabid GOP base, the current crop of Republican candidates seems determined to fare considerably worse in 2016.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 18, 2015

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Immigration, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Things Could Get Complicated”: If Netanyahu Loses, Will Republicans Still Be ‘Pro-Israel’?

The Israeli election takes place tomorrow, and there is a real possibility that Benjamin Netanyahu will lose. While the election will be close and the intricate coalition system the country uses leaves lots of room for uncertainty, the final election polls showed Netanyahu’s Likud Party trailing the Labor-led Zionist Union; Netanyahu is even telling his own supporters he could be headed for defeat, which is not something one ordinarily hears from a politician on the eve of an election.

Here in the United States, that raises an interesting question. In recent years, the Republican Party has elevated “support for Israel” to a level of passion and consensus usually reserved for things such as tax cuts and opposition to abortion rights. But that happened during a string of conservative Israeli governments. If Israel is led by a Labor Party prime minister and begins to change some of its policies, will Republicans decide that “support” is more complicated than they used to think?

It may be hard to remember now, but Israel became a Republican fetish object relatively recently. At times in the past, support for Israel was seen as a liberal cause, but as the Labor Party’s long dominance of the country’s politics faded and policy toward the Palestinians hardened, Republicans became more and more devoted to the country. The real shift probably started in 2001, when Ariel Sharon took over for the last Labor prime minister, Ehud Barak. Since then, the opinions of Democrats and Republicans about Israel have diverged, and the Republican evangelical base has grown intensely interested in the country. These days, one of the first things a freshman Republican member of Congress does is book a trip to the Holy Land (lots of Democrats go, too, it should be said). Mike Huckabee leads regular tours there. Sarah Palin used to brag that she displayed an Israeli flag in her office during her brief tenure as governor of Alaska. Given the rapturous reception he got from GOP members when he came at John Boehner’s invitation to address Congress, Netanyahu could become the 2016 Republican nominee for president in a landslide, if it were possible.

But what you don’t find within the Republican Party when it comes to Israel is anything resembling a debate. As far as Republicans are concerned, Israel is just right; whatever Israel wants to do is right; and whatever Israel asks of the United States is precisely what we should do. The only question is whether you’re “supporting” the country with the proper zeal. Republicans don’t concern themselves much with the lively debates over policy within Israel, because the government is controlled by conservatives (Netanyahu’s Likud Party has ruled since 2001, with an interregnum of control by Kadima, a Likud offshoot). “Support for Israel” just means support for the current Israeli government.

But tomorrow, Republicans could learn that by the standard they’ve been using, most Israelis are insufficiently pro-Israel. And then what? What if a Labor-led government moves toward a two-state solution, or a curtailing of Jewish settlement in the West Bank? And what if those changes are enthusiastically supported by President Obama and Hillary Clinton? “Support for Israel” sounds great when the country’s prime minister and a Democratic president regard each other with barely disguised contempt, but things could get complicated.

That might actually force Republicans to think about Israel, and America’s relationship to it, with a little more nuance. They’d have to admit that when they used to say “I support Israel,” what they actually meant was that they support the Likud and its vision for Israel’s future. More broadly, they’d have to acknowledge that one can disagree with what the Israeli government does and still support the country, since that’s the position they would find themselves in. They might even realize that you can take a one-week trip to the country during which you climb Masada and go for a dip in the Sea of Galilee and still not know everything there is to know about the Middle East.

Maybe expecting Republican politicians to arrive at a complex understanding of an important foreign policy concern is a little too much to ask. But there’s always hope.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, March 16, 2015

March 17, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Netanyahu’s ‘Mr. Security’ Mirage”: If Anything, He Has Done Far More To Damage Israel’s Security Than Strengthen It

Ahead of Israel’s March 17 election, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in Washington on a mission to undermine President Obama’s Iran policy. This, his latest and greatest diplomatic affront, has starkly revealed the degree to which many here have tired of his shtick.

But what may come as a surprise is that Israelis are sick of Bibi too.

Of course, not all feel indigestion at the thought of Netanyahu being reelected next month. But polls show his favorability rating at an all-time low. Meanwhile, the cost of living for the average Israeli has become extraordinarily high — 40 percent of Israelis are unable to make ends meet — and a majority claim socio-economic and social justice issues as their top priority in this election. A majority also say that Netanyahu’s main rival, Labor’s Yitzhak Herzog, is most fit to handle this issue.

