Public Policy Polling: 41% [of Republicans polled] say they consider this to be the biggest political scandal in American history to only 43% who disagree with that sentiment. Only 10% of Democrats and 20% of independents share that feeling. Republicans think by a 74/19 margin than Benghazi is a worse political scandal than Watergate, by a 74/12 margin that it’s worse than Teapot Dome, and by a 70/20 margin that it’s worse than Iran Contra.
One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history is that 39% of them don’t actually know where it is. 10% think it’s in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess.
Here is Newt Gingrich and Sheldon Adelson‘s campaign to support Occupy Wall Street! Well, not really. Ostensibly it’s a 30-minute attack ad on Mitt Romney. Beyond needing to know that this as a production by Gingrich’s super PAC, “Winning Our Future,” this video speaks for itself.
More than anything, this is a demonstration of the degree to which the OWS anti-corporate narrative is now at the core of American political discourse.
Do any of the GOP candidates truly believe they can credibly co-opt this message? This seems like a spectacular collision between rampant hubris and profound contempt for the average American.
Josh Ruebner writes: “No Aid to Israel?” wonders a recent Facebook ad sponsored by US President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. “Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich say they would start foreign aid to Israel at zero. Reject their extreme plan now!” the ad implores, directing people to sign a petition to that effect on my.barackobama.com (“Stand against “zeroing out aid to Israel””).
After signing the petition, the caption underneath a beaming photo of the president declares that “Any plan to cut foreign aid to zero across the board is dangerous and ignorant. It’s up to us to get the word out about it. Donate now to help us spread the facts about the Romney-Perry-Gingrich plan to wipe out foreign aid to allies like Israel.”
As Salon writer Justin Elliott correctly notes, “the Obama ads are incredibly dishonest. First of all, the Republican candidates were talking about setting foreign aid at zero each year as a starting point in discussions about how much to give, not setting it at zero as a matter of policy” (“Obama’s dishonest Israel ads, Salon, 12 December 2011).
However, the Obama campaign is far from unique in employing a breathtakingly simplistic strategy of artifice and vituperation (both against opposing candidates and against Palestinians) to bolster their pro-Israel street cred in a transparent ploy to attract campaign donations and votes. US support for Israel, once a carefully nurtured bipartisan consensus, is fast degenerating in the context of the 2012 presidential election into a mud-slinging partisan contest as to which party, in the words of Mitt Romney, who leveled the accusation against Obama, is more guilty of having “thrown Israel under the bus” (“Mitt Romney accuses Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus”,” CBS News, 19 May 2011).
The Atlantic Wire provides a well-rounded briefing on Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate whose support for Newt Gingrich might not help him win the GOP nomination but “could be enough to burn down the Republican front runner in the process.”
Atlantic Wire: Adelson grew up in the working class neighborhoods outside Boston and got started in business selling toiletries to hotels. He later dropped out of college, became a mortgage broker and ran a tour business. According to this profile from The New Yorker in 2008 (which is an excellent primer on Adeleson's rise to power), he made and lost more than one fortune, but then in 1979, he started a computer trade show in Las Vegas. (Comdex, an ancient ancestor of this week's CES.) Within a decade, his success with the show led him to purchase the old Las Vegas Sands Hotel. That was when he started his climb from "merely rich" to becoming a billionaire. He built a massive convention center next door, turning the city into a huge business gathering destination, then tore down the aging casino itself and built The Venetian, a massive hotel complex with high-end shopping, restaurants, spacious rooms, indoor canals, and of course, a glittery casino that exemplified the "new" opulent Las Vegas.
It was around the time that he bought the Sands that Adelson, who grew up as a Massachusetts Democrat, had a conversion to Republicanism, after befriending William Bush, the brother of George H. W. Bush. A relative newcomer to the world of the super rich, Adelson had the same proverbial epiphany that most newly wealthy people make when they see their 1040, arguing: “Why is it fair that I should be paying a higher percentage of taxes than anyone else?” The rest is obvious history.
