(photo credit: )
With less than 100 days until the congressional elections, Republican dreams of
taking control of both the House and Senate are giving nightmares not only to
Democrats but also to those who want to see the Israelis and Palestinians make
As the GOP tries to out-Israel the Democrats by taking an
increasingly hard line, Rep.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida lawmaker
who could become the next chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) if
Republicans win in November, is leading the charge by essentially proposing
shutting down the peace process.
That was her reaction to last week’s
State Department announcement it was upgrading the Palestinian Authority’s
Washington office – officially the PLO mission – to a “general delegation” and
allowing it to fly the Palestinian flag, a move the State Department spokesman
Despite charges by some critics, the upgrade does not
bestow “any diplomatic privileges or immunities,” the spokesman said. The
Palestinians already have similar status in Europe, Canada and several Latin
The move was cleared with the Israeli Embassy in
Washington and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem, which
approved the decision, but that was apparently irrelevant to
She quickly issued a press release declaring, “Instead of
giving more undeserved gifts to the PLO, it’s time for us to kick the PLO out of
the US once and for all, and move our embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, where it
“The unrepentant, unchanged PLO deserves no US concessions”
such as flying “the so-called ‘Palestinian flag,’” she said.
POSITIONS her well to the right of Netanyahu, not exactly known for his
dovishness, as well as the majority of Israelis and American Jews but in line
with the notorious bingo baron Irving Moskowitz, who has poured millions into
highly controversial housing for Jews in Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem
and other provocative projects.
Moskowitz, who rejects any peace with the
Palestinians, is a top Ros-Lehtinen contributor, according to CampaignMoney.com.
He and his wife donated more than $20,000 to her campaigns between 2006 and
2009, according the Federal Election Commission.
This year’s figures are
not yet available.
There’s no question that if she had her way and tossed
out the PLO – which, like the Palestinian Authority, is headed by Mahmoud Abbas
and is recognized by Israel – and moved the embassy, whatever there is of the
peace process would be destroyed. The Palestinians would be certain to walk out
and would have the support of many countries.
Ros-Lehtinen is not just
another uninformed freshman backbencher who can get away with such rhetoric; she
is the ranking Republican on HFAC and, if her party wins control of the House,
would replace the highly respected and thoughtful Rep. Howard Berman
(D-California) as chair of the panel that authorizes all foreign aid and is
responsible for oversight and legislation related to foreign policy.
Cuban-born Ros-Lehtinen, 58, is the senior Republican woman in the House and
first Hispanic woman elected to Congress.
She has close relations to the
Jewish community and often speaks of her Jewish roots; her maternal grandparents
were Sephardi Jews from Turkey, although her mother converted to Catholicism and
she is listed as Episcopalian.
She is considered a strong supporter of
Israel, but from the right, as her latest statement demonstrates, and she seems
to be moving farther to the right of people like Netanyahu and George W. Bush,
and closer to rejectionists like Moskowitz – a dangerous and irresponsible
She is smart enough – PhD in higher education – to know that
throwing the Palestinian mission out of the US and moving the American Embassy
would scuttle any hopes of reviving the peace process. Both George W. Bush and
Barack Obama repeatedly authorized keeping the Palestinian office open and
delaying the embassy move in their efforts to foster peace.
I can’t see
how she thinks such statements are helping Israel, which she calls our
“indispensable democratic ally.”
Does she agree with Moskowitz that
negotiations with the Palestinians are “a slide toward concessions, surrender
and Israeli suicide?” She could have rightly criticized the timing of the
administration’s decision to upgrade the mission. It is premature so long as
Abbas keeps producing excuses to stay away from the negotiating table and
anti-Israel incitement in the PA persists. The new status was explained as an
incentive, but it should have been held back and used as a reward after Abbas
stops playing hard to get. Concessions seem only to whet his appetite for
Ros-Lehtinen has a safe seat and is a prolific fund-raiser, so
there is no excuse for a senior leader of the Foreign Affairs Committee to
advocate policies certain to sabotage a peace process that successive American
and Israeli governments of right and left have pursued since before she came to
Congress. That is not responsible leadership.
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