Yet, Netanyahu continues to run neck-and-neck with Herzog and his center-left “Zionist Union” alliance. The reason for this is revealed in the same polls that show voters’ distaste for Netanyahu’s handling of the economy: they still trust him most when it comes to security. With his “It’s either me or ISIS” campaign line, Netanyahu has shown that he will stop at nothing to define the election in alarmist terms. Indeed, Israelis have always voted according to this most existential of issues. Assuming they do again, it seems likely that Netanyahu will be Prime Minister for the fourth time.

But the case to be made for Netanyahu as “Mr. Security” is flimsy at best — an assessment consistently put forth by former heads of Israel’s Mossad and Shin Bet intelligence services. If anything, he has done far more to damage Israel’s security than strengthen it.

Netanyahu’s ongoing Congressional speech fiasco is only the most recent example, whereby he has weakened Israeli security on multiple fronts. In choosing to publicly challenge President Obama on his home turf, the Prime Minister has further eroded their personal relationship — a feat that seemed nearly impossible. Polls show that over two-thirds of Americans oppose the speech.

Because of Obama’s unpopularity in Israel, Netanyahu’s perceived “toughness” in standing up to the President may provide short-term political gains at home. But Netanyahu is harming bipartisan support for Israel and alienating young Americans in particular — an ever-more dangerous prospect for Israel’s future.

Even worse for Israel’s security is what Netanyahu seeks to accomplish: undermining any nuclear deal with Iran that could possibly be achieved. The likely result of his success would be a war devastating for Israel, the U.S., and the region — and one that would not prevent Tehran from ultimately getting the bomb. Iran has the technical know-how to build a nuclear weapon, yet it has so far chosen not to. An attack by the U.S. or Israel would likely convince Iranians that possession of nuclear weapons is in their best interest.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s record on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a similar disaster for Israel’s security. The ongoing occupation of the West Bank (alongside continued expansion of settlements) and Gaza is far from the only reason for the Palestinian terrorism Israel faces, but it is nonetheless a fundamental factor. Netanyahu has not offered a single initiative to end the conflict. To those proposed by others, such as the Arab Peace Initiative offering Israel full diplomatic relations with most of the Arab and Muslim world, he has never even offered a response.

Instead, Netanyahu now states that Israeli control of the West Bank must continue forever, and his government has made clear that it has no strategic vision beyond management of the status quo.

But Netanyahu has failed to even manage the status quo effectively. He has no strategy for dealing with Hamas — negotiating with them to release hundreds of prisoners one day and fighting a new war against them the next. Before last summer’s conflict, he failed to deal with the vast system of Hamas tunnels, which led to the avoidable deaths of Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. Further loss of Israeli life was largely prevented by the Iron Dome missile defense system – funded by the same administration Netanyahu continually thumbs his nose at. And his decision to massively bombard civilian areas in Gaza and its horrific consequences hurt Israel’s image abroad and provoked strong criticism from the White House and State Department.

Ultimately, nothing was gained from the war besides a temporary weakening of Hamas, who Israeli military intelligence says is “ready to go [to war] today”. In the meantime, Gaza has sunk further into misery and extremism.

That’s not all. In the immediate wake of the war in Gaza, Netanyahu’s security failures were again on full display in Jerusalem. He declined to prevent right-wing MKs from making provocative visits to the Temple Mount, leading Jordan — one of only two Arab countries with which Israel has a peace treaty — to withdraw its ambassador. Meanwhile, he allowed Israeli settlers to carry out midnight takeovers of houses in Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem, another action that helped fuel months of Palestinian rioting and “lone-wolf” terrorism. Netanyahu has blamed the latter actions on alleged incitement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but most Israelis think Netanyahu has done nothing to curb incitement from his own side.

In reality, the only thing Netanyahu has managed to secure is his own political survival. Though his resume is a desert littered with failure, he has managed to create a “Mr. Security” mirage. In a matter of weeks, we will find out if the Israeli public has finally seen through it.

