Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bonior Victory a Defeat for AIPAC

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bonior Victory a Defeat for AIPAC

Article excerpt

One of the great strengths of the House of Representatives over time has been the stability of its leadership. In recent years, however, that stability has been rocked by rapid turnover. The leadership structure of the House consists of three positions at its top: the speaker of the house, the majority leader and the majority whip. All things being equal, a congressman who is elected to majority leader or majority whip can reasonably expect to advance to the top position of speaker. Since the retirement four years ago of Congressman Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill as speaker, that orderly pattern of succession has gone topsy-turvy.

O'Neill was succeeded by Congressman Jim Wright of Texas, who was forced by scandal to resign from the House in his first term as speaker. Almost simultaneously, Congressman Tony Coehlo, then House majority whip, resigned rather than face an investigation of his personal finances, thus forfeiting his chance at being speaker. His retirement resulted in the election of the first Black member of the House leadership, Congressman Bill Gray of Philadelphia. Last month Gray announced his retirement to become the head of the United Negro College Fund.

This week, in their fourth leadership election in as many years, Democrats in the House of Representatives elevated Congressman Dave Bonior of Michigan to replace Gray as majority whip.

Traditionally, leadership elections are closely held internal affairs of the House. They are among the few elections held by secret ballot and are influenced more by the personal standing of a congressmember among his colleagues than by political issues.

In this election a rarity occurred. Not only was a political policy question an issue in what sometimes is little more than a popularity contest, it was a foreign policy issue. It was, of course, a comparison of the two candidates' relative support of Israel.

Bonior has questioned US aid programs to Israel. He also has been a strong proponent of good Arab-American relations and Palestinian rights, although he has never suggested that these should come at the expense of Israel's legitimate security needs. He has publicly and often taken the position that the Middle East policies he advocates are in America's best long-term interests.

By contrast, his opponent, Congressman Steny Hoyer of Maryland, is closely identified with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel's powerful Washington, DC lobby, and its unqualified support of all Israeli policies. …

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