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Catfish and Cod
Friday, July 25, 2003
....with the advice and consent of the House Majority Leader.
(Link path: New York Times [free and pointless registration required])

The President is endowed by the Constitution to make and sign treaties. The Senate is required to provide advice and consent, usually interpreted as ratification. The State Department runs the diplomatic corps, and the National Security Council helps set foreign policy. But where does it say that the leadership of the House of Representatives should go sticking their nose in other countries' business?

It's etched into Tom DeLay's brain, apparently.

DeLay Is to Carry Dissenting Message on a Mideast Tour

That's the way to support your President, Delay*: Go abroad and shoot him in the back. Then go on Fox News and proclaim how disgusting it is that Democrats don't support our Iraq policy.

...beginning this weekend, [Delay] will travel to the world's most complex and troubled region, meet with prime ministers, speak to a foreign parliament....

Why is a "former pest exterminator from Sugar Land, Texas" going to so much trouble?

and, by his presence, remind the Bush administration to pay heed to its right flank as it seeks to make peace.

That's why: Bush isn't being sufficiently conservative.

As he travels next week through Israel, Jordan and Iraq, he will take with him a message of grave doubt that the Middle East is ready for a Palestinian state, as called for in the current peace plan, known as the road map, backed by the administration and Europe.

After all, he's so well informed about the situation, and knows just what will and won't work, right? Right?


"I'm sure there are some in the administration who are smarter than me, but I can't imagine in the very near future that a Palestinian state could ever happen," he said in an interview today, as he prepared to leave for a weeklong official tour.

Yet he feels it necessary to publicly voice dissent and cast doubt on Administration policy, not just in Washington, but in the very parliament buildings of our partners in negotiation. Delay does feel smarter than the administration about something, or he wouldn't stick his neck out like this. What is it?

"I can't imagine this president supporting a state of terrorists, a sovereign state of terrorists," he said.

That's why the President has been most insistent about isolating Arafat, producing new leaders "uncompromised by terror", and dismantling Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Where were you during all of this?

"You'd have to change almost an entire generation's culture."

Like, oh say, the culture of the Hitler Youth? Or the Japanese kamikaze pilots? Palestinian terror culture isn't genetically bred into them; it's a result of thirty years' worth of PLO/Hamas/Hezbollah propaganda, encouraged by regional governments. Cut off the propaganda and turn on the economy, and suicide bombings will go away.

Instead, Mr. DeLay, one of the three most powerful Republicans in Congress, called on the administration to carry out a "Marshall plan" for Palestinian areas, with the United States paying to rebuild the economy there rather than giving aid to Palestinian leaders directly.

Sounds sensible, except that the Administration has been working very hard recently to encourage honest accounting in the PA. We've been using the direct aid as the carrot to reduce graft, corruption, and funding to terror. Delay wants to suddenly jerk that aid away and make our efforts wasted. (Of course, Delay wants us to waste ten years' worth of effort by shutting down the PA, too, so this minor betrayal must be taken in perspective.)

Now, a Marshall Plan in parallel to direct aid would actually be a good idea. But it won't support Delay's ulterior motives, so it won't get funded by Delay & Co.

[Delay] said he had been working hard to persuade the White House to support his plan, and intended to bring it up in separate meetings with Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.

All three leaders will, of course, be overjoyed to hear that you're trying to destroy the peace process that all three have bet the farm on.

He will also address the Israeli Parliament

Knesset, you ignorant Yankee.

and meet with King Abdullah of Jordan.

Just for good measure.

During the last year or two, Mr. DeLay has emerged as a significant figure in Middle East policy, particularly since his ascension to the majority leader's post this session.

Normally, House Majority Leaders have little or no say in Middle East policy: it's not in their usual list of important topics. Why does Delay feel so fired up?

He has often fought for more aid to Israel than the Bush administration has offered,

Why? He won't pick up Jewish votes in West Texas, that's for sure...

and has in the past called the peace plan "a road map to destruction."

Just like right-wing, reactionary, religiously motivated parties in Israel.... oh wait...

As an evangelical Christian, he is the most prominent member in Washington of the Christian Zionist movement, a formidable bloc of conservative Republicans whose support for Israel is based on biblical interpretations, sometimes putting them to the right of Israeli government.

Now we see true purposes. Tom Delay is trying to use his position as House Majority Leader (and budget poobah) to force a religious interpretation of foreign policy. Quite aside from First Amendment concerns, the actions of the Religious Right on Middle East policy threaten our ability to rationally conduct foreign policy. American diplomatic and peace efforts are continually stymied because everyone in the Holy Land knows that whatever the current President says, there will always be a steady flow of aid to Israel and the settlement movement. Some of that aid comes from the vaunted "Jewish lobby", but most of it comes from the Religious Right.

