April 17, 2006

Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey on Israel

Carroll Andrew Morse

John E. Mulligan had a report in Sunday’s Projo on Rhode Island’s Republican Senate candidates' postions on “the struggle between Israel and the Palestinians”. Starting with what the candidates agree on and working outward…

1. Both Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey support construction of the Israeli security fence to protect Israel from terrorist attacks. Senator Chafee does have objections to the current positioning of the fence…

Chafee objects to a crucial aspect of the security barrier that Israel is building to protect certain lands: the route that barrier would take through Palestinian areas.

He argues that the proposed pathway would split the Palestinian population and block Palestinian access to Jerusalem in ways that would make a Palestinian state economically and culturally unworkable. Chafee suggested during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year that the barrier's path would "jeopardize the vision of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state."

2. In the ideal, both candidates support the concept of “land-for-peace”. Here is Mulligan’s description of Mayor Laffey’s position…
Laffey said he has no objection to a deal that would swap land -- including occupied lands on the West Bank -- for peace, provided that the Palestinian leadership recognizes Israel's right to exist and renounces violence.
…and of Senator Chafee’s position…
Chafee argued that a "land for peace" deal is the key to the creation of a Palestinian state that would respect Israel's right to exist. More specifically, he said the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank are lands that must be negotiable under the terms of the road map.
3. Senator Chafee talks about the obstacles to “land for peace” mostly in terms of the United States not putting enough pressure on Israel…
Chafee was an early critic of what he has called the Bush administration's lack of sufficient engagement in the peace process. Chafee applauds the administration's embrace of the road map process but has charged that the United States has not done enough to get Israel to follow it.

Chafee has argued that the death of longtime Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat in 2004 and the succession of Mahmoud Abbas were opportunities for peace that Israel failed to exploit. Chafee said the United States shared the responsibility for the failure to help Abbas win enough concessions for his people to consolidate his Fatah Party's power.

Mayor Laffey questions the assumption that impasses in the peace-process automatically imply that the US should step-up pressure on Israel…
Laffey said the peace process has failed over the course of many years because American leaders took the mistaken view that Arafat "was the man to deal with" and "if we could get these people to the table, we could do something reasonable."

In fact, "Arafat wouldn't take a deal" when a favorable settlement was on the table during the waning days of Bill Clinton's presidency, he said. Laffey rejected the Chafee view that the flaw in the U.S. position has been a failure to push Israel toward peace. Rather, the problem is the policy of treating "both sides as being equal when one was terrorists who kind of invented the suicide bomber," according to Laffey.

4. Distressingly, Senator Chafee again expresses skepticism that anyone can oppose his policy preferences for rational reasons. The Senator attributes American reluctance to apply increased pressure to Israel to a rather odd source…
For these Senate Republicans of the Christian right, "the West Bank being Biblically designated as the Promised Land is an issue," Chafee said, citing the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy. "I'm not going to name names," he said of his colleagues, "but there's no doubt in my mind”…

Chafee said Biblical influence on Israel policy is a problem for the country "because the whole premise of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is the West Bank and trading land for peace." The Biblically inspired Republicans "would never trade land for peace, so we're going to have eternal conflict if that position prevails," Chafee said.

That’s an awfully big charge – that American leaders are pursuing a foreign policy for reasons not in the national interest of the United States – to make without naming names, especially since the differences between Senator Chafee’s and Mayor Laffey’s positions are both easily explained in terms of conventional foreign policy worldviews.

Senator Chafee operates from the assumption that the perception of American power is so threatening to the rest of the world, American interests are best served when the United States refrains from supporting its allies and from pressuring its enemies as strongly as it could. Steve Laffey views the national interest in more traditional terms, believing that the United States should support its allies, with no obligation to hold allies to a higher standard of conduct than enemies because of what other governments think.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I have been watching this for a long time, this race. Senator Chafee is a crackpot. That's it. I will no longer support someone who makes so baseless a charge.
I need a retraction and I need to see one now Mr. Chafee.