As Adelson gained influence in Vegas, he began to spread his reach around the globe. In 2004, he made a deal with the Chinese government to open the first American-owned casino in Macao, a move that multiplied his wealth fourteen times in the last decade. (As a demonstration of his closeness China, he allegedly helped kill a Congressional bill denouncing Beijing's 2008 Olympic bid.) He has also been a major player in Israel-American politics, donating millions to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, until abandoning the group after they supported an increase in aid to the Palestinians, who he considers an "invented people." He met with President George W. Bush in the White House to lobby against peace negotiations and worked to oust former Israeli Prime Minister (and former friend) Ehud Olmert after he declared a willingness to negotiate a two-state solution. In 2007, he opened in his own free daily newspaper in Israel that has been called a mouthpiece for current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In America, the 78-year-old billionaire has aligned himself with Gingrich who shares similar views on Israel. He was the biggest supporter of American Solutions for Winning the Future, a different PAC that Gingrich personally ran before he was a candidate, and was replaced with the "independent" Winning Our Future. Legally, Winning Our Future and the Gingrich campaign must remain separate, but this latest move only underscores how flimsy those rules are and how massive an influence super PACs are having on the primary. When essentially one person can keep an entire ad campaign alive, even after the candidate it means to support ceases to be viable, that's a discouraging fact of American politics. It's also one that won't quell any fears about the power of the 1%.
Brad Reed writes: Since this past Christmas season coincided with the final campaign push before the Iowa caucus, every Republican candidate for president worked extra hard to out-pander one another in claiming that God is supportive of his or her particular flat-tax plan.
But you have to wonder watching some of the Republican debates and press conferences if the GOP hopefuls have actually read the New Testament. Say what you will about Jesus, but he didn’t seem like the sort of guy who would support showering rich people with tax cuts, gutting social programs for the poor and middle-class, or launching multiple wars with Middle Eastern countries. Yet these are the sorts of things that his purported acolytes have been endorsing throughout the year, all the while claiming to be Jesus’ number-one fan in the whole world.
In this article we’ll tackle the five most cringe-inducing moments of the GOP primary, where candidates and their supporters have wantonly broken the Lord’s Commandments with seemingly gleeful abandon.
1. Candidates fall all over themselves to kiss the asses of rich people and trash the downtrodden.
Jesus once said that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Well, the Republicans must want to compensate for this by making rich peoples’ time on Earth as heavenly as possible through a wonderful blend of tax cuts and blatant ass-kissing.
The entire Republican economic philosophy can basically be boiled down thusly: Rich people are magical wealth-creating leprechaun fairies who sprinkle their sparkle dust over all of us worthless dirtbags to bless us with the gift of employment. But if any nasty populist ever says anything relatively nasty about rich people, they will vanish from the realm and take their magical job-creating powers with them and none of us will ever work or have food to eat ever again. [Continue reading...]
Mary Meehan writes: Voters who are weary of endless war may have no choice at the presidential level next November. This is a very large group to be denied a vote on a key issue.
A CNN/ORC poll released in November found that 68 percent of Americans opposed the war in Iraq and 63 percent are against the one in Afghanistan. Yet, we keep hearing that only hawks have a chance to be elected president.
Or, in the case of Barack Obama, reelected. Although President Obama has withdrawn U.S. troops from Iraq, the war in Afghanistan grinds on. Mr. Obama expanded the drone warfare that has killed many civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He ordered military action in Libya without even consulting Congress.
President Obama also supports war-related violations of the Bill of Rights, such as the misnamed Patriot Act and the indefinite detention — without trial — of terrorism suspects. And his administration failed to prosecute U.S. officials from the previous administration who authorized or practiced torture.
All of this makes many people think about voting for Rep. Ron Paul, the anti-war Republican congressman from Texas. Establishment political observers insist Dr. Paul has no chance to win the Republican nomination. They have been shocked, though, by recent headlines such as “Ron Paul rising in Iowa polls” and “Can Ron Paul win New Hampshire?”
