Out of Blue, Midwest Vote Becomes Israel Scrap

Joe Walsh and Tammy Duckworth Spar Over Middle East

By Nathan Guttman

Published July 13, 2012, issue of July 20, 2012.
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There are few Jews living in Illinois’s 8th Congressional District. But Israel and the proposed two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians are front and center in the heated congressional race there.

Tammy Duckworth
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Tammy Duckworth

To the surprise of many, the race between incumbent Republican Joe Walsh and Democrat Tammy Duckworth has become a battleground for supporters and opponents of the two-state solution. As the race sharpens, advocates for both sides are adding their dollars to the war chests of the two candidates.

On the Republican side, Congressman Walsh, known for his close ties with the Tea Party movement, is the only sitting member of Congress to openly call for a one-state solution, in which Israel will rule the entire occupied West Bank and Gaza, and the area’s approximately 4 million Palestinians will have only “limited voting power.”

“Everyone who continues to cling to the delusion of a two-state solution is insane,” Walsh declared in an opinion piece he wrote for The Washington Times in May. “There is no such thing as a two-state solution. It cannot work, it has not worked, and it will not work.”

Duckworth, a decorated combat pilot who lost both her legs and partial use of an arm during the Iraq war, supports the consensus upheld by Israel and by the organized pro-Israel Jewish community in America, from the establishment American Israel Public Affairs Committee to the upstart dovish lobby J Street:

“I support a two-state solution arising from direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” Duckworth’s official position paper states. “Israel must be recognized as a Jewish democratic state, living in peace alongside a non-militarized Palestinian state. There can be no substitute for direct, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Rep. Joe Walsh
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Rep. Joe Walsh

Despite Walsh’s repeated attacks on this pro-Israel consensus, mainstream pro-Israel political action committees have largely stayed out of the Walsh-Duckworth race, even as advocates to their right and left have taken sides.

The battle is shaping up to be one of the most watched races in this election cycle — and not just, or even primarily, because of Israel. Walsh’s combative rhetoric and outspoken views and Duckworth’s status as a war hero have made this race a vivid confrontation.

On July 2, Walsh accused Duckworth of overplaying her war sacrifice in the race. “That is darn near all of what Tammy Duckworth talks about,” Walsh said then in a statement to the website Talking Points Memo, adding, “Her service demands our thanks and our respect but not our vote.”


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