Rep. Eric Cantor, the second ranking House Republican and only Jewish Republican member, is leading a delegation of the right-wing brethren to Israel under the aupices of the Aipac-affiliated American Israel Education Foundation. The latter group is the vehicle that Aipac and Congress members use to organize and fund their junkets to Israel.
The Palestinian Maan News Agency has discovered that in the midst of a contentious debate between the U.S. and Israeli governments about a settlement freeze, davke this is the time Cantor chooses to take his boys to visit the West Bank settlement of Alfe Menashe:
Republican members of the US House of Representatives visited at least one illegal West Bank settlement during an event organized by pro-Israel lobbyists on Thursday, Ma’an has learned. A foreign policy associate at the…AIPAC Jerusalem office, David Kreizelman, confirmed reports that 25 lawmakers visited Alfei Menashe, an illegal settlement near Qalqiliya, while on an official trip organized by lobbyists.
“It was right outside of the Green Line, very close to the Green Line,” the AIPAC official made a point to note in a telephone interview hours after the event.
Reminds me about the joke about being a “little pregnant.” You’re either over the Green Line or you’re not. You’re either visiting a settlement or you’re in Israel. And I’ve got news for Kreizelman, Alfey Menashe is most definitely a settlement and not in Israel.
In fact, the settlement is close enough to the Green Line that the Separation Wall detours around it to incorporate it on the western side of the wall (along with several West Bank Palestinian villages. This phenomenon is a perfect example of how the Separation Wall has become an Israel land grab:
…Israel’s contentious separation barrier snakes around the area, annexing the land under it and a number of Palestinian villages into Israel. In September 2005 shortly after the wall’s construction began, the Israeli High Court ruled that its military should consider rerouting the barrier elsewhere. It did not.
Frankly, it’s astonishing that Cantor not only flouts the settlement policy of his own government but a ruling of the Supreme Court of Israel in honoring this settlement with an official visit.
To be clear, I have no problem with Eric Cantor expressing his disagreements with Obama policy toward Israel and even doing so in Israel. But for him to set himself down in the disputed Occupied Territories, in a settlement which international law says has no right to be there, and which, in a future peace agreement might not even exist, or at least not be within Israel proper–that takes balls. For him as a leader of the Republican caucus in the House to flagrantly take the side of the settlers in this fight is unpardonable.
Even more egregious is Cantor taking a cheap shot at the most likely basis for a future peace agreement, the Saudi peace initiative which calls for a return to 1967 borders:
“The realities on the ground are such that we could never see Israel return back to the ’67 lines,” Cantor added, shooting down a cornerstone of the Saudi-backed Arab Peace Initiative.
In effect, Cantor, who knows next to nothing about U.S. foreign policy and the intricacies of the Israeli-Arab conflict decides he’s going to preclude what is most likely to become the basis for a resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict. It takes, well, balls. But in a way, I’m glad he’s done this. Just as the Republicans have become the party of the angry white male, I say let ’em be the party of the angry extremist Jewish settler. Let him stand with thuggish settlers and Israeli police who throw Palestinian families out of homes they’ve occupied in Arab East Jerusalem for 55 years:
Cantor…said he was also disturbed by the Obama administration’s criticism of the eviction of two Arab families from an East Jerusalem neighborhood earlier in the week. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a joint news conference with the Jordanian foreign minister on Monday, called the evictions “deeply regrettable,” “not in keeping with Israeli obligations” and “provocative actions.”
“I’m very troubled by that, because I don’t think we in America would want another country telling us how to implement and execute our laws,” Cantor said.
That will only allow us to further marginalize them within the American Jewish community.
There is a bit of comedy in another part of this story. Aipac’s Israel office tried to deny the group was funding the trip, while the Israeli government press office was undermining the party line:
“It wasn’t AIPAC at all,” Kreizelman insisted, before clarifying that the group was at least loosely linked to the powerful lobbying organization. “It’s affiliated, but it would be incorrect to say that AIPAC funded the visit.”
Israel’s Government Press Office also told Ma’an in a forwarded statement that AIPAC was linked to the event, saying, “The trip is fully sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a supporting organization of AIPAC, America’s pro-Israel lobby.”
When Aipac talks to Palestinians it has nothing to do with junkets, but when it talks to Jews it embraces them fully. Talk about trying to have it both ways…
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.