In case you're not familiar with their agenda, the Religious Right believes (as does its counterpart in Israel) that the Jews have a deed to the entire Holy Land, sent straight from Heaven. The borders of the deed are open to some question; Numbers 34 delineates an area almost exactly contiguous with the current borders of Israel and the occupied territories, but references in Deuteronomy 1 also indicate that parts of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and western Iraq ("to the great river, the river Euphrates") are also Jewish by default. Nonetheless, the Religious Right feels religiously obligated to support any and all efforts to secure the occupied territories for the Jews.

That includes running off anyone else who might think differently. Delay and his associates favor the dismantling of the PA and the abolition of any sort of Palestinian organization. The Palestinians, in their view, should submit to the Jews' divine title to Eretz Israel or leave the country. I've not heard any public support here in America for Benny Elon's proposal to "transfer" (forcibly expel and massacre) the Palestinians, but I feel that many in the Religious Right would not object. After all, Deuteronomy 7:1-2 says

When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee... nations greater and mightier than thou.... and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them.

Benny and Delay agree that Israel should go forth and conquer, using the same tactics that the ancient Israelites used c. 1100 BC, and never mind three thousand years of progress in human rights and justice.

Mr. DeLay praised the president today for forcefully refusing to negotiate with Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, whom he called a terrorist, and said he would not be critical of the road map. But he has clearly been taken aback by the pace of Israel's own progress toward negotiations with the Palestinians.

"You could have knocked me over," he said, when Mr. Sharon declared in May that the time had come to divide the land of Israel with the Palestinians, a position that Mr. DeLay has long abhorred with much of the same thunder that used to be Mr. Sharon's trademark.

Delay, you see, was convinced that Sharon's alliance with the settler movement was a permanent rock upon which he could base his calls for war on the Palestinians. Sharon, it turns out, wants victory and safety for Israel worse than he wants land.

Even now, he said, he thinks that the Palestinians must go much further in renouncing terrorism before a meaningful peace can be achieved.

Actually, this is probably true. It's no reason to sabotage a peace process, however. They're still having problems of this sort in Northern Ireland, for example.

"So far, I can't be critical, but I do have grave concerns," he said. "I have watched peace process after peace process after peace process, which is what happens when the process drives everything, not the peace. When they talk about a road map, I question whether this is a road map based on the president's speech, or a road map based on some State Department concept of another peace process."

The State Department has long been regarded by the Republicans as a nest of Democrats who push liberal foreign policy under their noses. True or not, this sentiment leads to the continual undermining of the State Department as an instrument of foreign policy. Delay wasn't listening when Tony Blair told him "peace processes are frustrating.... but for all that, having a peace process is better than not having one."

He said the American military victory in Iraq, however, had given him some optimism that Palestinians would begin to move away from the use of violence as they began to appreciate the power of the United States.

A Unilateral sentiment.

"In the Arab world before 9/11, they thought the United States was a paper tiger," said Mr. DeLay, who will also make a brief visit to military commanders in Baghdad next week. "We had a president at the time whose retaliation at terrorism was throwing a few bombs in the desert. They laughed at that. And now they see this is real stuff and real power. And they respect power. If the experiment going on in Iraq comes off, it will have a huge, huge impact in the Arab world, showing people who want freedom and self-government and education that they can have it."

Except for Palestinians, of course. They don't count -- they're all terrorists.

Congressional Democrats, hoping not to lose any of their traditional Jewish support to pro-Israel Republicans, are also planning an official visit to Israel. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic whip, will lead a delegation of 29 House Democrats to Israel next month, and he said he believed that he would carry a more upbeat view of the peace effort.

Because the Democrats are addressing Israel's problems instead of trying to lecture it on what God's plans are.

He said his group embraced a more optimistic view of the ability of those involved to "effect in the near term a solid peace that is kept between an emerging Palestinian state and a sovereign, secure state of Israel."

In other words, support the policy that the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation, the Arab governments, the State of Israel, and the Palestinian Authority have all signed on to.

In opposition, it should be pointed out, are Mr. Delay's Religious Right, Benny Elon and the fanatical settlers, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, elements of Fatah, the Iranian government, and Arab intelligence services. What a lovely group!

In general, Mr. Hoyer said, he shares Mr. DeLay's view that the United States must be absolutely committed to Israel's integrity and security,

Only the terrorists deny this.

though he suggested that the Republican position was in part motivated by domestic politics.

You think?

Mr. DeLay, however, said politics had nothing to do with his position, predicting that Jews would never leave the Democratic Party in large numbers.

That prediction may be true, but Delay isn't angling for Jews. He's courting Christian evangelicals who believe that every last word of the Bible must be brought to fruition in our lifetimes. You know the type.

Instead, he said, his passion for Israel is driven by his support for its democratic values and by his faith.

Primarily the latter.

"I recognize that my faith came from that part of the world," he said. "And in my faith, fighting for right and wrong, and understanding good and evil, is pretty apparent and pretty straightforward."

Aristotle's theory of motion was pretty apparent and pretty straightforward, too. It was also wrong. Delay can't see suffering Palestinians because he typecasts them as terrorists. But that's okay for him: it fits well with his biblical sentiments. Smite the terrorists! Smite them all!

* The lack of a capital L is intentional. Draw your own conclusions.