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Instead of Kvetching About the 'Israel Lobby', Let's Support the State Department When It Does Something Right

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Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, December 28, 2006

The State Department, in a "rare public rebuke," criticized Israeli government plans to build a new settlement in the West Bank, the New York Times reports.

"We are aware of reports about the Maskiot settlement," said a State Department spokesperson. "The establishment of a new settlement or the expansion of an existing settlement would violate Israel's obligations under the road map."

"The U.S. calls on Israel to meet its road map obligations and avoid taking steps that could be viewed as pre-determining the outcome of final-status negotiations," the spokesperson said.

It's not every day I get to wave my "Go State Department!" banner. Why, just yesterday I was criticizing them for their support of the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia.

But when even Jimmy Carter says "It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine, to suggest that Israel comply with international law or to speak in defense of justice or human rights for Palestinians," when the State Department does something right, we ought to ask Members of Congress to speak up.

Memo to Carter: if you want Members of Congress to do something, advising them that it would be "almost politically suicidal" might not be the most politically strategic way to go about it. [If I'm the 'Israel Lobby,' I'm delighted when I see stuff like this. I clip it from the newspaper and include it in my next fundraising appeal.]

How about a different approach: baby steps. Let's not start by, say, asking Members of Congress to use the word "apartheid" when discussing Israeli policies in the West Bank. Instead, let's start by asking them to speak up in support of the State Department when it does something right. How much chutzpah would that take? Is the 'Israel Lobby' going to take down Members of Congress for supporting the State Department? I don't think so. Rep. Dennis Kucinich called for an immediate ceasefire this summer when Israel was bombing Lebanon and he just got reelected with 66% of the vote.

If you agree with this strategy, pile in. Ask your Representatives in Congress to support the State Department's call for Israel not to build new settlements in the West Bank.