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Israel and US Mid-Term Elections

The US mid-term elections are not welcoming results for the Israeli right wing government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But they are not a recipe for big troubles for him either.

 

 

The Republicans most probably (the recount in some states continues) will increase their majority in the US Senate but lost their majority in the House of Representatives.

 

Thus, two years after winning the lottery, with the Donald Trump's ticket, as president, and a solid Republican majority in the House, Netanyahu is now back to square one. Netanyahu will have once again to take into consideration the policies, agendas and interests of the Democrats which he and the Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer neglected.

 

But this time they will have to work harder. The new Democratic congressmen and congresswomen are younger more radical and represent more minorities :Afro-Americans, Latinos, Asians Native-Americans and LGTB.

They are the "Young Turks" of the Democratic Party. They want to see a change and don't hesitate to stand up to authority- the old guard of leadership of their own party.

 

Some of the newly elected are certainly anti-Israeli. Towering above all are Rashida Tlaib and ilham Omar. They are the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

 

Tlaib from Detroit (Michigan) made another chapter in history. She is the first Palestinian-American woman elected be a member of the US Congress. She supports cutting military aid to Israel and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Ilham Omar from Minnesota talked about "apartheid Israeli regime" that "has hypnotized the word".

 

There are two other congresswomen who are worth to be noticed. Ayanna Pressley from Boston is the first Afro-American woman to represent Massachusetts in the House. The other one is Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez from Queens, New York, who at the age 29 is the youngest ever member of Congress.

 

Both of them have expressed progressive ideas. Ocasio-Cortez harshly criticized IDF for using lethal weapons, in one of her tweets. "This is a massacre. I hope my peers have the moral courage to call it such. No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else. Democrats can't be silent about this anymore", she wrote. Later she said that she supports a two state solution.

 

And there are many more who self-define themselves as liberals. They are not necessarily Israeli bashers. But they have less interest and understanding in foreign policy in general and the Middle East in particular.

 

They certainly lack any emotional attachment to Israel like the older generations of elected officials, and are less vulnerable to group or individual pressures from AIPAC, the pro-Israeli lobby or mega donors such as Sheldon Edelson or Haim Saban. They don't hide the fact that they identify more with the weak and underdog Palestinians, who suffer, rather the strong and the occupying forces of Israel.

 

 

The Democratic faction in the House is surely expected to raise hell for Donald Trump presidency. Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to be once again the House Speaker made it clear that they would not succumb to Trump's bullying tweets and will challenge is divisive and inciting attitude. Most of the Democratic anger, If not rage, will be directed against Trump's domestic policies: immigration, gun-control, Medicare and his efforts to stop the Muller investigation.

 

But some of the anti-Trump wave may well be also leveled at his foreign policy, including his one sided moves in favor of Israel and against the Palestinians: cutting funds to UNWRA and hospitals in East Jerusalem, the relocation of the US Embassy to West Jerusalem and his, so far, empty promise to ignite the peace talks in order to achieve the "deal of the century".

In other words, borrowing the old cliché of "If America sneezes" Israel may catch cold.

 

Although Trump has shown no signs of softening his bellicose language he may reach the conclusion that he has no choice but to work together with a hostile Congress, to make compromises and here and there to throw some crumbs to his opponents, including a small Israeli bone.

If he does so and it is a big if, still the ramifications for the Israeli government will be minor.

 

Most Israeli watchers and experts, including the pro-Israeli lobbies of AIPAC and J-Street point out that the NOT PRO Israeli elements in the Democratic Party are still a tiny minority. They pose no challenge to the old guard and establishment, which by far, is still very supportive of Israel, even if occasionally it criticizes some of the policies of the Netanyahu government.

 

Even new comers such as Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens, two young female from Michigan declares themselves as pro-Israeli.

Slotkin a Jew who unseated the Republican incumbent Mike Bishop, is a former Pentagon and CIA analyst, who served in Iraq, where she met her husband, a colonel in the US army. She knows well the Middle East and visited Israel several times.

 

In her website she proudly writes that she "helped facilitate deal to sell F-35 fighter jets to Israel. Worked on U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs including Iron Dome, supports a two state solution" and that she "worked as a grant writer for Isha L'Isha Haifa feminist center, a grassroots feminist organization in Israel."

 

Stevens wrote during her campaign "I believe in a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. The United States and Israel maintain a special allied relationship, bound by our shared commitment to common values. This is a relationship that must continue to thrive and go unquestioned – and most importantly cannot become a partisan issue. I am undoubtedly a staunch supporter of Israel and am eager for the opportunity to experience the country first-hand".

 

But even if some minor cracks will appear in the Democratic Party's attitude towards Israel, there are very little doubts that Netanyahu can be assured that the foreign policy issue he treasures mostly- Iran- will enjoy a bipartisan support.

 

There are very few senators and representatives of the Democratic Party who advocate to go back to square one.

 

A day before the elections, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iran. They cover "energy, banking, shipping, and shipbuilding industries".

 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that if the U.S. determines any company subverts the sanctions on Iran, "the United States will levy severe swift penalties on it, including potential sanctions."

 

The sanctions are aimed to further curb Iran's nuclear program, to halt its continued long range missile development and tests, and to force Tehran to think twice about its hegemonies efforts to control the region by interfering in civil wars and conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

 

These aims are literarily exactly what Netanyahu advocated before and after President Barack Obama rushed to sign in July 2015 the nuclear deal between Iran and the six major powers, a deal known as JCPOA.

 

Netanyahu gambled against the deal. He didn't hesitate to go behind the back of Obama to Congress pleading not to confirm the deal, He lost but didn't give up and struck his luck when Trump entered the White House and eventually pulled US from the JCPOA and now reimpose the sanctions.

 

True, eight states – India, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece - which heavily relied on oil import from Iran – are exempted. But their waiver is temporary for only six months. Most of them except India and China had begun to reduce their dependence on Iranian oil even before the sanctions were declared.

 

The new wave of sanctions, almost completely reverse the policies of the Barack Obama presidency. US National security Adviser john Bolton promised that more sanctions are on the way and that would include disconnecting Iran from swift the international banking clearance system.

 

Iran is under tremendous economic pressure from abroad and political from within. Its economy is in a free sky-dive. It is plagued by strikes and demonstrations. Its oil production, which is its main source for revenues, dropped by nearly one third.

 

More and more firms around the world, even from the other five major powers - Russia, China, UK, France and Germany – which adheres to JCPOA – are reluctant to do business with Iran, let alone in vest there.

 

Iranian leaders including President Hassan Rouhani and the influential commander of the al Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani said that Iran wasn't scared and would not bend to the US pressure. But their rhetoric is more for morale boasting rather a real and final answer.

 

For the time being Iran don't show signs that it intends to reverse its defiance. But sooner or later it will have to think again about its course of action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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