I thought I was hearing from Joe Mcarthy in the 1950s. Ridiculous.

Posted by: SamHunt at April 17, 2006 3:31 PM

I can understand why the Journal would run this story during the high holy days of both the Christian and Jewish faiths. What I can’t even begin to understand is Mr. Chafee’s very strange accusation that some republicans use the Bible as the basis of their support for real estate issues in Israel. Why even say this?

How people form their opinions and reach their conclusions in a free society like ours isn’t always apparent. The implication that “religion” somehow taints an individual’s position isn’t even American. Mr. Chafee just insulted thousands of free Americans (both Jews and Christians) who support Israel for a multitude of reasons not specifically based upon any particular biblical revelation. This is a very liberal position, maybe even an unconstitutional one.

As a sovereign state Israel can decide how to handle the issues of terrorism, attacks from neighbors, and any other issues that arise regarding its national security. Protecting its people is a fundamental responsibility of any good government.

Yassar Arafat was a terrorist not a peacemaker. Israel is trying to live peacefully with its neighbors, but when people strap bombs to their chests and murder innocent people the talking must end.

Once again the leaders of the Palestinian people are the source of this violence not Israel. In my humble opinion land for peace is a misnomer.

I guess Mr. Chafee's position is understandable when you compare it to his support for the communist Chavez in Venezuela. He’s not a maverick, he’s just way out on the fringe.


Posted by: Gabriel Lofton at April 17, 2006 4:41 PM

Chafee is right that many evangelical Christians support Israel because of the biblical ties. That isn't a radical thought. Pat Robertson has made similar comments on the 700 Club. Chafee's assumptions about the basis for Laffey's personal views are appear to be speculation and conjecture based on his interactions with other senators who hold similar views to Laffey.

It may very well be that Laffey support Israel very strongly because of his religous beliefs. It may very well be that Laffey takes a hard-line position because he wants to raise money from pro-Israel lobbying groups money. It may very well be Laffey takes his position because he has evaluated the situation based on geopolitical and historical factors. More than likely it's a combination of all three reasons.

What is unusual is that the Projo didn't see fit to question Chafee on the situation after Hamas won. Israel now faces a Palestinian government that has listed the destruction of Israel as a goal. Iran recently announced it will be giving money to Hamas-run Palestine under a leader who has also declared the destruction of Israel to be a goal.

So here's the question that I would ask Senator Chafee: Regardless of what has happened in the past, Israel is now in a situation in which a known terrorist group, Hamas, now controls the Palestinian government. The goal of every country is its survival and Israel, the Middle East's only democracy, is no different. What steps should be taken now?

Posted by: Anthony at April 17, 2006 7:14 PM

If the same logic were applied to the United States as is applied to Israel, then we would be under constant world pressure to return Texas to the Mexicans.

The lack of historical knowledge is appalling when it comes to the analysis of this situation. Israel was under attack in 1967, beat its adversaries in six days, and ended up with the West Bank (formerly occupied by Jordan), Gaza Strip (formerly occupied by Egypt), and the Sinai desert. Almost immediately after the war was over Israel offered to return all these lands. The arabs responded with the now-infamous three nos. Even historically anti-Israel world leaders called its offer "magnanimous".

Israel is perhaps the only nation in history that has been willing to enter into "land for peace" bargains with its enemies. Laffey pointed out the most recent example, which was Arafat's turning down Barak's offer in 1990 of the West Bank, Gaza, and most of East Jerusalem.

The PLO was formed in 1962 with the express purpose of killing jews and driving Israel into the sea. Only in the late 1980s did they even start mentioning a desire for a homeland and self govenment.

