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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Duckworth defended her discussion of her service as part of her campaign. More broadly, she urged recent veterans in general to talk about their war experiences “more than the veterans of the Vietnam generation did.” At the same time, she rebutted Walsh’s contention that she was not talking about the broad range of issues facing voters in the coming election.

Democrats believe Duckworth, 44, has a good chance to unseat Walsh and are devoting significant resources to the race. A daughter of a U.S. military father and a Thai mother, Duckworth grew up in Southeast Asia and in Hawaii. After her injury in Iraq she served as director of the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs. In 2009 President Obama appointed Duckworth to be assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Walsh, 50, was elected by a narrow margin in 2010 after failing once before, in 1996, to win a congressional seat. A rising GOP star, Walsh serves on the House Homeland Security Committee’s counterterrorism and intelligence panel, considered a key spot for a freshman congressman. Before entering politics Walsh, one of nine children who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, worked with disadvantaged youth and ran a privately funded voucher program that gives high school scholarships to low-income Chicago eighth graders.

A victory for the Democrats in this race would not only advance their fight to win back the House of Representatives but also deliver a blow to one of the symbols of the Republican Tea Party ideology that swept Congress in the 2010 elections.

In their clashes over the Middle East, the two candidates have thus far proven worthy of all the national attention they are getting.

“We need to give up on this dangerous and delusional myth of two states,” Walsh said in a June 29 interview with the Forward. “It is impossible to have two states as long as one neighbor hates the other and does not recognize his right to exist.”

Walsh has also taken strong stances on other issues affecting the region. Following the recent victory of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi in the Egyptian presidential race, Walsh called on the administration to cut all foreign aid to Egypt until the new leader clarifies his views on the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel.

Duckworth, in an interview with the Forward, criticized Walsh’s views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying she could not see how a one-state solution “helps Israel or helps Israel reach peace.” She added that all Israeli leaders had expressed their support for a solution in which two states, a Jewish Israel and a Palestinian one, live peacefully side by side.

The two candidates have also sparred over the issue of Iran, with Walsh accusing President Obama of being weak and “emboldening the enemies of Israel and of the United States.” Duckworth responds that a credible military option should be on the table, but America should not rush to war. “Sometimes it is easy for politicians like Walsh to volunteer other people’s children to go to wars,” she told the Forward, noting that members of her family have served in the military in every conflict since the Revolutionary War.


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