BuzzFeed reports: Ron Paul — poised to finish strong in the Iowa caucuses – has begun to implement a quiet, complex plan to force a long battle with Mitt Romney for delegates to the Republican National Convention in August. His advantages: Experience, organization, and the legacy of the 2010 Tea Party revival, which convinced Republicans that anti-government figures like Paul just aren’t as weird as they’d thought.
Paul is following the roadmap set by Barack Obama’s 2008 strategy: Start early, learn the rules, and use superior organization and devoted young supporters to dominate the arcane but crucial party procedures in states your rivals are ignoring — states where caucuses and conventions that elect the delegates who will ultimately choose the Republican candidate. The plan begins in places like Minnetonka, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb where Paul has based his state headquarters, and where staffers have already begun running “mock-auses” — practice runs for Minnesota’s February 7 caucuses.
Paul’s rivals dismiss his chances. “Ron Paul’s not going to be our nominee,” Mitt Romney said flatly in December. But Paul’s organization is girding for the long haul, and while the 76-year old Texan is vanishingly unlikely to be the nominee — primaries in big states like New York and California could shut him out — observers in the caucus states say they expect Paul to win, and perhaps sweep, dozens of delegates from unexpected corners of the map. Those delegates, in turn, will give him at least a prominent position at the Republican National Convention, and a plausible shot at emerging as a kingmaker if a strong mainstream challenger to Romney emerges.
Matt Stoller writes: The most perplexing character in Congress, ideologically speaking, is Ron Paul. This is a guy who exists in the Republican Party as a staunch opponent of American empire and big finance. His ideas on the Federal Reserve have taken some hold recently, and he has taken powerful runs at the Presidency on the obscure topic of monetary policy. He doesn’t play by standard political rules, so while old newsletters bearing his name showcase obvious white supremacy, he is also the only prominent politician, let alone Presidential candidate, saying that the drug war has racist origins. You cannot honestly look at this figure without acknowledging both elements, as well as his opposition to war, the Federal government, and the Federal Reserve. And as I’ve drilled into Paul’s ideas, his ideas forced me to acknowledge some deep contradictions in American liberalism (pointed out years ago by Christopher Laesch) and what is a long-standing, disturbing, and unacknowledged affinity liberals have with centralized war financing. So while I have my views of Ron Paul, I believe that the anger he inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.
My perspective of Paul comes from working with his staff in 2009-2010 on issues of war and the Federal Reserve. Paul was one of my then-boss Alan Grayson’s key allies in Congress on these issues, though on most issues of course he and Paul were diametrically opposed. How Paul operated his office was different than most Republicans, and Democrats. An old Congressional hand once told me, and then drilled into my head, that every Congressional office is motivated by three overlapping forces – policy, politics, and procedure. And this is true as far as it goes. An obscure redistricting of two Democrats into one district that will take place in three years could be the motivating horse-trade in a decision about whether an important amendment makes it to the floor, or a possible opening of a highly coveted committee slot on Appropriations due to a retirement might cause a policy breach among leadership. Depending on committee rules, a Sub-Committee chairman might have to get permission from a ranking member or Committee Chairman to issue a subpoena, sometimes he might not, and sometimes he doesn’t even have to tell his political opposition about it. Congress is endlessly complex, because complexity can be a useful tool in wielding power without scrutiny. And every office has a different informal matrix, so you have to approach each of them differently.
Paul’s office was dedicated, first and foremost, to his political principles, and his work with his grassroots base reflects that. Politics and procedure simply didn’t matter to him. My main contact in Paul’s office even had his voicemail set up with special instructions for those calling about HR 1207, which was the number of the House bill to audit the Federal Reserve. But it wasn’t just the Fed audit – any competent liberal Democratic staffer in Congress can tell you that Paul will work with anyone who seeks his ends of rolling back American Empire and its reach into foreign countries, auditing the Federal Reserve, and stopping the drug war. [Continue reading...]
