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Steve Sheffey's Pro-Israel Political Update

Calling balls and strikes for the pro-Israel community since 2006

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June 25, 2023

Key Takeaways:

  • Terrorism is unacceptable no matter who its victims are. We should condemn last week's Palestinian terrorism against Israelis and last week's settler terrorism against Palestinians. The Israeli government's decision to expand settlements to "punish" terrorism will not stop terrorism but it will move Israel closer to an anti-democratic one-state solution.

  • An unwritten, informal arrangement could de-escalate tensions between Iran and the U.S. and would help Israel by pushing back Iran's progress toward the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Congress should exercise oversight but it should not erect barriers that would make a needed de-escalation harder to achieve.

  • The Republican Party "is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." That could have been written after last week's censure of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), after the January 6 insurrection, or after the GOP nominated Trump for president in 2016. But it was written in 2012. It's time to wake up (I wonder if there is a word for such a state of being).

Read to the end for corrections, what you may have missed last week, fun stuff, and an in-person event in Highland Park and on Zoom with Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), candidate for U.S. Senate

You're welcome to read for free, but if you want to chip in to help defray the cost of the newsletter, click here to pay by credit card or PayPal. Just fill in the amount of your choice. Or Venmo @Steven-Sheffey (last four phone digits are 9479).

Hi Steve,

Last week was another turbulent week in Israel marked by Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, Israeli settler terrorism against Palestinians deadly IDF action, and more settlement expansion. Michael Koplow made five key points last week (read the entire article if these points are not self-evident):

  1. There is absolutely no justification, legitimate excuse, or plausible defense for killing Israelis because of where they live.
  2. Israel’s settlement policy is a disaster that is not serving anyone’s interests, including those of Israelis.
  3. This does not mean that Israel should or must give up on having its citizens living in biblical Judea and Samaria.
  4. Respect the humanity on both sides of this conflict, even if you detest the political choices of some.
  5. For as currently in vogue as it is to sneer at two states and declare the death of a two-state outcome, moments like this demonstrate the utter folly of pursuing any other path.

Last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu's office announced that his government authorized 1,000 new homes to be constructed in the West Bank settlement of Eli, the site of a deadly terror attack that killed four Israelis. This strategy has never worked before, so why not try it again? What it will do is push the two-state solution that Israel needs to remain Jewish and democratic further out of reach.

While not excusing Palestinian terrorism, Haaretz last week editorialized about the contradiction between eliminating terrorism and expanding settlements, writing that "when the government decides to expand settlement construction, permits settlers to return to Homesh and doesn’t do much to prevent settler pogroms against Palestinian residents, it can’t expect that the occupied Palestinian population’s feelings of rage, revenge and frustration won’t find violent outlets."

Chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) General Staff Herzi Halevi, Director of the Israel Security Agency Ronen Bar, and Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai issued a joint statement yesterday stating that the recent attacks by settlers against Palestinians "contradict every moral and Jewish value; they constitute, in every way, nationalist terrorism, and we are obliged to fight them."

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) condemned "in the strongest possible terms the deadly Palestinian terrorism as well as the increasing frequency and intensity of attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian civilians."

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) condemned "the murder of four Israelis at Eli and the retaliatory attacks by Israeli settlers in Turmus Ayya and other towns," concluding that “all families, Israeli and Palestinian, deserve to feel safe in their homes and hold fast to their dreams for the future – a dream I share –where they can live side by side in mutual security, peace, and prosperity."

Gershon Baskin writes about the futility of it all but he admits that "someday leaders will emerge who will say enough. They will reach out to the other side and speak with compassion about the needless suffering of the other side...This has happened in other intractable conflicts that people thought could never end, and it will happen in the Land of Israel/Palestine as well. The distance between now and then is leadership."

An unwritten deal is exactly what Iran and America need. Trita Parsi explains why: Iran's bargaining position has not been weakened over time and both sides want to avert a crisis. An informal arrangement could de-escalate tensions (and worse) that are inevitable given the path Iran is currently on and the likely responses from the U.S. and Israel if Iran stays on that path.

Congress has an important oversight role to play but responsible oversight includes refraining from taking action that would impair the administration's ability to deter Iran's nuclear program. We should oppose any legislation that could derail attempts to prevent further escalation because, as Parsi writes, without "an informal agreement, the two sides would steadily be moving toward a disastrous confrontation."

Sadly for Republicans who would love to make political hay out of this, an informal agreement, under existing law, would not require congressional approval, meaning that in this case, the adults would have free rein and the kids could spend their time doing what they do best, finding Democrats to censure.

