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A Progressive Victory on Israel, as Hardliners Fail to Mount Campaign Against Donna Edwards

Hardline activists sought to unseat Rep. Donna Edwards over her Mideast views, but failed to raise enough money.
 
 
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Rep. Donna Edwards, a Maryland Democrat who is associated with J Street, which argues for a more progressive U.S. policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict, has staved off a challenge from a fellow Democrat who sought to raise money by running to her right on Mideast issues.

This week, Glenn Ivey, the former Prince George’s County state’s attorney, announced he was abandoning plans to challenge Edwards, citing his inability to raise money.

“[I]t would take a very substantial amount of money to get my message out to voters in two very expensive media markets,” Ivey said in a statement. “A tough economy and a compressed election time-frame have made it tough for my campaign to raise enough funds to move forward.”

Ivey had raised about $150,000 while Edwards had taken in about $230,000, according to the latest available numbers reported by the Baltimore Sun. Part of the fundraising fight centered on the contentious issue of American policy toward Israel.

Edwards has long been associated with J Street, and she has, for example, been much more critical of Jewish settlements in the West Bank than most members of Congress. In 2010, she raised money from a group, New Policy PAC, that is open to the idea of a “democratic secular state” in historic Palestine – in other words, a one-state solution. Edwards describes herself a strong supporter of a two-state solution to the conflict.

In the past few months, J Street raised more than $40,000 for Edwards, the group tells me. Federal election filings show that virtually all of the money J Street raised for Edwards came from outside of her district, from places like New York and California.

American activists who are more aligned with the hardline positions of the American Israel Public Affairs Council than with J Street have long opposed Edwards and sought to unseat her. Ivey first explored a primary challenge to Edwards in 2009 with the backing of right-wing activists on the issue, who were angered by Edwards’ “present” vote on a resolution supporting Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

This time around, Ivey was “rumored to have the backing of several wealthy members of the local Jewish community who live outside of Edwards’ district,” Washington Jewish Week reported in November.

A December invitation to an Ivey fundraiser, which I’ve posted in full below, focused almost exclusively on U.S. policy toward Israel.

“Glenn [Ivey] has made it clear that he is unwavering in his support for the State of Israel while his opponent’s voting record, public positions and comments on Israel related issues have been of major concern to the Jewish community,” writes Barbara Goldberg Goldman of Rockville in the invitation, adding in a follow-up:

“His opponent, Donna Edwards, has demonstrated by her absolute actions on multiple occasions that her ideas about Israel’s safety, security and right to defend herself, is vastly different from how we believe as a people and as a community. We now have an opportunity to make an important change and difference. It doesn’t matter whether or not you reside in Glenn’s district. Let’s do it!”

Checks for Ivey were to be sent to Michael Gelman, the chairman emeritus of the hardline Israel Project and chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of The Jewish Federations of North America.

The invitation also contained a lengthy and detailed Ivey position paper on Israel and Iran, in which Ivey pledges to support increased U.S. military aid for Israel, despite the deficit-cutting fever In Washington, and tightened sanctions on Iran.

In the end, though, the effort to raise money for Ivey apparently fell short. JStreetPAC President Jeremy Ben-Ami argues that Ivey’s decision not to pursue a challenge against Edwards says something significant about the current moment.

“For too long, the conventional political wisdom has been that the most hawkish within the Jewish community had the fundraising ability to defeat candidates whose views on what it means to be pro-Israel did not comport with their own,” he says. “The assumption was that because these voices were the loudest that they spoke for the majority. Donna Edward’s ability to raise nearly $50,000 from pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans tells a very different story.”

It’s also possible that AIPAC-oriented donors decided Ivey was a bad investment. An internal Edwards poll from November showed her with a wide lead over Ivey. In any case, Edwards is now expected to win easy reelection in the solidly Democratic district. And given the failure of hardline activists to unseat her for two cycles in a row, it seems unlikely that Edwards will retreat from her progressive position on the Mideast.

Here’s that full invitation, with some personal contact information deleted:

From: barbara goldberg goldman
Date: December 20, 2011 12:49:30 PM EST
To:
Subject: POSITION ON ISRAEL: GLENN IVEY

Friends,

We thought you might be interested in reading Glenn’s recent position paper outlining his stance on Israel. As we said in our earlier email/invitation to you, we strongly believe that Glenn will make a wonderful Member of Congress not just for the residents in his Maryland congressional district, but also for the entire Jewish community. We need to send him to the Hill.

We do hope you will agree with  and join us along with Michael Gelman, David Butler, Danny Abramowitz, Louis Mayberg, Paul Berger, Benham Dayanim, Ron Glancz Eric Kassoff, Danny and Jocelyn Krifcher, Andy Stern and John Verstandig, and many others in our efforts to get Glenn elected to Congress. His opponent, Donna Edwards, has demonstrated by her absolute actions on multiple occasions that her ideas about Israel’s safety, security and right to defend herself, is vastly different from how we believe as a people and as a community. We now have an opportunity to make an important change and difference. It doesn’t matter whether or not you reside in Glenn’s district. Let’s do it!

So, please attend our event on January 3, 2012. But, if you are unable to be with us in person, we ask that you make a donation. Below Glenn’s position paper, please find the original email. And attached please find the January 3rd invitation. In the invitation you will find the details.  And, feel free to forward the information to anyone who you believe would like to join us!

Checks, by the way should be sent to: Michael Gelman,  Chevy Chase, Md Attn: Ivey For Congress Event.   Again, we would like to receive the funds in time to meet theDecember 31st filing deadline. Think of it as a wonderful Chanukah gift to our entire community!