Robert Scheer writes: It is official now. The Ron Paul campaign, despite surging in the Iowa polls, is not worthy of serious consideration, according to a New York Times editorial; “Ron Paul long ago disqualified himself for the presidency by peddling claptrap proposals like abolishing the Federal Reserve, returning to the gold standard, cutting a third of the federal budget and all foreign aid and opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
That last item, along with the decade-old racist comments in the newsletters Paul published, is certainly worthy of criticism. But not as an alternative to seriously engaging the substance of Paul’s current campaign—his devastating critique of crony capitalism and his equally trenchant challenge to imperial wars and the assault on our civil liberties that they engender.
Paul is being denigrated as a presidential contender even though on the vital issues of the economy, war and peace, and civil liberties, he has made the most sense of the Republican candidates. And by what standard of logic is it “claptrap” for Paul to attempt to hold the Fed accountable for its destructive policies? That’s the giveaway reference to the raw nerve that his favorable prospects in the Iowa caucuses have exposed. Too much anti-Wall Street populism in the heartland can be a truly scary thing to the intellectual parasites residing in the belly of the beast that controls American capitalism.
It is hypocritical that Paul is now depicted as the archenemy of non-white minorities when it was his nemesis, the Federal Reserve, that enabled the banking swindle that wiped out 53 percent of the median wealth of African-Americans and 66 percent for Latinos, according to the Pew Research Center.
Why does the newspaper of the Establishment feel the need to knock down the Paul campaign?
Up until recently, the mainstream media treated Paul as the invisible candidate — a man supposedly so marginal that “serious” pundits could ignore him. But his growing popularity means he can no longer be dismissed and thus the Times editorial writers feel driven to try and swat this persistent irritant.
Even so, given that the Times will undoubtedly endorse Obama and given that the odds are at this point stacked quite heavily in the incumbent’s favor, why the need to attack Paul?
Because the New York Times thinks it is entitled not only to endorse its favored presidential candidate but also choose his opponent and that most likely would be Mitt Romney.
In a contest between Obama and Romney, the president can cast his opponent as the representative of Wall Street and present himself as a man of the people. And the newspaper that represents the status quo can disingenuously pose as an agent of change.
Paul has the power to upset that scenario and turn this into an election about issues instead of the usual beauty contest. The candidate who we are repeatedly told can’t be taken seriously threatens those whose vested interests are served by the trivialization of the electoral process.
This isn’t an endorsement for Ron Paul — simply a statement of what should be obvious: he has a positive role to play in 2012.
Jefferson Morley writes: In his new book, “Pity the Billionaire,” Tom Frank turns his mordant eye on the unlikeliest political development of the Obama presidency: how the crash of 2008 served to strengthen the political right. The deregulation of Wall Street, championed for 30 years by right-wing leaders, had led to an economic catastrophe so frightening that the country elected a liberal Democrat to the presidency. Yet two years later, the most conservative faction of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, had taken effective control of the House of Representatives, the regulation of Wall Street had stalled, and the champions of economic deregulation in Washington had emerged stronger than ever.
Frank, author of the bestselling book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” provides a pithy and nuanced explanation of what he calls the “hard-times swindle.” He spoke with Salon from his father’s home in Kansas City, Mo.
Early in the book, you describe the moment in the spring of 2009 when free-market economics had been so thoroughly discredited that Newsweek could run a cover story proclaiming, “We’re all socialists now.” What happened? Why did that moment dissipate?
I saw that cover so many times [at Tea Party events]. For these people, that rang the alarm bell. I think the AIG moment [when the bailed-out insurance behemoth used taxpayer relief to dole out huge bonuses to its executives] was in some ways the high point of the crisis, when [the politics] could have gone either way. There was this amazing public outrage, and that for me was the turning point. Newsweek had another cover, “Thinking Man’s Guide to Populism,” and I remember this feeling around the country, that people were just furious. Somehow the right captured the sense of anger. They completely captured it. You could say they had no right to it, but they did. And one of the reasons they were able to do it was because the liberals were not interested in that anger.
I’m speaking here of the liberal culture in Washington, D.C. There was no Occupy Wall Street movement [at that time] and there was only people like me on the fringes talking about it. The liberals had their leader in Barack Obama … they had their various people in Congress. But these people are completely unfamiliar with populist anger. It’s an alien thing to them. They don’t trust it, and they have trouble speaking to it. I like Barack Obama, but at the end of the day he’s a very professorial kind of guy. The liberals totally missed the opportunity, and the right was able to grab it.