 

By: Aaron Mann, Outreach and Research Consultant at Americans for Peace Now; The Blog, The Huffington Post, March 2, 2015

March 4, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Israel, Palestine | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Enemy Of Reason And Moral Judgment”: The Problem With Both “Pro-Israel” And “Anti-Israel”

In a typically thoughtful piece today, Jonathan Chait explains why he has “grown less pro-Israel over the last decade.” I want to push back on this a bit, not because I disagree with any of the particular points Chait makes, but because of the broad framing. The idea of “pro-Israel,” like its mirror “anti-Israel,” is the enemy of rational thought and debate on this topic. Unless you’re talking about whom you’re rooting for in the Olympics, talking about who’s pro-Israel and who isn’t, and to what degree, almost never helps illuminate anything. This is something I brought up a few months ago, but it has a new urgency now, because this conflict is going to cause a lot of people to reevaluate how they feel about Israel.

One of the interesting things about Chait’s post is that he mentions an emotional connection to the country, but the specifics he brings up are all practical questions, on things like the Netanyahu government’s sincerity when it says it’s committed to a two-state solution. Since we’re talking about a democracy where the government and its policies are open to change, in theory that shouldn’t bear much on one’s basic commitment to the country. But of course it does.

So let’s step back for a moment. What do we mean when we say someone is pro-Israel? At the most basic level, we mean that she believes Israel ought to exist (there was a time when this was a matter of some debate in the West, but it isn’t any longer, at least not in mainstream circles). Beyond that though, you can take varying positions on almost any particular area of disagreement and still be pro-Israel. You can think Israel ought to exist within its pre-1967 borders, or that it should hold every inch of land it took since then (and retake what it gave away), and both positions can be “pro-Israel.” You can think that West Bank settlers are heroes for holding the land God granted the Jewish people, or that they’re a bunch of bigots and thugs who make peace infinitely more difficult, and both positions can be “pro-Israel.” You can think that Netanyahu’s decision to launch this war was the only appropriate reaction to the murder of those three teenagers, or you can think that decision was a disaster, and both positions can be “pro-Israel.”

In other words, the idea means almost nothing, unless you’re using it to indicate that someone is laboring to put aside their own capacity for reason and morality in order to justify whatever their side happens to have done, either lately or decades ago. And frankly, that’s how I’ve come to think about it. When I think of someone who’s “anti-Israel,” I think of someone who apologizes for terrorism committed by Palestinians and thinks that there’s only one country in the world where human rights abuses occur; in other words, a moral idiot. And when I think of someone who’s “pro-Israel,” I’m increasingly likely to think of some Palinesque dolt who believes that the Israeli government is perfect in all things, and that that very terrorism gives Israel a pass to treat every Palestinian man, woman, and child with as much cruelty as it likes; in other words, another moral idiot.

Once you stop worrying about whether you’re pro-Israel or anti-Israel, you can judge the Israeli government’s decisions, developments within Israeli society, and other questions related to the country each on their own terms. You can also make judgments about the conflict that are freed from the necessity so many feel to continually compare the Israeli government’s actions to Hamas’ actions, or the opinions of the Israeli public to the opinions of the Palestinian public, with the only important question being which side comes out ahead. Those comparisons end up dulling your moral senses, because they encourage you to only think in relative terms.

If you’re still stuck being pro-Israel or anti-Israel, you end up asking questions like, “Which is worse: for Hamas to put rockets in a school in the hopes that Israel will bomb it and kill a bunch of kids, therefore granting Hamas a momentary PR victory; or for Israel to bomb the school anyway, knowing they’re going to kill a bunch of kids?” If you’re pro-Israel, you’ll answer that Hamas’ action is worse, while if you’re anti-Israel, you’ll answer that Israel’s action is worse. But if you’re neither, then you’ll give the only moral answer, which is: who the hell cares which is worse? They’re both wrong. Questions like that end up only being used to excuse one side’s indefensible decisions.

Believe me, I realize that it isn’t easy to get rid of the pro-Israel/anti-Israel dichotomy. I grew up in a home where Zionism was our true religion. Israel is different than other countries; no matter how much you love going to Paris, eating French food, and reading French literature, it would be weird to describe yourself as “pro-France.” That’s because it makes sense only in the context where there are other people taking the opposite position; while there are people who don’t like France, there isn’t a significant “anti-France” movement.

