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 Day 19

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Did Anyone Really Think They Would Lose?

Israel Claims Victory in US Midterm Elections

by FRANKLIN LAMB

Beirut

The Republican party’s gain of 60 plus House Seats (10 seats, all held by Democrats, are still undecided at press time) and six Senate seats, is the largest Congressional increase for either party since 1948 when the Democrats gained 75 seats in the lower chamber and Harry Truman won the White House. Next January’s 112th Congress is already receiving rave advance reviews, some coming from the more than half a million Jewish settlers in more than 100 illegal colonies in occupied Palestine who are pleased to see President Obama emasculated and the sentiments expressed in his June 2008 Cairo speech long forgotten. Many are hoping he will be replaced by likes of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, or a Mike Huckabee in 2012.Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council, which represents Jewish settlers in the West Bank, and whose representatives are increasingly on the rampage, by word and by deed, spoke for many when he told a post election news conference that he expected the new Congress "will facilitate a more open-minded approach to Israel’s needs [i.e., yet more Palestinian land] than what we’ve experienced over the last two years."

AIPAC, as it does after every Congressional election, offered pro forma congratulations to the winners: “It is abundantly clear that the 112th Congress will continue America’s long tradition of staunch support for a strong, safe and secure Israel and an abiding friendship between the United States and our most reliable ally in the Middle East.”No sooner had the election results been declared than key winners received what for decades has been a post election ritual, bestowed on new Members of Congress. That would be the delivery of US taxpayer subsidized invitations for all expense paid junkets to Israel. Of this year’s batch, Florida’s new Senator, Marco Rubio, who considers himself a Tea Party leader and who has been called “America’s great Right hope’ will lead the flock and arrive in Israel on this Sunday, November 7.

As Rubio and other members of Congress board planes to fly to Israel they may actually near-miss Israeli officials, including PM Netanyahu, who will be coming the opposite direction for a five day US visit to meet with his personal choice to replace Obama for US President in 2012, Hilary Clinton. Netanyahu will also talk Congressional strategy with key Israeli lobby agents. Those listed on the various passenger manifests between the US and Israel will share the common objective of making sure Israel’s interests are preserved and “remain eternally paramount” to borrow a phrase from VP Joe Biden. They will also try to assure and that the 112th Congress brooks no Obama administration unpleasantness such as increased demands for a broader freeze on Jewish settlements.

The post Congressional election euphoria has not extended to Lebanon and this region.This is because over here it is widely believed that the new Congress, with respect to Lebanon’s arch foe Israel which has committed serial aggressions against it for half a century, will pick up right where the old Congress left off without missing a beat.

Many in Lebanon view Obama’s repudiation in the polls as a sign that he will be unable to pressure Israel into concessions in stalled peace talks. They expect the Congressional drum beat for war with Iran, pressure on Syria, deference to Netanyahu-Lieberman, and interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs including the targeting of the national Lebanese Resistance led by Hezbollah to increase.

The morning after the US election, at the open-air Café Younnes Coffee Shop off Hamra Street, some Lebanese students were explaining to foreigners, with remarkable grasp of the electoral details, their take on the US midterm election results.One student explained that she expects the soon to be Speaker of the House, wildly pro-Israel John Boehner (R-Ohio), with Eric Cantor as Majority Leaders and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, will anchor Israel’s Congressional rule.Ros-Lehtinen, the all time Congressional record holder for all manner of anti-Arab congressional initiatives’ over the past two decades. Yesterday she called for all Members of Congress to sign her latest letter to President Obama opposing his administration’s proposed $60 billion arms deal to Saudi Arabia, by the end of business on 11/6/10. Ros-Lehtinen is also expected to renew her call to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. She has also expressed her intention to maintain what are essentially US sanctions against Lebanon by extending her predecessor Howard Berman’s ban on grants to the Lebanese Armed Forces until Hezbollah is disarmed to prevent it from benefiting from the military aid.

Other key committees chairmanships held by Israel loyalists are believed here to mean an even stronger choke hold on the US government starting January.One Palestinian student who used to live in Nahr al Bared Camp near Tripoli before it was destroyed in 2007, explained how Cantor has already drawn pro-Israel skeptical reaction with his proposal that American assistance to Israel be taken out of the annual foreign aid bill and be passed separately, on its own. Cantor’s thinking is that, given his party’s intention to heavily cut foreign aid, he wants Israel’s annual $ 3 billion US taxpayer gift to remain untouched even as foreign aid to other nations get slashed.

Some pro-Israel lobbyists worry that Cantor’s “going public” with his plan may result in the American public noticing how much aid Israel gets and begin to wonder why Israel’s aid is so sacrosanct. Voters might notice that Israel has received more foreign aid from the United States than any other country since World War II, according to a recent report compiled by the Congressional Research Service.

Voters may begin to learn about and perhaps even question the fact that over the years, multiple lobbying efforts have added countless perks to Israel’s special aid package such that Israel is the only recipient allowed to spend a portion of its military aid on purchases within Israel itself. Usually this kind of aid is designed for procurement of American-made weapon systems. Israel also receives its aid in the first month of the fiscal year as a deposit in an interest-bearing account. Aid to all other recipients is spread out throughout the year.The Lebanese students verdict on the 2010 US midterm election:Netanyahu and Israel won again.Obama and America lost again.

FRANKLIN LAMB is doing research in Lebanon and can be contacted at fplamb@gmail.com