Pelosi’s problem: Progressives pan Israel peace deals - analysis

The Bowman-Bush logic would have seen the US oppose Egypt's peace deal with Israel because it didn't solve the Palestinian issue. But Nancy Pelosi has not let this thinking dent her support.

 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visits the Knesset (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visits the Knesset
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Color this ironic.

Last week Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas, head of an Islamist party whose sympathy and empathy for the Palestinians is not suspect – even as he promotes a decidedly domestic Arab-Israeli political agenda – admitted that he made a mistake in 2020 voting against the Abraham Accords in the Knesset.

“It was a mistake not to vote for the agreements, and I see positively the agreements and the relations that are developing” between Israel and the Arab Abraham Accord states, he said, during a video lecture to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He added that his party will now look for a way where it “can contribute to the strengthening of the ties.”

An ocean away, New York Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman wrote to constituents on Tuesday that he will withdraw his co-sponsorship of the Israel Relations Normalization Act, and vote “no” when it comes up for a vote.

That act, which passed the House Foreign Relations Committee in October but has not yet reached the House floor, seeks to strengthen and expand the accords and would require the State Department to take certain actions to promote the normalization of relations between Israel and states in the region.

Jamaal Bowman speaks at a watch party as he takes an early lead in the democratic primary for New York's 16th Congressional District in Yonkers, New York, US, June 23, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON)Jamaal Bowman speaks at a watch party as he takes an early lead in the democratic primary for New York's 16th Congressional District in Yonkers, New York, US, June 23, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON)

“While I originally co-sponsored the Israel Relations Normalization Act seeing it as an opportunity to make progress toward justice and healing in the Middle East, as well as a path to a two-state solution, my experience on the ground and further conversation with constituents led me to see that it is not the right step to fulfill these goals,” he wrote in the letter published by Jewish Insider.

The “experience on the ground” Bowman referred to was a J Street-sponsored trip to Israel in November that he took part in.

“I became aware that the deals that this bill supports and seeks to pursue have included deals at odds with human rights and safety for everyday people in the region, including the recognition of Morocco’s control over Western Sahara, and conversations about arms sales with the United Arab Emirates,” he wrote. “In the end, it is my estimation that these actions will only escalate violence in the Middle East and make already vulnerable communities less safe.”

As part of the Abraham Accords, the Trump administration agreed to sell F-35s to the UAE and recognize Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

In Bowman’s words, “this agreement to normalize relations unhelpfully isolates Palestine and Western Sahara when what we need is a process that engages them.”

The hard-left US publication Jewish Currents, where Peter Beinart is an editor-at-large, wrote that Bowman’s U-turn “points toward a growing split in the Democratic Party over the question of the Abraham Accords.”

The bill, introduced in April 2021, had 329 co-sponsors, including Bowman. According to the magazine, 55 members of the 97-member Congressional Progressive Caucus co-sponsored the bill, while 42 – including the other five members of the group called the “Squad” that Bowman is identified with – did not. One of those members, Cori Bush from Missouri, told Jewish Currents she is opposing the bill because it “incentivizes neighboring nations to isolate the Palestinian people and ignore Israel’s apartheid rule.”

Another member of the CPC who did not co-sponsor the bill is California’s Barbara Lee, currently in Israel as part of a seven-person delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Two other members of the caucus in Pelosi’s delegation, Ro Kahana (California) and Andy Kim (New Jersey), did co-sponsor the bill.

Bowman’s about-face on the bill, and that about half of the CPC – a caucus which accounts for nearly 45% of all Democrats in Congress – would not co-sponsor a bill staunchly supporting peace deals between Israel and Arab states says much about the growing fault line inside the party, and even inside the Progressive Caucus, over Israel.

IF BOWMAN and Bush’s logic would have held sway in 1979, US legislators would not have applauded Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s peace deal with Israel because it did not solve the Palestinian issue, and included the sale of billions of dollars of arms to Egypt, a country not exactly a paragon of democracy.

The same could be said of Israel’s 1992 peace deal with Jordan. That, too, according to the Bowman-Bush logic, “isolated” the Palestinians, and as a result should not have been welcomed.

Pelosi, however, has not let this type of thinking – one represented by a very vocal part of her party – dent her support of Israel.

During remarks in the Knesset on Wednesday, she declared the establishment of Israel to be “the greatest political achievement of the 20th century,” and that US support for Israel’s security is “ironclad.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also made clear that the Bowman-Bush logic is not impacting the Biden Administration’s view of the Abraham Accords.

“This week’s visit by @IsraeliPM [Naftali Bennett] to Bahrain was another important step towards a better tomorrow for the Middle East,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “We welcome the momentous visit and look forward to building new partnerships together.”

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides retweeted Blinken, adding “As @IsraeliPM Bennett says, this is a beautiful thing.”

What those tweets show is that the Biden administration – which in the beginning was not enthusiastic about the Abraham Accords because it was a Trump achievement – is now fully on board. But Bowman and some of his cohorts on the far-left of the Democratic Party are not, making them – oddly – progressives against peace.

Happily, they are still in the minority.