Which Senate Republicans are the best for Israel?
Cotton Club member Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Wednesday joined the chorus of critics of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) over the Senate’s recent decision to advance a bill that would allow the government to block Israeli-Palestinian efforts to reach a two-state solution by blocking all payments and economic aid.
In a blog post, Cotton wrote that the bill, which passed the Senate on Tuesday with support from 67 senators, is “not in the interests of the Jewish state, and it’s not in the interest of the American people.”
“It’s not just that it’s a bad idea; it’s that it gives Israel leverage to stop the peace process and the negotiations from reaching an acceptable resolution,” Cotton wrote.
“The Israeli-American lobby, which has a powerful lobbying presence in Washington, is not the only lobby that has used its power to block the peace negotiations.
They have also spent tens of millions of dollars in direct lobbying efforts to defeat the resolution in the Senate.”
The legislation would block all aid to Israel from 2019 through 2023 and all future payments from 2023 to 2026, the date of the current negotiations.
In an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Wednesday, Cotton called the bill a “loser’s bargain” that would have a “negative impact on American foreign policy and the ability to make peace in the Middle East.”
“The bill that we’re introducing today is a loser’s bargain, and I think the American public should be very concerned,” he said.
“There is no reason to believe that the Israeli lobby will not use the same strategy to try to block a two state solution in the future, and if they can stop that in the coming years, it will be a major setback for the peace efforts in the region.”
Cotton has been a vocal critic of the Senate move, arguing that the Senate should vote on a resolution to block any future U.S. aid to the Palestinians.
Cotton, who is a co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Rand Paul (R, Ky.), is the chairman of the Cotton-backed Cotton Caucus, which includes several pro-Israel lawmakers, including Sens.
Mike Lee (R., Utah), Ted Cruz (R.
Texas), Tom Cotton and Ron Johnson (R.-Wis.).
Cotton also served on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is where the legislation was developed, and is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
He has also been a senior advisor to the Israel advocacy group J Street.
In the post, he said that Schumer and other Democrats were “the ones who made this a loser,” and criticized them for “failing to listen to the American Jewish community and to listen very closely to their own constituents.”
“In many cases, Schumer’s votes are actually on votes that make the peace less likely to come to pass,” Cotton said.
“And so, I think it’s fair to say that his leadership in the Democratic Party has been one of the most problematic of all time.”
Cary Katz, a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said that Cotton’s criticism of Schumer was “quite reasonable,” and that the senator has been “quite a champion of the Palestinian cause” for a long time.
“He’s a good friend of Israel, a strong supporter of Israel’s policies, and a very strong supporter for Israel’s interests,” Katz told The Hill.
“And it’s disappointing to see that he would go so far as to say Schumer’s support for the bill is bad for the Jewish people.
It’s actually not the case.”
Katz noted that Cotton, who has a long history of support for Israel, has also made statements that were “not the most nuanced” on the issue.
“What he said was that if the American government was going to support Israel’s security, then we need to recognize that Israel’s government has an important role to play in the peace effort, and we need the United States to recognize Israel’s right to exist, Katz said.
On Wednesday, Schumer released a statement saying that the vote to advance the bill was “not appropriate.””
I have consistently supported Israel’s legitimate security needs, and support for our allies in the Israeli-Arab world is a cornerstone of the U.N. Security Council,” Schumer said.
He added, “I do not support the bill that was voted on yesterday that would block the government of Israel from continuing to provide assistance to Palestinians.
It was a vote that did not go far enough in addressing the root causes of the conflict, and the bill has a bad name that has been well-earned.