Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update

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

April 10, 2022

If you remember nothing else, remember this:

  • The GOP is a cult whose agenda is little more than cutting taxes for the wealthy and delivering deregulation to corporations and whose path to victory lies in hiding their agenda under a veneer of bigotry and hate that appeals to the worst of America.
  • Three more Israelis were murdered in terrorist attacks last week.
  • Opponents of rejoining the Iran Deal have no better alternative, so they are flooding the zone with nonsense about Russia and the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corp.
  • Israel's current government officially opposes the Iran Deal, but reports out of Israel indicate that top security officials in Israel believe that returning to the Iran Deal is better than no deal at all.
  • Next Sunday is Pesach, so look for the next newsletter a week from Sunday. For your convenience, I've listed below the top ten signs you might be at a Republican seder.
  • Read to the end for upcoming events and fun stuff.

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On March 31, nearly every Republican voted against capping the cost of insulin at $35 per month. On April 7, all but three Senate Republicans voted against confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was more qualified than any of Trump's nominees, to the United States Supreme Court (although in fairness, we never did find out her favorite brand of beer). House Judiciary Republicans attempted to derail the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act by voicing demonstrably false claims.

Sixty-three Republicans voted against a resolution supporting the founding democratic principles of NATO. Ten Republicans have signed on to a bill that would prohibit military or security assistance to Ukraine until a border wall with Mexico is completed (Steve Benen has more on the Putin wing of the GOP). And most disturbingly, 147 Republicans supported a violent insurrection against the United States.

Yet some would have us believe that the two parties are basically the same or that we should seek "bipartisan" solutions, as if a solution is better because a bunch of crazies supports it. Bipartisanship made sense when we had two sane political parties. Today's Republican Party is not normal. It is a cult. This has been obvious to anyone who's paid attention since at least 2012, when political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein wrote that 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."

But despite the evidence, we didn't want to believe them because that meant admitting that one of our two parties rejected basic democratic norms. Trump was not an aberration. An overwhelming, often unasinous, majority of Republicans in Congress supported Trump throughout his presidency.

As uncomfortable as it might be, we have to adjust to the reality that instead of a center-left and a center-right party, we have a center-left party and an authoritarian party. Maybe Biden and the Democrats can't deliver all that they promised (thanks, Manchin and Sinema!). Republicans won't deliver any of it. The solution is to elect more Democrats who support Democratic policies, not to elect members of a cult whose agenda is little more than "cutting taxes for the wealthy and delivering deregulation to corporations" and whose path to victory lies in hiding their agenda under a veneer of bigotry and hate that appeals to the worst of America.

Another terrorist attack in Israel. Three more Israelis were murdered in terrorist attacks last week. The Biden administration reiterated that it stands with Israel "resolutely in the face of senseless terrorism and violence." Tom Nides also condemned the attack. This was the fourth lethal attack in Israel in less than three weeks and brought the total death toll since March 22 to 14.

Will we reach a deal with Iran on nuclear arms? Vox reports that the holdup seems to be Trump's designation of a branch of the Iranian armed forces, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a foreign terrorist organization. "That designation is largely symbolic and the Biden administration’s hesitancy to remove it is largely political."

President Biden has not yet made a decision on lifting the designation. If he does not lift the designation, then the deal will be an easier sell in Congress, but reaching a deal will be harder. The irony is that selling a deal that includes lifting the designation should be easy if we can tune out the noise.

Last week, 18 out of 222 Democrats issued a statement about a press conference that only five of them attended. A few of those Democrats seem likely to oppose the deal; the rest expressed vague concerns. None offered an alternative to the JCPOA, let alone an alternative more likely to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Instead, they recycled debunked talking points about Russian involvement and the lifting of the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation on the IRGC, as if they did not know that a nuclear-armed Iran would threaten Russian interests or that lifting the FTO designation will have little practical impact on Iran or the IRGC.

Removing the FTO designation will have even symbolic impact only if opponents of reentering the JCPOA continue to falsely argue that the designation has any substantive impact--it's a self-fulfilling prophecy: Critics of the deal blow the designation out of proportion and then claim that the optics of lifting the designation aren't good. We should not fall for that rhetorical trick. If we have to lift a designation that never should have been imposed in the first place and that has accomplished nothing to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, that's a trade we should make in a heartbeat.

The Washington Post reported that Trump's listing of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization in 2019 "remains the only time the United States has so labeled part of another nation’s government. While the measure was hailed by some lawmakers, a number of commentators and sanctions experts argued that it pointlessly set a bad precedent, and would likely increase, rather than decrease, Iranian aggression"--and that is exactly what happened. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of attacks against U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq by Iran-backed groups “went up 400 percent.”

Ben Caspit, one of Israel's most respected journalists, reported last week that officially, Israel is against rejoining the JCPOA, but key Israeli security experts believe that a new deal would be better than no deal at all. Caspit reports that Israeli intelligence officials are no longer concerned about restrictions that are lifted on Iran's nuclear program after 2025 because thanks to Trump's withdrawal from the deal, "everything they were expected to do after the so-called sunset clause has already been done, and therefore we’re talking about horses that have already bolted. Right now, there is no better alternative than the renewed agreement in order to freeze the Iranian nuclear program.'

Senior Israeli security officials also noted that Iran's support for Hezbollah and its proxies "did not change under the sanctions and will not change once some of them are lifted.”

Joel Rubin wrote last week that "in foreign affairs, one rarely gets to test two competing policies to see how they work. But on Iran’s nuclear program, we don’t just have the test. We have the results," and the results show that we are better off with than without the JCPOA. Rubin proves that sanctions did not work and military action cannot work. Returning to the JCPOA to verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is our only realistic option.

Top ten signs you might be at a Republican seder. Pesach starts Friday night, so there will be no newsletter next Sunday. As a public service, from the home office in Highland Park, Illinois, here are the top ten signs that you might be at a Republican seder:

10. They refuse to answer the four questions without a subpoena.

9. They demand a recount of the ten plagues.

8. They defend not increasing the minimum wage on the grounds that according to Chad Gadya it still costs only two zuzzim to buy a goat.

7. The afikomen is hidden in the Caymen Islands.

6. They refuse to open the door for Elijah until they see his immigration papers.

5. They attack Moses for negotiating a deal with Pharoah because why would we negotiate with our enemies?

4. They don't understand why the Egyptians didn’t cure the plagues with hydroxychloroquine.

3. They omit the parts about slavery from the Haggadah because it reminds them of Critical Race Theory.

2. They keep saying “when do we get to the miracle of the Jewish space lasers?”

And the number one sign that you might be at a Republican seder:

1. They end the seder by singing "Next year in Mar-a-Lago."

Chag Pesach Sameach. See you again a week from next Sunday.

Tweets of the Week. Mr. T and Al Franken.

Video Clip of the Week. Happy Passover from Curb.

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