They’re Baaack!

After a long recess, during which time health care was the topic de jour (for almost a month of “jours”), Members of Congress have returned to Washington determined to, once again, stir the Middle East pot.

Balmy Over Goldstone

A major concern was the United Nations Human Rights Council-sponsored Goldstone Report which found both Israel and Hamas likely guilty of war crimes in the month long Gaza War, and recommended that their findings be turned over to the International Criminal Court–”unless the parties themselves launch an investigation into their behavior and appropriate action.

All of this was too much for AIPAC, and some Members of Congress, and so a flood of invective, some bordering on hysteria, was forthcoming.

Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY) accused the noted jurist Goldstone of inhabiting a “self righteous fantasy-land.” Representatives Elliot Engel (D-NY) and Shelley Berkley (D-NV) called the report “biased against Israel from the very beginning”. Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) was even less kind, “categorically” rejecting the report noting that it was issued by the Human Rights Council, which he termed “despot controlled”. Accelerating the rhetoric further, Representative Todd Tiahart (R-KS) claimed the Human Rights Council was “dominated by anti-democratic and anti-Semitic nations”, while Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) castigated the entire United Nations, which she said is “where the inmates run the asylum”.

To make their position clear, AIPAC actually authored an anti-Goldstone letter which they circulated in the Senate seeking endorsement (there were 32 signatures). The letter calls on the Obama Administration to “work very hard (!) to block any punitive action against Israel”.

For its part, the White House caused a near uproar when last week it was less than clear about its preferred course of action regarding the Goldstone Report. The first reaction came from UN Ambassador Susan Rice who denounced the report as “unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable”. Then, in an off the record conversation with Jewish leaders, a White House official was reported to have said that the Administration would “quickly” bring the report to its “natural conclusion.” The next day the White House issued a denial of the story claiming that the official “misspoke”. Finally the Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, Michael Posner, commenting on Goldstone at the Geneva meeting of the Human Rights Council, at first echoed UN Ambassador Rice’s assessment, but then urged the Israelis to “investigate and address allegations in the report thoroughly through credible domestic processes”.

Messing With Jerusalem

Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), who, at times, verges on becoming his very own “obstacle to peace”, is at it again. Burton chose the very day the President Obama was addressing the United Nations to introduce House Resolution 3412, the “Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act of 2009”. In explaining his reasons for submitting the bill, the Congressman noted that not only had the Obama White House maintained the tradition set by past presidents by signing a “waiver” to delay moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but in doing so, “failed to declare its commitment to make the move in the future”. And so, to force the President’s hand, Burton wants Congress to pass H.R. 3412 to “mandate” that “the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem is the policy of the US Government”.

Now Here’s an “Interesting” Observation

Thanks to my friends at Americans for Peace Now for highlighting the unusual comments made last week by Louie Gohmert (R-TX). The remarks were so unusual they deserve to be quoted in full:

“President Obama has indicated before that, basically, Israel needs to not be occupying land that was acquired during war. Yesterday, to the U.N. he said that a big part of the goal is this: a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people. Well, he has also indicated this Nation, the United States, will not be hypocritical any longer around the world. Terrible news this is for California–”all of California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, most of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, because it means you’re about to be given back to Mexico, territory that we acquired in 1848 as a result of a war.”

Apparently, the Congressman was so delighted by his brilliant insight he repeated it again in another floor speech later in the day.

Now on the Sane Side

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), never tiring of her efforts to outlaw the use of cluster bombs, has written to President Obama urging him to “conduct a thorough review of US policy on cluster munitions”. In her letter, Feinstein notes the threat that this cruel weapon “poses to civilian populations”. Her letter was co-signed by 16 Senators.