Whoa, did that last part sound partisan? Check this out: The Republican Party "is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

When do you think that was written? After the GOP nominated Donald Trump for president in 2016? After Trump incited a violent insurrection on January 6, 2021 and then hours later, 147 Republicans voted to reject the results of the election? After House Republicans voted to censure Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Wednesday for fulfilling his oath to the Constitution and hurting their feelings in the process? After a majority of the Pennsylvania U.S. House GOP delegation endorsed Trump after his federal indictment?

Nope. It was written by two respected centrist political scientists, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, on April 27, 2012. Had we listened then, we would not be surprised now. It's not too late. If you didn't read the article then, read it now because aside from the names, it could have been written yesterday and as it did then, it applies to only one party, the GOP.

Mann and Ornstein concluded that "while the press can make certain political choices understandable [by not seeking professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views and instead reporting on who is telling the truth] it is up to voters to decide. If they can punish ideological extremism at the polls and look skeptically upon candidates who profess to reject all dialogue and bargaining with opponents, then an insurgent outlier party will have some impetus to return to the center. Otherwise, our politics will get worse before it gets better."

Republicans proved again that our politics are getting worse on Wednesday. Watch Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) on June 21 speaking on the House floor before a vote on a motion to censure him for his role in impeaching Donald Trump and the investigation into allegations surrounding Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. He was censured on a party-line vote but as Schiff said to the Republican majority, "no matter how many false justifications or slanders you level against me, you but indict yourselves."

And if we continue to support Republicans or organizations that support Republicans, we too indict ourselves.

Corrections. I'm entitled to my own opinions but not to my own facts, so I appreciate it when readers bring errors to my attention. In last week's newsletter, I misspelled "John Cooper Clark." His name is spelled "John Cooper Clarke." None of you caught it. I noticed it myself.

In Case You Missed It:

Tweets of the Week. RonKampeas and The Weiners Circle.

Video Clip of the Week. "Re-Indicted" - A Parody by Emma's Revolution.

Upcoming Event. Politics with Dana and Steve was the first Jewish group in the Chicago area to back Elissa Slotkin when she initially ran for Congress in Michigan after working for the CIA as a Middle East analyst, serving three tours in Iraq, and holding defense and intelligence positions under President Bush and President Obama. Other groups said "no" or "maybe later" or "we're not sure if she's viable." But we knew she would never be viable unless someone gave her a chance. She beat the odds, she won, and now she is running for the U.S. Senate.

Join Dana Gordon, Steve Sheffey, and our amazing co-chairs for an in-person and on Zoom event with Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) in support of her Senate campaign in Highland Park, Illinois, on Monday, July 24 at 6:00 pm CT. You must RSVP to attend. This Senate race will be competitive, expensive, and critical to our efforts to hold the Senate. Early money is important because it allows Elissa’s team to hire staff, develop strategy, and buy advertising at discounted rates.

This is the newsletter even Republicans have to read and the original home of the viral and beloved 2022 and 2023 Top Ten Signs You're At a Republican Seder. If someone forwarded this to you, why not subscribe and get it in your inbox every Sunday? Just click here--it's free.

My most popular Times of Israel posts are How Not To Define Antisemitism and Pro-Israel Or Pro-Bibi? I periodically update my Medium posts on why Democrats are better than Republicans on Israel and antisemitism. You can read my most recent effort to define "pro-Israel" here (it's a work in progress, as am I).

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The Fine Print: This newsletter usually drops on Sunday mornings. Unless stated otherwise, the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any candidates or organizations I support or am associated with. I value intellectual honesty over intellectual consistency, and every sentence should be read as if it began with the words "This is what I think today is most likely to be correct and I'm willing to be proven wrong, but..." Read views opposed to mine and make up your own mind. A link to an article doesn't mean I agree with everything its author has ever said or even that I agree with everything in the article; it means that the article supports or elaborates on the point I was making. I read and encourage replies to my newsletters but I don't always have time to acknowledge them or engage in one-on-one discussion. I'm happy to read anything, but please don't expect me to watch videos of any length--send me a transcript if it's that important. Don't expect a reply if your message is uncivil or if it's clear from your message that you only read the bullet points or failed to click on the relevant links. If you share an excerpt from this newsletter please share the link to the newsletter (near the top of the newsletter). My newsletter, my rules.

Dedicated to my daughters: Ariel Sheffey, Ayelet Sheffey, and Orli Sheffey z''l. Copyright 2023 Steve Sheffey. All rights reserved.