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The 'Grown-Up' in the GOP Race: John Kasich Is Far From a Kindly Father Figure to the Palestinians

Gov. John Kasich. (YouTube)

This article is the sixth in “Beholden,” a seven-part series about the presidential candidates on Israel and Palestine.

John Kasich wants to be the grown-up in the room—never mind his antic, weirdly entertaining karate-chop debate performances. He wants us to see him as the guy with the calming tone. The firm but kind father figure. The moderate. The reasoned man you can trust to solve our problems—despite all that gesticulating.

But when it comes to enlightened policy on the Holy Land—something that might actually contribute to a sane solution for Israelis and Palestinians—The Grown-up’s hard-line, pro-Israel policies fall somewhere between Hillary Clinton’s uber-American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) pandering and Ted Cruz’s deeply frightening end-of-days beliefs. Whatever happens to this hanger-on candidate, Kasich won’t be derailed by dangerously uttering a single original word on Israel/Palestine.

Kasich’s blame-the-victim statements during the 2016 campaign amount to garden-variety, AIPAC-safe policy. Among them:

  • The distorted, racist, “culture of hate” statements against Palestinians, including the inaccurate trope about Palestinian textbooks, all of which conveniently ignore Israelis’ genocidal calls against Palestinians.
  • The tired, lockstep pledge to honor Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal capital,” predictable fealty to Netanyahu, Likud and the rest of the lunatic Israeli/American alliance, no matter the terrible consequences—dashing any hope for a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, which is supposedly U.S. policy.
  • The pledge to “fight the scourge” of “attacks on Israel.” It might sound like Kasich meant bombs, but he was referring to words, part of The Grown-up’s attempt to silence legitimate, constitutionally protected criticism of Israel. With this line of thinking, Kasich sounds like a clone of Clinton, whose billionaire, one-issue backer, Haim Saban, induced her to launch her own anti-democratic campaign.
  • The myth of the “generous Israel” that has “given a lot of stuff back” and only wants peace. This willfully disregards the tripling of Israel’s West Bank settler population, its exclusive settler- and VIP-only roads and its half-century military occupation reminiscent of the Jim Crow American South.
  • The defense of the settlements themselves, which Kasich euphemistically calls “apartments” and defends as “security,” when in fact Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land has deeply inflamed militant groups and therefore eroded Israel’s security in the region, not to mention U.S. national security.

    So it turns out that The Grown-up’s ideas for “solving problems” in the Holy Land are stale, predictable, stamped with the Israel lobby’s approval seal and without possession of a single useful idea (other than that, though, they’re great). I suppose we can be thankful that unlike Cruz, Kasich doesn’t have a core constituency that believes Israel must be safe so that Jesus Christ can return to Jerusalem and vanquish all sinners. Or have a preacher father whose beliefs are rooted in end of days. Or feel himself anointed by God to be president. And we can toast to the idea, I suppose, that unlike Clinton, Kasich doesn’t have a billionaire backer who likes to say, “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”

    But while Kasich doesn’t have fervently pro-Israel forces bankrolling his campaign (the biggest contributor to his super PAC is instead big into warming the planet), his Reagan-era foreign policy advisers and their calcified policies on the Middle East invite flashbacks to the bad old days when American officials sold weapons to the Iranians to finance their proxy cold war in Nicaragua.

    These advisers include Robert “Bud” McFarlane of Iran-Contra infamy, who resigned during the scandal and later attempted suicide. In 2013, McFarlane was investigated by the FBI after accepting $1.3 million in lobbying money arranged by a Sudanese government accused of genocide and trying to wash its bloody hands.

    Then there is Michael Hayden, the torture apologist, friend of Bibi and enemy of the Iran deal, the general and former NSA director who, among other things, recently likened U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State to “casual sex” and compared journalist and whistleblower Glenn Greenwald with “the devil.”

    It’s really quite a team that Gov. Kasich has put together in his long-shot GOP campaign.

    But the big star among Kasich’s foreign policy advisers is 80-year-old Richard V. Allen, Ronald Reagan’s first national security adviser, who with 30-some other members of the Committee on the Present Danger took power under Reagan to push a militaristic, hard-right agenda. He later worked with Richard Perle and neocons in and around Bush II. Allen helped launch the neocon Project for the New American Century, a group of Bush-era hawks who beat the drums for war in Iraq under false pretense, in part to weaken Iraq and make it less of a threat to Israel.

    There’s something here for everyone, really: torture-mongering, blind and knee-jerk defense of Israel and a neocon love for the dark side. Combine this with Kasich’s own attack on the First Amendment (when it comes to Israel), his demonization of Palestinians and his defense of Israel’s disastrous settlement policy, and it’s enough to make any superhawk proud.

    Of course, none of this exactly comports with the soothing, moderate image The Grown-up candidate seeks to project. But on the poker-chip-thin chance Kasich actually ends up with the nomination in Cleveland, these policies will suit the GOP just fine.

    Here’s the first installment in the “Beholden” series: Marco Rubio Is Running Out of Time to Deliver Middle East Return on Investment for Big Donors

  • Sandy Tolan
    Contributor
    Sandy Tolan is the author of "Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land," a finalist for a 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the international best seller, "The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew,…
    Sandy Tolan

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