Center for American Progress Action

CAP Action’s Allison McManus on the Israel-Hamas Conflict

CAP Action’s Allison McManus on the Israel-Hamas Conflict

Allison McManus, senior director for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, joins the show to discuss a new temporary ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.

Part of a Series

Allison McManus, senior director for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, joins the show to discuss a new temporary ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, the implications for the region, and the U.S. response to the conflict. Daniella and Colin also talk about a recent House ethics report on Rep. George Santos (R-NY) and an 8th Circuit ruling that could gut the Voting Rights Act.


Daniella Gibbs Léger: Hey everyone, welcome back to “The Tent,” your place for politics, policy, and progress. I’m Daniella Gibbs Léger.

Colin Seeberger: And I’m Colin Seeberger. Happy Thanksgiving, Daniella.

Gibbs Léger: Happy Thanksgiving, Colin. It will be happy if I can not be sick. That would be great.

Seeberger: It is incredible. I was actually sick earlier this week. And I’m telling you, probably half of the Thanksgiving weeks of my life, I think I have come down with something. So I do hope you’re back on your feet soon and can enjoy a nice Thanksgiving meal with your family.

Gibbs Léger: Yes, I am looking forward to eating some delicious turkey and all the trimmings that come with it.

Seeberger: And pumpkin pie of course, right?

Gibbs Léger: Oh, we’re gonna get into that at the end of this episode, OK. Well, let’s just put a pin in that for now.

Seeberger: Stay tuned, listeners. Stay tuned.

Gibbs Léger: Exactly. Well, it may be a holiday week, but we have an important episode today. I spoke with Allison McManus from CAP Action about the ongoing war in Israel and Gaza. We discussed the new temporary ceasefire deal, what U.S. leadership on a long-term solution should look like, and how we can move towards a more progressive foreign policy writ large.

Seeberger: Sounds like a really important conversation, Daniella, especially in this moment. But first, we’ve got to get to some news. If you thought your relatives were going to be badly behaved this week at the Thanksgiving table, well, they’ve got nothing on Congressman George Santos (R) from New York, who apparently is on his worst behavior at all times. I think there’s going to be coal in his stocking this year because he is definitely on the naughty list.

Gibbs Léger: He really, really is, Colin. The bipartisan House Ethics Committee released a report late last week detailing some of the egregious and likely illegal ways George Santos allegedly spent his campaign funds. The committee found substantial evidence suggesting that Santos used hundreds of thousands of dollars of donor money for personal expenses—things like Botox treatments, designer clothing items, casino trips, even purchases on OnlyFans, a website most commonly used to buy and sell explicit images.

Seeberger: Look, no judgment, but those don’t sound like campaign expenses to me.

Gibbs Léger: No, they don’t. I mean, I know it’s been a while since I’ve been on a campaign, but I don’t think that’s what those are. The report prompted the chairman of the Ethics Committee, Republican Rep. Michael Guest (MS) to file a resolution that’s seeking to expel Santos from the House. They’ll vote on that next week when they’re back from the Thanksgiving holiday. But I can’t help thinking, Colin: How has he not already been booted? This is a guy already facing a federal indictment on 23 counts, including stealing from his own donors. And yet most of the members of his party voted to keep him in Congress earlier this month. He is clearly unfit to hold office, and yet MAGA Republicans are so hell-bent on hanging on to their majority in the House that they’ll allow someone with a shocking level of alleged criminal misconduct to continue serving.

Seeberger: I mean, “shocking” is certainly the right word here. You’d think that amidst all of this, he might feel some sort of shame inside himself and do the right thing and resign from this position. But he clearly doesn’t. He announced he’s not going to run for reelection, but he’s also not taking accountability and stepping down from the office, with which he committed some of these alleged criminal acts in pursuit of it. And that’s exactly why his party needs to hold him accountable. But you know, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA)—MAGA Mike—actually indicated to Fox News in the last month that he didn’t want to expel Congressman Santos because he was worried about maintaining the Republican House majority. I guess there’s zero amount of alleged criminality that the Republican Party is willing to distance itself from.

Now, let’s be clear: No member of Congress should be allowed to continue to serve when there is such substantial evidence to suggest that they’ve committed crimes. You know, that applies not only to Congressman George Santos, but also on the Democratic side of the aisle, too. Last month, CAP Action actually called for Sen. [Robert] Menendez (D-NJ) to resign in the wake of being indicted on bribery charges. And we’re calling for the same for Congressman Santos right now. No one is above the law in this country, especially not our legislators, who’ve been elected to positions of public trust. This ethics report really gives us new details on Santos’ alleged criminality, but it doesn’t change the facts. Congress has known for months about the overwhelming evidence that Santos failed his donors, his staff, and his constituents. It’s beyond time for him to go.

