Obama’s Old Senate Seat Is Haunting Him

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“While the recent controversy is regrettable, it should not overshadow the importance of the US-Israel alliance,” they wrote. “A zoning dispute over 143 acres of Jewish land in Israel’s capital city should not eclipse the growing threat we face from Iran.

“To promote Middle East peace and defend America and Israel’s national security, we urge your Administration to refrain from further public criticism of Israel and to focus on more pressing issues affecting this vital relationship, such as signing and enforcing the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act when it comes to your desk.”

What makes Kirk such a formidable opponent on the issue—and therefore one that is more difficult for the president to ignore than he might otherwise be—is the fact that Kirk seems to be a congressional curve-breaker on the issue of the Middle East. He knows enough of the details to rise above the platitude-happy middle of the pack.

This was on display in Kirk’s recent memo detailing all the possible legal issues with regard to American funding for a Hamas-Fatah unity government. Under U.S. law, Kirk wrote, no American money may be used for:

“1) salaries of personnel of the Palestinian Authority located in Gaza;

2) assistance to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas; or

3) any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, unless the President certifies to Congress that ‘such government, including all of its ministers or such equivalent, has publicly accepted and is complying with’ the core requirements of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which are:

a. publicly acknowledging the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist; and

b. committing itself/themselves and adhering to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States Government, with the Government of Israel, and with the international community, including agreements and understandings pursuant to the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (commonly referred to as the ‘Roadmap’)

The accompanying report language further defined ‘such equivalent’ as ‘other officials of such equivalent rank and stature’ and further defined ‘publicly accepted’ as ‘in writing by such government and its ministers.’”

The timing of this memo was important as well; any administration response to the Palestinian unity government will now be made with Congress, the media, and the administration having been made aware of what is legal and what is not.

Kirk’s perspective may be that he is helping the president. But the administration is likely to feel boxed in and the State Department probably feels chivvied. Diplomats love wiggle room, but Kirk has allowed them none.

Kirk, a commander in the United States Navy Reserve, has given the Senate GOP an instant boost on foreign policy. He has been out in front on Iran sanctions for years, and when Kenneth Tomlinson profiled Kirk for the Weekly Standard in 2009, he found Kirk possessed “an encyclopedic knowledge of Afghanistan and of broadcasting there.”

Tomlinson noted that Kirk had won re-election in 2008 when Obama carried Kirk’s district by 23 points. Not much for celebrating, Kirk got right to work. Tomlinson wrote: “Less than a month after his victory, Naval Reserve Commander Mark Kirk was in Afghanistan working counternarcotics around Kandahar… He spent most of December there—the first time a U.S. representative has deployed to an imminent danger area since World War II.”

The administration seems poised to continue its push for Israeli-Palestinian peace while a vote on Palestinian statehood at the September UN General Assembly looms and Netanyahu prepares to address Congress. Expect Mark Kirk to be a significant part of the GOP’s response to all three.

Seth Mandel is a writer specializing in Middle Eastern politics and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Horowitz Freedom Center.

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  • jacob

    I guess it is time to show the White House present occupant who is actually boss,
    as he seems to believe he is above the law in every respect…

    I love his sychophantic media silence about the quality of his "CZARS" choices but
    their scandal when GWB appointed JOHN BOLTON Ambassador to the U N, the
    only ambassador USA ever had who dared reading this corrupt body the riot act
    without diplomatic finesses AND WHO IS TO ME, THE BEST PRESIDENTIAL
    CHOICE WE MAY HAVE,TO STEER US CLEAR OF THE SITUATION IN WHICH
    THE WHITE HOUSE PARACHUTIST PLACED OUR COUNTRY IN EVERY RESPECT

  • StephenD

    Maybe there is hope for us yet. Kirk, Rubio, West, Ryan…there are some fine folks showing themselves to have America's best interests at heart and are not pandering to the P.C. crowd. Leaders like this can be the spark we need to turn this country around.

  • Mop

    Question: Who does a US Senator represent?
    Answer: All the people of the state who elected him

    Resource: USCIS Naturalization exam

    I did not realize Illinois included Israel?

    • Alaskat

      Mop, the people of any state have opinions on many matters concerning the nation and the world. Thus their congressional representatives, in order to be receptive to all their concerns, must address their concerns about Israel and the world in general as well as state matters. Long gone are the days when the people could ignore what is going on in the world and how the United States is responding to these circumstances.
      Welcome to the 21st century!

    • Democracy First

      Question: Who does a US president represent?
      Answer: All the people of the nation that elected him.

      I did not realize the US included Israel. Obama, no more comments on Israel or the M.E.

    • jeff

      Your not to bright .He's a U.S.Senator(U.S. Meaning United States)Not State Senator ( State Meaning State). And if we cant stand up for our only friend in the middle east ,then we stand for the enemy.The enemy that has pledged not only to kill all the jews(little satan)but also all americans(big satan) and anyone who refuses accept there child molesting prophet.I bet your friends would really like to know how you would turn your back on them if someone was going to take their lives.And made it plain to everyone by their actions , they are serious.With friends like you , who needs enemies.

  • Walt Irons

    Having lived in Illinois for over thirty years I find what Sen. Kirk is doing highly acceptable. Another angle to this story is that now Illinois now has a Senator who works: all "Senator" Obama did was run for the presidency with an occasional appearance in the Senate Chamber.

    Perhaps the Republican party is finding new life in Illinois,

  • Jim Scott

    Sen.Kirk can make a difference in 2012!

  • fred

    It sounds like Kirk actually has a brain. I hope it uses it – unlike most of our representatives who vote the way they're told to vote by party leadership.

    When I see voting along party lines, it confirms to me that our representatives are brainless. I like thinkers, not robots.

  • Supreme_Galooty

    Leaving religion and politics out of it for the time being, consider if our neighbors in Canada were split into two camps who had seemingly irreconcilable differences. One group keeps their noses to the grindstone, producing scientists, engineers, and physicians, all while minding their own business and just getting things done.

    The other group engages in strange religious practices that force them to stop whatever they are doing, wherever they may be, wrap explosives around their middles whilst they bow down to the Arabic home of pederasty and pedophilia, and ululate countless times per day. No wonder they get nothing constructive done worth shaking a sheep crook at.

    One group builds schools and hospitals. The other group blows them up. Who would YOU root for? Even if you buy the Palestinian lies of "Palestinianship," you surely couldn't blame the first group for considering the second group nothing more than violent, sub-human, marauding nomads who deserve nothing but contempt and permanent exile.

  • JPThomassen

    Encouraging info

  • astra

    Obama is a racist bitch bending over for any radical elitist with a big cock..

    • "gunner"

      @ astra,
      probably true, but there might be a better way to phrase it in polite company.