On March 9, 2016 CNN hosted yet another Republican debate which witnessed the candidates outdueling each other in who is in support of Israel and is ready to embrace their agenda. Pandering to Israeli supporters is a full time job for politicians in the U.S., even more so during the presidential elections every four years where candidates fall over each other to show who supports Israel’s future plans more. Merriam Webster dictionary defines pandering: “to do or provide what someone wants or demands even though it is not proper, good, or reasonable,” which would be exactly the case when it comes to Israel.
The debate witnessed a pandering fest on Israel’s behalf. At one point in the debate, Senator Cruz attacked Trump for being neutral on the Palestine-Israel conflict. Salem Radio’s Hugh Hewitt immediately jumped on the opportunity to get the pandering underway by asking Mr. Trump if he was “sort of a neutral guy” on the Palestine-Israel issue. TRUMP’s response is indicative of the shameless cajoling taking place: “First of all, there’s nobody on this stage that’s more pro-Israel than I am. OK. There’s nobody. I am pro-Israel… I was the Grand marshal, not so long ago, of the Israeli Day Parade down 5th avenue. I’ve made massive contributions to Israel. I have a lot of — I have tremendous love for Israel. I happen to have a son-in-law and a daughter that are Jewish, OK? And two grandchildren that are Jewish.”
Could Trump say that he is pro-African Americans, Latinos, Chinese or Muslims in the U.S. or is it just a treatment reserved for Israel and its supporters? Trump’s response was not good enough for Cruz, Rubio and Kasich, who launched into a sickening barrage of pandering on top of insults heaped onto the Palestinians. In the corridors of pro-Israel presidential politics, expressing “neutrality” is tantamount to supporting terrorism, which was exactly the framing that was pushed forth in the responses of Cruz, Rubio and Kasich.
CRUZ’s incoherent contradiction is so clear yet blinding in the middle of pandering competition since the call is for a “president who understands the national security interest” but failing to recognize that a foreign country like Israel has undermined the U.S. efforts more than once. Cruz was not content with going-to-bat for Israel but went a step further by offering President el-Sisi of Egypt, “as an example,” of a leader that the U.S. “ought to be standing with.” Here, in Cruz’s statement, we have the ultimate pandering for Israel where we not only stand with Netanyahu’s dead-end and extreme rightwing government but embrace the new bloody dictator in Egypt.
Rubio and Kasich were just as offensive in pandering as Cruz and Trump were but don’t tell this to a Republican leadership that is still dancing to Israeli political tunes when it comes to foreign policy. The invasion of Iraq and the ongoing attempt at demonizing Palestinians has AIPAC’s and the Neo-Conservatives’ fingerprints all over it and politicians are pandering to the interests of a foreign state to fund their campaigns and sell the country for cheap.
The crafty pandering season always culminates with a must appearance at Israel’s citadel in the U.S., the annual AIPAC’s Policy Conference, to pander to an audience that is ready to provide funding for the upcoming election cycle. AIPAC’s annual gathering is the super bowl of political pandering and is second to none on the spectrum of participants seeking the official pro-Israel stamp before the election.
The March 20-22, 2016 promoted by AIPAC as “the largest gathering of America’s pro-Israel community” which includes a focus on groundbreaking Israeli innovations, keynote speeches (by American and Israeli leaders), inspiring moments on stage and intimate educational sessions. More critically, the delegates to the Policy Conference experience the full scale of pro-Israel activism. The conference is a must stop for every presidential, senate, congressional and governorship office seeker, which witnesses regularly an absurd level of pandering to the interests of a foreign government.
On AIPAC’s official website boast that “more than two-thirds of Congress, 3,600 students from more than 630 campuses” and “283 Student Government Presidents from all 50 states” will be attending this annual politically induced pandering fest. All the presidential candidates have been invited and so far both Trump and Clinton are confirmed but I do expect all the Republican candidates to punch their time-card when the conference opens. Not that they need to be up-to-date on Israel any more than they are already, rather to qualify for more funding and possibly more staffers for the campaign.
Kasich statement at the debate gives a clue as to the depth of the problem of seeing U.S. foreign policy through Israeli lens: “I don’t believe there is any long-term permanent peace solution. And I think pursuing that is the wrong thing to do. I believe that every day that we can bring stability in that region by supporting the Israelis by making sure they have the weapons and the security that they need with our 100% backing is the way to proceed in the Middle East in regards to Israel.” The key takeaway from the debate and the upcoming conference is that the U.S. political process is an occupied Israeli zone and AIPAC has been able to set the policy agenda for what is to be done in the region. For those who are holding hope that a newly elected U.S. president will make a dent in Palestinian rights should be admitted permanently to a mental-ward. Absent a fundamental shift in public opinion and a robust grassroots movement that can change the political rules of the game, the newly elected officials will continue to pander non-stop to Israeli supporters so as to win and keep their seats in future elections.