Gibbs Léger: Yes, please pack your bags, sir. Now, I want to turn our attention away from MAGA extremism in Congress to MAGA extremism in our courts. Earlier this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled that private individuals cannot bring lawsuits to enforce Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. And this decision may strike down the main path to pursue voting protections for people of color. The ruling strips citizens and organizations, like the NAACP, from being able to protect people of color from discriminatory voting practices. It was a 2-to-1 split decision, highlighting how a tiny fraction of unelected judges can exploit their position in power to strip individuals of their rights. This is something we’re seeing more and more of from our Supreme Court down through the rest of our judicial system. In the immediate term, this change will take effect in the seven states within the 8th Circuit court’s jurisdiction: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. But it will also, almost certainly, be taken up by the Supreme Court, where the justices can gut Section 2 for the entire country. And that is terrifying.

Seeberger: I honestly shudder to think but, then again, it’s not lost on me who the Supreme Court majority is. So anything can happen. This decision, it really flies in the face of roughly half a century of precedent and, honestly—I’m not even kidding—hundreds of cases that allowed a private right of action under the Voting Rights Act. Most successful lawsuits to prevent discrimination and voting under Section 2 have been brought by private plaintiffs. So stripping the ability for private citizens in groups to sue will essentially prevent the full and fair enforcement of the law as it exists. Chief Judge Lavenski Smith of the 8th Circuit noted this in his dissent. And on the precedent here, not only have the courts heard hundreds of cases on Section 2 by private plaintiffs, but other courts, including the 5th Circuit, 6th Circuit, and 11th Circuit, have concluded that there is a private right of action under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The 5th Circuit reached that conclusion just earlier this month. This extreme ruling is not just at odds with what we’re seeing among the circuit courts. It’s also at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court decision from this past summer, Allen v. Milligan, which reaffirmed the importance of Section 2 in protecting voters from discriminatory gerrymandering. That case was brought by private plaintiffs, a group of Alabama voters and organizations.

So, as you mentioned, Daniella, we’re once again seeing a small group of activist far-right judges ignoring historical precedent, all just to strip rights away from the American people. I wish that this could be a rare example. But unfortunately, this seems to be a continuing trend for where the judiciary in America has been backsliding. But that also really underscores why we clearly need some congressional action here to protect the Voting Rights Act. We can’t let federal courts rig the U.S. voting system, especially with the 2024 elections right around the corner. Congress needs to do everything in its power to protect our fundamental right to vote.

Gibbs Léger: You are spot on, Colin. Well, that is all the time we have for today. If there’s anything else you’d like us to cover on the pod, hit us up on Twitter @TheTentPod, that’s @TheTentPod. And stick around for my interview with Allison McManus in just a beat.

[Musical transition]

Gibbs Léger: Allison McManus is a senior director for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. She previously served as the managing director at the Freedom Initiative, where she advocated for political prisoners in the Middle East and North Africa. She also served as the research director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy from 2014 to 2019. Allison, thanks so much for joining us on “The Tent.”

Allison McManus: Thanks so much for having me, Daniella.

Gibbs Léger: So this week, Israel and Hamas reached a temporary ceasefire deal after more than a month of horrific violence. Can you talk about what’s in this deal and where the conflict stands now? And maybe, what’s next?

McManus: Absolutely. Well, I have to say, I’m so encouraged and so relieved that we’re able to talk today, the day after the Israeli war cabinet had approved this deal, because it feels like finally some ray of hope for the hostage families who have been awaiting the return of their loved ones. It feels like some ray of hope for millions of Gazans who have been in this humanitarian catastrophe. And it feels like a bit of a ray of hope that these negotiations have paid off and that that might lead to more. So what we know about the deal is that Hamas has agreed to release 50 hostages, women and children, in return for a four- or five-day pause in hostilities—so this would be a pause both on the part of Hamas and Israel—and the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners who are being held in Israeli prisons. Some information has come out on who these prisoners are. These are also women and children who were engaged in protests, maybe protests turned violent. Most charges are related to national security charges.

Gibbs Léger: So the U.S. played a key role in negotiating this deal. What has our response been since October 7? And from your perspective, what are we getting right, and where could we be doing more?