Looking back on it, I feel like people like myself were part of the problem. We sort of assumed with the Democrats in power, the system would correct itself.
One of the problems with liberalism in this country is that it’s headquartered in Washington and its leaders are a very comfortable class of people. Washington is one of the richest cities in the country, maybe the richest. It’s not a place that feels the crisis, that feels the economic downturn. By and large, the real estate market stayed OK. The city continued to boom. The contracts continued to flow. What we’re talking about here is the failure of modern liberalism. At one time it was a movement of working-class people. The idea that liberals wouldn’t feel economic pain was ridiculous. That’s who liberals were. No more. [Continue reading...]
Glenn Greenwald writes: American presidential elections are increasingly indistinguishable from the reality TV competitions drowning the nation’s airwaves. Both are vapid, personality-driven and painfully protracted affairs, with the winners crowned by virtue of their ability to appear slightly more tolerable than the cast of annoying rejects whom the public eliminates one by one. When, earlier this year, America’s tawdriest (and one of its most-watched) reality TV show hosts, Donald Trump, inserted himself into the campaign circus as a threatened contestant, he fitted right in, immediately catapulting to the top of audience polls before announcing he would not join the show.
The Republican presidential primaries – shortly to determine who will be the finalist to face off, and likely lose, against Barack Obama next November – has been a particularly base spectacle. That the contest has devolved into an embarrassing clown show has many causes, beginning with the fact that GOP voters loathe Mitt Romney, their belief-free, anointed-by-Wall-Street frontrunner who clearly has the best chance of defeating the president.
In a desperate attempt to find someone less slithery and soulless (not to mention less Mormon), party members have lurched manically from one ludicrous candidate to the next, only to watch in horror as each wilted the moment they were subjected to scrutiny. Incessant pleas to the party’s ostensibly more respectable conservatives to enter the race have been repeatedly rebuffed. Now, only Romney remains viable. Republican voters are thus slowly resigning themselves to marching behind a vacant, supremely malleable technocrat whom they plainly detest.
In fairness to the much-maligned GOP field, they face a formidable hurdle: how to credibly attack Obama when he has adopted so many of their party’s defining beliefs.
Think Progress reports: The funding behind Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future, an independent political committee, offers an intriguing clue into the financial deep pockets backing Gingrich’s candidacy. This week, McClatchy revealed that American Solutions footed the $8 million bill for private jet charters while Gingrich weighed whether to enter the 2008 and 2012 presidential races. Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson was the biggest funder of American Solutions, contributing $7.65 million and rumored to have committed $20 million to a pro-Gingrich super PAC, a report denied by an Adelson spokesperson. Whether the report is true or not, the facts increasingly show that the billionaire casino magnate is a central figure in Newt Gingrich’s political career.
Sands Corporation CEO Sheldon Adelson is based in Las Vegas but has business and political interests in Macau, China and Israel. In Israel, Adelson’s importance stems from his close friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ownership of Israel HaYom, a free daily newspaper which supports Netanyahu’s Likud party. Back in the U.S., Adelson sits on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition and is outspoken about his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During the George W. Bush presidency, Adelson opposed efforts to jump start peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians and even took sides against the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) when the organization supported peace talks. “I don’t continue to support organizations that help friends committing suicide just because they say they want to jump,” Adelson told the Jewish Telegraph Agency.
At the New Yorker, David Remnick comments on Newt Gingrich’s incendiary claim that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”
Gingrich and his fellow Republicans have sensed a potential softening in the Jewish vote. In 2008, only African-Americans were more solidly behind Barack Obama, who, according to exit polls, won seventy-eight per cent of the Jewish vote. But the Republicans are hoping to woo at least the more conservative sector of Jewish Americans—those who feel that Obama has been too hard on Benjamin Netanyahu. And, because Gingrich has a little learning and a darkly sophisticated memory for intellectual battle, he catered to his cause by employing the word “invented.” In this context, the word summons a 1984 bestseller that was once totemic on the Jewish right (and still is, for some): “From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine,” by Joan Peters.