This talk about "occupied lands" should go all the way back to 1950 when Egypt occupied Gaza and Jordan occupied the West Bank in the first place. Now that was a real occupation - and a brutal one at that. Israel was stuck with these lands because no Arabs wanted them post-1967 and the Palestinians had no semblence of a government in place to administer them. They became terrorist bases. They also became useful focal points for the repressive arab regimes. The sheiks and mullahs roused their people's anger by levying false charges against Israel and pointing to the "plight" of the palestinians so they wouldn't look too hard at the brutality and inequity at home.

This whole issue would have been moot if the arabs did not attack Israel in the first place in 1948. At that time, Israel had 45% of the land and bedoin tribesman (now called Palestinians) had 55%. Israel was more than happy with this arrangement. They didn't start that war, nor any of the major wars against the arabs. Israel get vilified because it has the bad habit of whipping vastly superior armies in terms of men and material that start wars against it. Then it gets stuck with lands it doesn't want, and the world calls them occupiers. Remember - these were not "Palestinian" lands before 1967, they were Egyptian and Jordanian-controlled.

Now, the settlement issue. You offer to give back the lands in '67 and have no takers. These lands are now being used as terrorist strongholds. Your peace overtures are roundly rebuffed. So doesn't it make good sense to start settling the outskirts of them with your people? Any nation would do that.

The arabs have had countless chances for peace and a willing partner in Israel. As Kissinger said: "They never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity". It is more than clear: the Palestinians never wanted peace. They just want to destroy Israel, pure and simple.

I think the answer to Laffey's stand on Israel is that he is a keen student of history.

Posted by: bountyhunter at April 17, 2006 8:36 PM

Are we to believe that Hamas took over in Palestine because Chafee was unsuccessful at applying pressure on Israel to be more moderate? This is utter poppycock. And for the Journal to print this schlock with a straight face is beyond the pale.

And to paint Laffey as some kind of radical Christian right wing freak. If you noticed, all the descriptions of Chafee on page 1 were complimentary, while all the descriptions of Laffey were dilatory (see my post in The Senescent Man).

And it's interesting in light of today's revelation that Hamas will not oppose the suicide bombing of innocent Israelis.

So, Mr. Chafee, what do we do now to apply pressure on Israel to influence radical Hamas? (Doesn't that have an idiotic ring to it? Maybe, like the utterances of someone who should be shoeing horses for a living perhaps???)

Posted by: Chuck Nevola at April 17, 2006 8:41 PM

There comes a point in time where intelligent people realize that more talking will yield nothing. Those who can't realize this actually are afraid to make decisions. Lincoln Chafee is just such a person. Recall the Alito decision. When he made a decision, only because there was a point when he had to, it was moot. This is what we can expect from all other issues with Chafee. The man does not have the backbone, nor the intellect to be a United States Senator.

For someone who lobs unsubstantiated remarks about another being a "religious radical", Chafee quotes scripture like he is the radical

Furthermore, Chafee said that Arafat was a man of peace. Chafee admires Chavez. Chafee is one of a few Senators to vote agianst the Syrian accountability act.

The thought process that yields this nonsense is not the product of a balanced individual. It is imperative that we remove Chafee from the US Senate.

Posted by: Jim at April 17, 2006 9:21 PM

I have to admit, it really takes a lot nowadays for me to be offended by anything that Senator Chafee says. Broadingly painting those who believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in the land of Israel -- especially evangelical Christians and orthodox Jews, as well as many secularists who supported the creation of the State of Israel after the Holocaust -- as just being a bunch of weirdos, is well, just plain weird.

How can Chafee simply PRESUME that Mayor Laffey's position of strong support for Israel -- and dislike of the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas -- HAS TO MEAN that Laffey's a "Bible-thumper" or a member of the so-called "Religious Right" or is caving in to the "Israel lobby"? That's so disgusting, I'm going to refrain from further elaborating about what I really think about it.