McManus: One thing I would point out is that from the very beginning, the U.S. came out, obviously, in support of Israel after the horrendous attacks, supporting Israel’s right to defense and right to respond to these really brutal terrorist attacks. We’ve also seen a shift pretty swiftly to urging that the counteroffensive is carried out in a way that does not result in the indiscriminate punishment, collective punishment, of Palestinians. So that’s been, I think, a difficult balance, but one that I’m encouraged that we are seeing even more forceful language around the need to protect rights and that sort of thing.

The other thing that I think the U.S. has been really right to focus on is the need for humanitarian assistance. The humanitarian needs are so vast in this conflict. And the U.S. is really well positioned not only to materially support by delivering aid, but also to support with diplomatic efforts to ensure that the aid is delivered. So that’s all great.

In terms of what we need more on, I would say the ceasefire, again, it provides an opening to urge a more robust cessation of hostilities. We recognize, I would say, that the ceasefire right now is quite tenuous. The cessation of hostilities should start tomorrow. And that’s when we should see the return of the hostages, the exchange of, or the release of the Palestinian prisoners. All it would take is, say, one Hamas rocket to really jeopardize all of this progress. But I’m optimistic that if we do see that the ceasefire holds, and that these prisoners and hostages are able to return to their families, that this gives an opportunity for the U.S. to build for more.

And then the last thing I would mention that I think we’d really like to see more of is efforts to ensure compliance with U.S. law and policy on arms transfers, especially given the evidence of indiscriminate attacks. We need to make sure that U.S. weapons aren’t being used for collective punishment. And again there, we’re seeing some encouraging momentum from Congress. I know we’ll maybe talk a little bit about the security assistance package. So some momentum in the right direction, but definitely areas where we’ll need to see more.

Gibbs Léger: During the Iraq War, CAP Action was a key advocate for peace as the situation deteriorated and became an unstable breeding ground for terrorist groups like ISIS. In many ways, the situation in Gaza right now appears very similar, with the conditions in Gaza ripe for feeding into Hamas’ recruitment narratives for the next generation. So CAP Action is once again calling attention to these issues and leading the progressive call for peace. Can you talk about why this is so important? What did we learn from Iraq, if anything, about the consequences of overreaching, and how can it be applied here?

McManus: I would say there’s two broad lessons that could be learned, with some specifics. So the first is what President Biden had alluded to, is that, this completely understandable emotional response to the brutality and the terror attacks of September 11 and of October 7 can lead to horrendous decision-making. So it’s understandable that there would be this emotional response, but that policy that comes from emotion can tend to overreach and that this is, in many ways, what led to the long and bloody and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So I do think it speaks to the need to urge Israel to articulate very clear objectives. So far, they’ve talked about efforts to quote-unquote “destroy Hamas,” but this raises real concerns about a protracted conflict if we don’t have a sense of what that would actually look like and when there could be an end date and a move towards a political transition.

So this leads me to the second, I would say, broad lesson, which is that there needs to be a more viable and compelling alternative to Hamas, when it comes to the ideology, when it comes to governance, particularly, and also when it comes to service provision in Gaza. What we saw in Iraq, which I think you alluded to, is that the vacuums that were created in security and governance, after the conflict, after the U.S. invasion in Iraq, created this vacuum and created the context that then led to the creation of ISIS and the rise of ISIS. So I think it’s important that we acknowledge, which I think is a difficult thing to talk about right now, but a really critical thing to talk about, that the U.S., in the post-conflict period, stipulated the exclusion of officials from Saddam’s Ba’ath Party from serving in the government and dismantled the military that had been serving under Saddam. This contributed to the security and governance vacuum, led to a lot of pain and suffering for Iraqis, and saw the conditions for the rise of ISIS. So again, might be difficult, but we do need to start thinking about those who are in Hamas, who may not have been those who participated in the October 7 terrorist attack—obviously, those militants need to be brought to account—but there are many members of Hamas who have been operating in government roles like in the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry, who would have nothing to do with the attack and who will be critical to a post-conflict governance. So those are the two broad lessons, I would say, we need to be thinking about.

Gibbs Léger: The conflict in Israel and Gaza has been going on for decades, and Israel’s Middle East neighbors have become deeply involved in the current war. What role are these other regional actors, like Iran and Qatar, playing in this? And is there anything that can be done to hold those parties responsible for their actions?