Peters, who was not a historian, put forward a purportedly scholarly construction based on the notion, as Golda Meir famously put it, that there is “no such thing as a Palestinian people.” The book, which is an ideological tract disguised as history, made the demographic argument that most people who call themselves Palestinians have short roots in the territory and are Arabs who came from elsewhere. It suggests that the territory that is now Israel was all but “uninhabited” before the Zionist movement began. It was a book that implicitly made the argument that Palestine was a tabula rasa waiting for its Jewish revival; or, as the old slogan had it: “a land without a people for a people without a land.”
The book was not only a commercial success; it also won plaudits from Saul Bellow, Barbara Tuchman, Martin Peretz, Theodore H. White, Lucy Dawidowicz, Arthur Goldberg, and Elie Wiesel. For a time, it was wielded as a means to dismiss Palestinian claims on the land, and a means to be dismissive of Palestinians entirely. The book was thoroughly discredited by an Israeli historian, Yehoshua Porath, and many others who dismantled its pseudo-scholarship. Even some right-wing critics, like Daniel Pipes, who initially reviewed the book positively, later admitted that Peters’s work was shoddy and “ignores inconvenient facts.”
Philip Weiss, following a point that many of his readers seized on after he praised Remnick’s commentary yesterday, notes:
Remnick left out Norman Finkelstein’s role in exposing the fraud; he gave credit to an Israeli:
The book was thoroughly discredited by an Israeli historian, Yehoshua Porath, and many others who dismantled its pseudo-scholarship.
Remnick’s link was to Porath’s 1986 review of the book, “From Time Immemorial,” in the New York Review of Books.
This is a misrepresentation of intellectual history. The story of Norman Finkelstein’s exposure of Joan Peters is one of the great intellectual whodunnits of the Israel-Palestine issue. Finkelstein’s career began with this undertaking, which long preceded Porath’s– in fact, Porath actually cites Finkelstein’s work in his footnotes.
Here’s some of what Finkelstein has written on Peters’ work:
Gingrich favors rapid expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank — calls Palestinians ‘terrorists’
Having stirred outrage by calling Palestinians an “invented people,” in last night’s GOP presidential debate New Gingrich went even further by saying, “these people are terrorists.”
I guess if he becomes president, at least the United States will have to abandon the pretense that it has any role as a mediator between Israelis and Palestinians.
In a conference call organized by the National Council of Young Israel and broadcast on The Yeshiva World News on Friday, Gingrich took a question from Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America.
Klein is more forthright than some of Gingrich’s other Zionist friends might be — he unequivocally opposes a two-state solution.
Last year he said: “As much as we all want Israel to have peace with the Arabs, Israel can and will survive and thrive without it — as they have since 1948.”
Israel doesn’t need peace — this is the conviction that explains the Israeli intransigence that long ago turned the so-called peace process into a charade.
What those who don’t believe in peace do believe in, is the need for the United States to ensure that Israel maintains its “qualitative military edge” — a commitment that the Obama administration has supported even more strongly than its predecessors.
A nuclear-armed Iran would undermine Israel’s military hegemony in the Middle East and so many of Israel’s supporters are willing to back another war — usually on the pretext that it would prevent a second holocaust — rather than tolerate a significant shift in the regional balance of power.
In spite of the hysterical campaign propaganda that some American politicians are now using, “[f]ew in Netanyahu’s inner circle believe that Iran has any short-term plans to drop a nuclear weapon on Tel Aviv, should it find a means to deliver it,” according to Netanyahu confidant, Jeffery Goldberg.
Klein’s question for Gingrich was on the expansion of settlements, but the strategic perspective they share is that Israel can continue to exist and prosper in a permanent state of war. From that perspective, the two most important features of the relationship between Israel and the United States are that the U.S. continues to maintain a steady flow of military aid and it remains willing to engage in wars that Israel cannot fight alone. It comes down to blood and money.