Thanks so much. We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you on January 3, 2012!

Have a healthy, happy, safe and fun Chanukah and New Year!

Cheers,

Barbara GG and Mike Goldman

GLENN’S POSITION ON ISRAEL

In Congress, I will continue to strongly support the vital and vibrant relationship between the United States and Israel.  Because Israel is America’s strongest and most reliable ally in the turbulent Middle East, it remains the centerpiece of America’s foreign policy in that region.

When I visited Israel in 2005, I quickly realized the challenges of living with the constant threat of terrorist attacks.   At the Hadassah Hospital, I saw first hand shrapnel from a bomb a former patient used to blow up the doctors and nurses who had treated him just days before.  In Jerusalem, I saw restaurants with armed guards and security gates, heavily armed soldiers, and checkpoints at nearly every turn.

At the same time, I saw a nation that had decided to risk its very own security by turning over the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority-even though that meant the forcible removal of more than 9,000 Israeli citizens who had lived there peacefully.   I saw the meticulous restoration of sacred religious sites that had been neglected for centuries.  Most importantly, I saw a people wrestling with the challenge of balancing the command of self-preservation with the ideal of an open, democratic society governed by the rule of law.

Military Support for Israel

A strong Israel bolsters American strength and security internationally, while creating new economic opportunities for American businesses and workers. Most of the U.S. funds supporting Israel are spent here in America buying military equipment that helps protect the Middle East – a joint goal of Israel and the United States. The United States should continue to work with Israel in its development of defensive weapons systems designed to protect against ballistic missile and rocket attacks from Iran, their terrorist proxies Hezbollah and Hamas as well as other potential attackers. Such weapons help both Israel and America alike. It is critical for Israel to maintain a significant military edge over enemies of Israel and the West.

As a Member of Congress, I would support the ten-year security agreement committing the United States to help Israel address growing and evolving threats to its existence.  Israel is America’s strongest and steadiest strategic ally in the Middle East.   Yet, Israel is also surrounded by threats including a potential for an Iran with nuclear capability, and increasing military capability by terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizballah. American military cooperation and aid bolsters Israel’s ability to defend itself in a dangerous region and sends a clear signal to these foes that our support for Israel is unwavering.  Moreover, helping Israel maintain a military advantage over potential adversaries serves as a deterrent to military conflicts and has enabled Israel to take risks for peace. Therefore, it is critical that America continue its support for Israel. Congress provided the full $3 billion in security aid to Israel for 2011. While it may be necessary to trim federal spending in many areas, including on foreign and security programs, I will fight for critical funding of our assistance to Israel, at the level of $3.075 billion for 2012, in accordance with the 10 year plan. Israel typically spends most of its aid money buying U.S.-made items.

Iran’s Nuclear Threat

Iran’s nuclear program and support of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are a threat not only to Israel, but to all who care about security and peace. According to U.S. Courts and other key sources, Iran has been behind bombings that killed many Americans. Iran poses an existential threat to the security of Israel and its citizens.  Led by  President  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has openly called for Israel to be “wiped of the map”, and an unelected cleric, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran is recklessly pursuing the acquisition of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.  Clearly, Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.  The United States must be willing to enforce and expand a rigorous sanctions regime that deters Iran from its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and should not eliminate the possibility-however remote-of military action to eliminate the threat.  My specific plan for stopping the threat of Iran is to be clear that they cannot get access to nuclear weapons and must stop their state sponsorship of terror. We must:

1.     Put Serious Sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran

The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) conducts the bulk of Iran’s international transactions and is the key financial facilitator for Iran’s proliferation and terrorist activities. UNSCR 1929 notes the potential connection between Iran’s revenues derived from its energy sector and the funding of Iran’s proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities. To stop the flow of the petroleum commerce, the international community should pursue sanctions on the CBI as well as on oil companies, shipping firms, insurance providers and banks that are involved in such activity.

These sanctions will dramatically increase pressure on Iran’s leaders to change their course and end their illicit activities. Could such steps tighten the world’s supply of oil, putting pressure on the world economy? This is possible, although other suppliers could increase production to fill at least part of the shortfall. But the impact would certainly be tiny compared to the price we would all pay if Iran got nuclear weapons or if military action was ultimately used to stop them.

2.     Adopt more aggressive approach towards the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps

The Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are in charge of Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and have been involved in serious human rights abuses. In recent years the IRGC has been playing an increasingly crucial role in Iran’s economy. Washington has already listed the IRGC as a “specially designated global terrorist” and Europe has taken some important measures too, but that is not nearly enough.

What is required now is a comprehensive campaign to map and sanction the hundreds of front companies and agents that operate on behalf of the IRGC. Multinationals who engage in commerce with the IRGC should be penalized, and travel bans and asset freezes should be applied to IRGC officials and members by all responsible members of the international community.

3.     Enact new sanctions legislation and eliminate loopholes

Nations around the world should take the lead from the U.S. Congress and increase pressure on Tehran by taking steps similar to those that recently were adopted unanimously by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Iran Threat Reduction Act closes loopholes in energy and financial sanctions, including sanctioning parent companies for the activities of a foreign subsidiary that violates current US sanctions. The bill also targets the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps and senior Iranian regime officials.

Demonstrate commitment for human rights

Last month, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran filed his first report, revealing a pattern of systemic violations of fundamental human rights.

All responsible members of the international community have a duty to show their support for universal human rights by imposing financial and travel sanctions on human rights abusers. Europe, while waving the banner of human rights, should not have anything to do with the Iranian regime, and governments must punish companies that provide goods, services, and technologies that enable the regime to oppress its people.

4.      Isolate Iran diplomatically

 
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