But you don’t have to buy into the dichotomy. And once you step outside it and stop worrying about which team you’re on, it can become easier to see things clearly.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 29, 2014

July 30, 2014 Posted by | Israel, Middle East, Palestine | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netanyahu Speech To Congress Shows America Will Buy Anything

A blistering piece of commentary by the esteemed (and leftist) Israeli political commentator, Gideon Levy, in Haaretz today is a must read for anyone who cares to see what progressives in Israel think of Netanyahu’s show today before the U.S. Congress.

Levy begins his piece with these loaded, and to my mind, honest salvos concerning Netanyahu’s speech to Congress today:

It was an address with no destination, filled with lies on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions. Only rarely is a foreign head of state invited to speak before Congress. It’s unlikely that any other has attempted to sell them such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such hypocrisy and sanctimony as Benjamin Netanyahu did.The fact that the Congress rose to its feet multiple times to applaud him says more about the ignorance of its members than the quality of their guest’s speech. An Israeli presence on the Jordan River – cheering. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel – applause. Did America’s elected representatives know that they were cheering for the death of possibility? If America loved it, we’re in big trouble.

As Levy notes, Congress today applauded some painful statements by the Israeli head of state, and this applause said much about both their ignorance on the true state of affairs in Israel as well as their willingness to remain ignorant about the true state of affairs in Israel for political gain (see: the vote of Christian conservatives and the campaign contributions of the Jewish elite).

Below is a brief look at a few of the standing ovations Netanyahu received by our representatives in Congress, and why such applause should be troubling for us as American progressives:

1. Jerusalem as Israel’s Undivided Capital – by applauding this statement by Netanyahu, our leaders essentially applauded the death of any possible peace agreement, for, as everyone knows, East Jerusalem is the proposed capital for a future Palestinian state in every iteration of negotiations that have been produced since Oslo. And yet, a standing ovation. And it bears noting: with the Arab Spring spreading throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and a declaration of Palestinian statehood on the horizon by the U.N. in September, the death of peace negotiations no longer mean what they once did: the status quo. Instead, such a death will mean major instability with unpredictable outcomes.

2. Israel is not occupying the West Bank – when Netanyahu claimed, with a straight face, that the Jewish people are not occupiers, and that the situation in “Judea and Samaria” is not an occupation, Congress roared to its feet. That the U.S. Congress could rise in boisterous applause to a known lie is chastening – Israeli leaders past, including Ariel Sharon, have admitted the obvious: that Israel is in the difficult and damaging position of occupying another people’s land.

3. Boasting on the Status of Israeli-Arabs – Netanyahu’s government has backed a series of anti-Palestinian, anti-democratic laws recently, the most notable of which forbid citizens from recognizing, in any way, The Nakba (which is the sorrowful observance Palestinians engage in as Israelis celebrate Independence Day). By applauding, our leaders, wittingly or not, gave sanction to a leader and an administration which has done much to strip non-Jewish citizens of their democratic rights.

Netanyahu’s speech today, more than anything, signaled the official death of the peace process, for none of the “terms” presented by Israel’s leader comes close to acceptable for the Palestinians.

And by standing to applaud 29 times, our leaders today gave sanction to that death. Even the White House, this evening, issued a statement saying that Netanyahu’s speech “reaffirmed the strength of U.S.-Israeli relationship.”

Here’s why what happened today matters: America has incredible leverage with regard to Israel, and has always been capable of using that leverage to talk Israel down off the pathological ledge it’s been toeing for so long due to my peoples’ existential fear of annihilation. (For good reason, I should add, but I digress.) The United States gives Israel unprecedented monetary, military and diplomatic support, all of which could easily be drawn down.

But as we saw today, the tail unfortunately wags the dog. And this wagging may end up being disastrous not only for Israel, but for American interests in the region as well, for a Netanyahu-applauded vision of Israel-Palestine is nothing more than a recipe for confrontation, for instability like we’ve never seen.

The Arab Spring has changed dynamics such that there is no going back. If Netanyahu, and America, stay on the course articulated today, this is where we may be headed:

1. A Palestinian declaration of statehood by the U.N. in September
2. Israeli & American rejection, with possible annexation of lands
3. A conflict that will not end well.

May my analysis be wrong. I hope such is the case. I fear such a case is becoming increasingly unrealistic.

By: The Troubadour, The Daily Kos, May 24, 2011

May 24, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Foreign Governments, Foreign Policy, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Middle East, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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