Note too that a necessary condition that helps ensure that Americans will acquiesce in fulfilling this need is that we must also share the Zionist faith in the sustainability of permanent war.
The unshakable bond that unites Israel and the United States — a bond that in American politics has become an object of cultish devotion — is an absolute faith in war. Perhaps the only thing that will be able to shake that faith will be economic ruin.
Klein: What is your position about the right of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and the right of Jews to live in communities there at this present time?
Gingrich: Well, it depends on where exactly you define the boundaries. I do not oppose any development in the [Israeli occupied] areas, because I think that’s part of the negotiating process. To the degree that the Palestinians want to stop the developments they need to reach a deal in which they recognize the right of Israel to exist… As long as they are waging war on Israel, they are in no position to complain about developments. I think the whole peace process has been absurd and has created a psychologically almost impossible position for the average person because once you say there’s a peace process you wonder why the Israelis aren’t being more forthcoming. But if you say, look, we’re still in the middle of a war. They’re still trying to destroy the country — they’re still firing rockets, they still have terrorists coming in — then you all of a sudden understand what the real situation on the ground is, and in that setting, why would the Israelis slow down in maximizing their net bargaining advantage?
In other words, settlement expansion is a bargaining tool and thus the more Israelis there are living in the West Bank, the better Israel’s negotiating position.
As a Palestinian negotiator once said, this is like trying to divide a pizza with someone who is intent on eating the whole pie before it gets divided.
The Washington Post reports on responses to Gingrich’s claim that the Palestinians are an “invented people”:
Michigan Sen. Carl Levin sharply criticized Gingrich’s comments as cynical attempts to curry support with Jewish voters and unhelpful to the peace process.
“The vast majority of American Jews (including this one) and the Israeli Government itself are committed to a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side as neighbors and in peace,” Levin said in a statement. “Gingrich offered no solutions — just a can of gasoline and a match.”
[Hanan] Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Executive Committee, said Gingrich’s remarks harked back to days when the Palestinians’ existence as a people was denied by Israelis such as Golda Meir, prime minister from 1969 to 1974.
“It is certainly regressive,” she said. “This is certainly an invitation to further conflict rather than any contribution to peace.”
“This proves that in the hysterical atmosphere of American elections, people lose all touch with reality and make not just irresponsible and dangerous statements, but also very racist comments that betray not just their own ignorance but an unforgivable bias,” she said.
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the Gingrich remarks “were grave comments that represented an incitement for ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians.”
The Forward reports: In the battle for the Republican pro-Israel vote, Newt Gingrich lacks Mitt Romney’s broad base of prominent Jewish donors. But he has something potentially more powerful: the support of one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s most significant American backers, and a relationship with the Israeli prime minister himself that stretches back decades.
Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, one of the wealthiest men in the world and a major donor to Jewish and conservative causes, is widely known as a Netanyahu stalwart. Less well known are his equally close ties to Gingrich, to whom he has been a major giver in recent years.
Adelson’s faith in Gingrich hasn’t been particularly contagious. High-profile Jewish supporters of Gingrich remain tough to find, even as Gingrich has rocketed into the GOP lead in national polling. Still, the former House speaker’s ties to Adelson, his relationship with Netanyahu and a foreign policy team packed with neoconservatives leave him well situated in the competition for pro-Israel voters.
Neither a spokesman for Adelson nor for the Gingrich campaign responded to repeated requests for comment for this story. But the alliance of Adelson and Gingrich is famous in Jewish Republican circles.
“They have been tremendous fans and supporters of Newt from day one,” Fred Zeidman, a Texas oil executive and prominent Republican Jewish supporter of Romney, said of Adelson and his wife, Miriam.
Adelson, who ranked eighth in Forbes’s 2011 list of the richest Americans, is chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., which owns casinos in Las Vegas and Macau, China. He has been a major funder of Taglit-Birthright Israel, which sends young Diaspora Jews on free trips to Israel, and has been among the most significant American supporters of Netanyahu.