US judge in election case warns Trump over ‘inflammatory’ statements

LONDON: Several Democrat members of the US Congress have been criticized for visiting Israel on a trip funded by a hard-line pro-Israel lobby group.

Among those criticized were House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who has been accused of using the trip, put on by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, to lend political support to Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, amid mounting pressure over a series of judicial reforms. 

Jeffries, who met with Netanyahu on the trip, was also accused of playing down Israeli settler violence against Palestinians, after claiming the prime minister had made “clear to us that he doesn’t condone violence, no matter where it originates” in the wake of the recent death of a Palestinian teenager.

After meeting the prime minister, Jeffries defended the current terms for US military aid to Israel, which currently stands at about $3.4 billion per year. This has come under scrutiny after Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and a number of senior US diplomats suggested it was time to re-evaluate the pact to prevent funds being used in the oppression of ordinary Palestinians.

“The need to ensure we maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge will still be with us, regardless of where Israel lands in terms of the judicial reform effort,” Jeffries said.

“The stakes are too high in a very dangerous world for anything other than our continued security cooperation to remain ironclad.”

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Jeffries had also made statements during the trip about widespread protests against the country’s judicial reforms “that echo the emerging Republican talking points on the matter, rather than the growing number of Democrats voicing concern.”

Hadar Susskind, president of the group Americans for Peace Now, told The Guardian it was wrong for the Democratic members of Congress to collaborate with Aipac, given that it funded pro-Israel Republican candidates against Democrats across the country, including some that have denied the legitimacy of President Joe Biden.

He noted that another Democrat on the trip, Shri Thanedar, had previously suggested Israel was an “apartheid state,” and that Aipac had subsequently spent $4 million trying to unseat him last year.

“For Democrats to be going on this trip funded and led around by an organization that is fundamentally opposed to the policies of their president and their party — and which attacks the colleagues of the people on the trip very, very directly — is absurd,” Susskind said.

Usamah Andrabi, spokesperson for Justice Democrats, told The Guardian: “It is a failure of Democratic leadership to continue working in any capacity with Aipac.

“Every Democratic member who went on this trip is endorsing Aipac’s rightwing primary challenges to their colleagues, the over 100 Republicans who voted to overturn the election, and the Israeli government’s brutal apartheid regime.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street, told The Guardian: “Our concern is that US tax dollars shouldn’t be funding material and arms that facilitate the deepening of occupation and the permanent demise of a possible Palestinian state. That’s not in anyone’s security interest.”


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