McManus: It’s a really tough question, but a really important one. Iran, clearly, is the sponsor of Hamas. We need to address the fact of Iranian funding for Hamas. We’ve seen some sanctions that have been applied to Hamas officials. But really, if we want to talk about combating Hamas and combating Hamas financially, we need to be able to isolate its funding, which means cutting off this this Iranian funding. What’s difficult is that we’ve also seen—I would say, on October 9, 10, 11—we were in conversations and raising the real concerns at the time that this conflict would become a regional one and would spill over and that we might see Hezbollah joining the fray in a more robust way, let’s put it. So far, we haven’t seen that. And I think that speaks to Iran’s willingness to kind of step back and Iran’s disinterest in seeing this kind of widespread regional conflict. And yet, at the same time, we’ve seen continued attacks from Iranian-backed militias on U.S. forces, etc. So I think there’s this difficult balance between ensuring accountability for the violence that Iran has funded and continues to fund and continues to support, while also wanting to ensure that Iran is kept at the table to preserve stability in the region.

Gibbs Léger: So we talked about aid a little bit earlier. So aid for both Israel and Palestinian civilians is critical right now, as is our aid to other allies that are struggling across the globe, mainly Ukraine and Taiwan. Congress is hoping to pass an aid package for all three before the Christmas recess. Is this likely to happen, given what’s going on there? What are the partisan roadblocks that could prevent Washington from passing an aid package? And can you talk about how unprecedented a moment we’re in, where these types of aid defense packages aren’t just sailing right through Congress?

McManus: I think some parts of Congress are hoping to see an aid package passed before the Christmas recess. I would say that many in Congress are hoping this. But of course, so, we saw the White House had requested this this funding package, as you said, that included not only security assistance for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, but also humanitarian assistance for Ukraine and Israel-Palestine. And the House responded with their version of the package that stripped out the funding for Ukraine. It stripped out the humanitarian package and preserved only the security assistance to Israel. That’s really a shame. It’s really, I would say, an abdication of leadership and of responsibility, particularly where it comes to the humanitarian assistance, because the United States needs to lead on this delivery of humanitarian aid. As the Senate is now considering its version of the bill, I do think that we’ll see a preservation of the aid to Ukraine. I do think we’ll see a preservation of humanitarian assistance. And I understand now that Congress is, as mentioned before, considering ways to ensure some of this security assistance delivery and the arms transfers are accountable to U.S. law and policy. So, the big question—and I wish, Daniella, I wish that I knew the answer—is: How are these two different versions—the House version that has only aid to Israel, the Senate version that looks more like the president’s budget, or should look more like the president’s budget—how are these two going to be reconciled? And I think that raises a lot of questions just about the dysfunction that we see right now in budgeting, not just for these particular areas, but across the whole federal government.

Gibbs Léger: Right. It’ll be an interesting few weeks, to say the least. I want to end with a more forward-looking question. Foreign policy is an area where it has been challenging, historically, for U.S. leaders to implement a progressive vision. So why is that? And what do you think can be done to apply progressive policymaking to conflicts like the one in Israel?

McManus: I think some of the challenge in articulating a progressive vision is that we do want to see strong U.S. leadership. We want to see confident U.S. leadership. But so often, strong and confident U.S. leadership has been associated with military leadership. To articulate a progressive foreign policy vision, I think we need to continue to encourage that U.S. leadership. One thing I’ll point out is that we’ve seen news around some of these dissent cables and government staff speaking out against aspects of U.S. policy on Israel and Gaza. But, to me, this speaks to the strength of the United States as a democracy. It’s a strength that makes us uniquely equipped to lead. So I think a progressive vision shouldn’t look like a retrenchment and a pulling back from the world stage, but a continued confident leadership. It’s just that that confident leadership needs to be rooted in values—values like respect for international law, respect for democratic process. Again, I think we are seeing some encouraging momentum on that—for instance, this letter that came from 26 Senate Democrats that’s raising some really critical questions about the way that the U.S. foreign policy is being carried out right now with regard to Israel-Gaza, asking about whether or not it really advances peace, asking to ensure, again, that it upholds these values of human rights, protection of civilians from harm, etc.

The other thing I would say is we need to see the U.S. invest as a partner with regional governments. In the Middle East region, that might mean asking hard questions and setting high expectations for human rights and democratic benchmarks. But it’s still critical that we have those conversations and that we have those from a place of partnership. So, in sum, I would say we want to see leadership with confidence, but from a place of values and partnership.

Gibbs Léger: Well, Allison, I want to thank you so much for joining us to talk about this difficult situation that’s happening over there. And I’m so thankful I get to work with smart people like you, who can come on our podcast to give our listeners the latest. So thank you so much, and I hope that you have a happy Thanksgiving.

McManus: Thanks, Daniella. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, and to the rest of the team at “The Tent” podcast.