I'd like to think that the incumbent Senator has a more enlightened view of the Republican Party nationally, as well as the population as a whole, most of which hold some or all of the Bible in the highest respect. At a minimum, he should not be degrading or ridiculing the beliefs of many Christians and Jews, who believe that the Bible was inspired by God. That attitude of "religion belongs over there in the corner" is only yet another in a long line of reasons why Chafee does not deserve to continue floundering about in the US Senate.

PS You know when I am in near 100% agreement with Anthony on something, that there has to be a real issue worth discussing here!

Posted by: Will at April 18, 2006 12:39 AM

In all my years I have never seen anything like Senator chafee in the Sunday Projo. Well maybe once. Joe Mcarthy in the 1950s. I think the Hunter of the Bounty says it best so why add anymore on the history of Israel. It is over for mr. chafee. very very over.

Posted by: Ivanthe Elder at April 18, 2006 10:20 AM

Will, we're probably in agreement on the vast majority of the issues. We just have a difference of opinion on how best to advance conservatism nationally when it comes to the Chafee/Laffey race.

Posted by: Anthony at April 18, 2006 2:24 PM

It seems to me that Steve Laffey is the one who brought God into this race. Or rather, Mr. Laffey would tell us that God brought him into it.

Reading the article, I thought Senator Chafee came across as pretty thoughtful, speaking with the authority and grasp of the topic that you would expect of the chairman of the relevant Senate subcommittee. My guess is that he has actually met the players in the Middle East and discussed these issues with them at some length. Laffey offered only his trademark bombast, then retreated whenever the reporter asked for details.

I just don't see how his supporters could have seen that story as a positive one for their side.

Posted by: Brian Taft at April 18, 2006 9:33 PM

Brian Taft,
You think that "Chafee came across as pretty thoughtful...?" Perhaps thoughtless, but definitely not thoughtful. For more on the idiocy of his thinking, read the April 16 article on this link: http://senescence.blogspot.com/

It is quite clear that Chafee is in way over his head.

Posted by: Jim at April 18, 2006 10:16 PM

"Thoughtful" wasn't quite the adjective that came to mind. Making fun of or ridiculing, even if in a subtle way, a candidate's belief in God, is so far beyond what we should expect from a Senator, I can't even fathom how someone can try to defend that. Next thing you know, you'll be claiming he's stockpiling ammo in his basement, to help the Pope's army take over America. :)

What rational person would find it so offensive that Mayor Laffey based his decision to return to Rhode Island and fix the city that he grew up in, as in part having to do with believing that it was what God would want him to do? Ever heard of What Would Jesus Do? Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Is that concept of religious belief so foreign to you, that it makes him sound like a crackpot? To most people who do believe in God, that just sounds like a man with a strong faith. It's an asset; not a liability.

While there are many denominations and sects, you're dealing with a voting population in Rhode Island that overwhelmingly believes in God. If you think making fun of Mayor Laffey's religious beliefs is fair game, you better be prepared for the consequences that result. You might be able to secure the atheist vote -- all 2-4 percent of them -- but you'll end up scaring away so many more.

Posted by: Will at April 19, 2006 12:22 AM

Categorizing Chafee's comments as anti-religous in any way is unfair. It is true that several elected officials view the Israel/Palestinian issue through a religous lens. That's a fact. Chafee's assertion that Laffey developed his position on Israel because of his religious beliefs is not anti-religous, it's just an assumption that can not be substantiated.

Posted by: Anthony at April 19, 2006 6:37 PM

I wanted to share a discovery I made with this community. I found this document next to the cave where the Book of Judas was found. I believe it is by King David, and I call it Psalm 151. At first it did not make sense to me, but based on recent events I think it is not only poetic but also prophetic. Please sing it to the music of "This Land is your land. This Land is my land". Here it is:

This land is Jewish land.
It is not Arab Land.
It was given to me,
in the Book of Deuteronomy.

That Chafee,
He must be crazy!
That's why I support Laffey.

Posted by: Brown Bible Scholar at April 19, 2006 7:31 PM