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Tea Party Foreign Policy

Will Israel be the field of the forthcoming GOP civil war?

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Sarah Palin.(Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

The conventional wisdom following last month’s midterm elections is that the rousing Republican victory would mean a more favorable climate for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government in the United States—that the extra-friendly Congress would make it more difficult for the Obama Administration to put the screws to Netanyahu the way it has. However, the rise of the volatile and unpredictable Tea Party—which for practical, political purposes is a part of the Republican Party but at the same time is not necessarily of it, particularly on foreign policy matters—complicates that conventional wisdom considerably.

Late last month, the New York Times reported on this dissonance. Republican leadership as well as its influential neoconservative wing are, of course, staunch backers of Israel broadly and Netanyahu’s center-right policies specifically. The Tea Party, however, has an isolationist aura about it, and isolationism generally tends to correlate with less support for Israel. This is why there was such a panic when soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor floated the notion of separating Israeli aid from other foreign aid: Even isolationism that explicitly makes an exception for Israel is considered dangerous by groups like AIPAC.

The Times reporters emphasize that the party leadership is still overwhelmingly pro-Israel. But Tablet Magazine contributor Barry Gewen has a new post pointing to very real fissures between the leadership and the Tea Party, and he seems much less sanguine that they will simply be papered over.

Gewen points to the two Pauls—father and son Ron and Rand, the former a longtime Texas congressman and cult GOP presidential candidate, the latter a newly elected senator from Kentucky and arguably the most prominent true Tea Partier—and various statements they have made about Israel and the Mideast. Ron Paul “has repeatedly condemned Israeli policies, often in the harshest terms,” Gewen reports. “One of his staffers declared that, ‘By far the most powerful lobby in Washington of the bad sort is the Israeli government.’ Paul’s opponents inside and outside the Tea Party see undertones of anti-Semitism in his positions, or worse.”

Gewen’s point, and it seems to me persuasive, is that while the Tea Partiers’ main focus—if that isn’t a contradiction in terms—are domestic issues and general anger that has concentrated itself on the Obama Administration, they do have opinions on foreign policy and Israel, and they are not the same as the pro-Israel tilt of the GOP establishment, and when the issue is raised they will not be shy, and they will not be without influence.

The bellwether might be Sarah Palin. Up until now, she has, to paraphrase Gewen, out-Netanyahu’d Netanyahu, forcibly defending Israeli settlements (which is no surprise given that Bill Kristol was one of her earliest patrons and her chief foreign policy adviser is neoconservative Randy Scheunemann). Tea Partiers, according to Gewen, have not ignored this, or let her off the hook because she is the ultimate Mama Grizzly; rather, they have called her charming things like “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” “simplistic,” and “a neocon Stepford wife.”

Here’s a prediction: Sometime in the next year, as GOP primary season begins, some issue—whether directly about Israel or touching on policies and values intimately related to American Israel policy—will come up and bring this oft-overlooked fissure to the fore. Where the GOP candidates—especially Palin, particularly if she runs—come down on it will be very telling.

GOP and Tea Party Are Mixed Blessing for Israel [NYT]
How the Tea Party Is Wrecking GOP Foreign Policy [Entanglements]
Earlier: Cantor’s ‘Foreign Aid’ Trial Balloon Is Popped

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H Rosen says:

Not just antisemitic overtones for Ron Paul but outright
antisemitism. He writes for a neo nazi publication but says he cannot control what other writers say. It is ludicrous to think he does not read the other pieces.
Hit Ron Paul/ anti semite on Google and you will get hundreds of verifications. As far as clone Rand goes I suspect he has the same agenda. I wonder if Rand knows that Ayn Rand was jewish.
Ben Stein on Larry King ;while he was on with Ron Paul; called him an anti semite to his face…something I have never seen before on nationide TV.
It is hard to believe that there is prominent and open antisemitism on television. Why is it OK with MSNBC to keep someone like Pat Buchanan ..or fawning before Jimmy Carter on Public Television when Juan Williams gets fired
for political correctness.
One hopes the Tea Party will control their more freaky element or the GOP will eventually edit them out.

WAIT !!!! whose government do we elect in this country ,Israels or the USA …America should not help nor hinder Israel..they are big boys and girls over there now and they should take care of themselves …and stop trying to link any bad they do to some sort of phantom tacit approval from the US government..For far to long has Israel dragged us into their depravity and insane foreign policies..America should watch,listen,approve of or scold when Israel has been wrong…just like we do with the 187 other nations on the earth…ISRAEL >>>STOP PRETENDING THAT YOU CARE WHAT AMERICANS THINK>>>KEEP DOING WHAT YOU DO AND LEAVE US OUT OF IT…

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Tea Party Foreign Policy

Will Israel be the field of the forthcoming GOP civil war?

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