[Musical transition]

Gibbs Léger: As always, thanks for listening. Be sure to go back and check out previous episodes. Before we go, Colin, we should talk about what we’re thankful for this Thanksgiving week. I can start. I am thankful for you guys. I love doing this podcast, and you all are just the best team ever. So I’m very thankful for you. And I’m also thankful that I work at a place that has ample sick days because my toddler is trying to see if he can break the record for how many colds he can give mommy in a year. What about you, Colin?

Seeberger: I hope you’re feeling better soon, D. I also am very thankful for the team that airs this podcast, helps produce it. But I’m also really thankful to our listeners who keep coming back and are committed to being in the fight for progressive change in this country. And we have our work cut out for ourselves over the course of the next several years. And I hope that they’ll keep coming back and listening to all of the important news and interviews that we record on the pod. I also am very thankful for my family, my beautiful nearly 2-year-old daughter who keeps me on my toes every single day and is just a bundle of fun. And I can’t wait to see her face as she digs into a whole bunch of food she’s never tried before this week. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun.

Gibbs Léger: I do love this age where they’re just exploring everything and the reaction sometimes to the food that they try for the first time, is just …

Seeberger: Thanks, but no thanks?

Gibbs Léger: Exactly, very much, “Thanks, but no thanks.” So speaking of foods, it’s Thanksgiving. So you know what we have to talk about, Colin.

Seeberger: Could you be talking about your favorite dessert of all time?

Gibbs Léger: Oh, yeah. So we’re gonna talk about apple pie? That’s cool.

Seeberger: No, Daniella, it’s Thanksgiving: pumpkin pie.

Gibbs Léger: Listen, I say this every year. And I say this with love: Pumpkin pie is gross. I’m sorry. It just is. It’s not a good pie. You have been brainwashed, America, by big pumpkin, into thinking that this is a pie that needs to be eaten once a year. Let me tell you, it doesn’t need to be. Do you crave pumpkin pie in the middle of the summer? No. But do you like apple pie all year round? Yeah. Why? Because apple pie is better. It is a superior pie. And that is the pie hill that I will die on.

Seeberger: OK, I mean, it’s gonna be hard to rebut that. But please indulge me, listeners. So I actually am not gonna lie. I actually was with you on this for a long time, Daniella. And when my husband and I started dating, he always insisted on chilling his pumpkin pie. It had to be like fresh out of the refrigerator. And I kid you not, pumpkin pie tastes 100 times better if it’s chilled. He was totally right. And I think it’s because you can actually taste like more of the various spices in the pumpkin pie, which give it so much more character than just the blah texture that is pumpkin pie. Although, it doesn’t have to be as blah if it’s chilled. But you got to have it chilled.

Gibbs Léger: Interesting.

Seeberger: And you know what, and you got to have the whipped cream. I’m sorry. It’s got to have a little something to jazz it up.

Gibbs Léger: I mean, so, it sounds like what you’re saying is that pumpkin pie in and of itself is not good. But you got to zhuzh it up a little. You’ve got to make it cold, which wasn’t its intended form to be eaten. And then you got to put some delicious whipped cream on top of it, and then it’s edible. This is what I’m hearing, Colin. Let me know if that if that’s correct. 

Seeberger: I can’t say that you’re distorting my words, there.

Gibbs Léger: OK, well, you know what?

Seeberger: And with that, folks.

Gibbs Léger: Listen, whatever pies y’all like to eat, that’s great. What’s most important is that you are hopefully with the ones that you love. And if you can’t be with the ones that you love on Thanksgiving, hopefully you can see them on Friday. But please, take care of yourselves, whatever you’re doing this week, and we will talk to you next week.

Seeberger: And root for the Cowboys on Thursday.

Gibbs Léger: You don’t have to do that, listeners, please.

[Musical transition]

Gibbs Léger: “The Tent” is a podcast from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It’s hosted by me, Daniella Gibbs Léger, and co-hosted by Colin Seeberger. Erin Phillips is our lead producer. Kelly McCoy is our supervising producer. Em Espey is our booking producer. And Sam Signorelli is our digital producer. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Daniella Gibbs Léger

Executive Vice President, Communications and Strategy


Colin Seeberger

Senior Adviser, Communications

Erin Phillips

Broadcast Media Manager

Kelly McCoy

Senior Director of Broadcast Communications

Sam Signorelli

Policy and Outreach Associate, Government Affairs

Mishka Espey

Senior Manager, Media Relations

Allison McManus

Managing Director, National Security and International Policy



Explore The Series

Politics. Policy. Progress. All under one big tent. Produced by CAP Action, “The Tent” is a news and politics podcast hosted by Daniella Gibbs Léger and co-hosted by Colin Seeberger. Listen each Thursday for episodes exploring topics that progressives are focused on.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.