Monday, June 29, 2020

The Decline of Bi-Partisan Support for Israel

RJC vs. Jamaal Bowman (Jewish Press)
One of the issues damaging American support for Israel is the increasing divide in congress between Democrats and Republicans. Where there was once bi-partisan support for the Jewish State, that support has been waning on the Democratic side of the aisle - while it has been increasing on the Republican side.

That is truly unfortunate. Israel needs all the support it can get. Losing it at any level hurts in a world that is itself increasingly hostile to Israel. Which is demonstrated in the United Nations on a constant basis. The UN’s focus on Israel’s ‘wrongdoing’ would make the casual observer think that Israel is the moral equivalent of  Nazi Germany. A comparison sometimes made by certain members of that ‘august’ body.

Which is of course beyond ridiculous. At the relatively young age of 72, tiny little Israel has by far done more for the world than some countries many times its size and may centuries older. The Apartheid charge that Israel separates and mistreats Palestinians the way Apartheid South Africa once did  belies the fact that one of the largest group of parties serving in the Keneset (Israel’s legislative body) are the Arab Israeli parties. Which were voted into office by Israel’s Arab citizens - many of whom now identify as Palestinians too.

The bi-partisan support is in fragile territory now because of liberal/left Democrats have voices in the party – getting respect that they never had before. That became obvious upon the relatively recently election and subsequent notoriety of two of the most anti Israel voices in the House: Ilahn Omar and Rashida Tlaib. 

Although many people defending the Democratic party keep saying that they are irrelevant minority voices and the Democratic support is still there, I’m not so sure it will last. Not that the support was all that complete anyway. There was always a catch. Mostly having to do with settlement activity. 

In the pre-Trump era, both parties were concerned about that. But clearly Democrats were consumed by it. To the point where it eventually became almost a condition for their support. That was reflected near the end of President Obama’s 2nd term in office when he allowed a UN security council resolution condemning Israel to pass by refusing to veto it.

Things have not improved in the party since then. There is a lot more criticism coming out of Democratic quarters now than there has been in decades.

On the Republican side, support for Israel has never been greater. That was reflected in a series of unprecedented things President Trump did to support the Jewish state. Perhaps the most public of which was to be the only President to keep a campaign promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. An act that had been previously (unanimously if I recall correctly) passed by both houses of congress.

Republicans hailed that with an ‘it’s about time’. While Democrats criticized it as an unnecessary and inflammatory act the would accrue no tangible benefit to Israel while harming our relationship with the Arab world. (Which in my view showed that – unlike Republicans - their vote in favor of moving the embassy was a lie.)

That didn’t happen. If anything relations between Arab nations that in the past were vehemently anti Israel have improved substantially since then. But I digress. The point here is that Democratic support for Israel in congress is slowly eroding. 

Yet another blow in that relationship happened when 16 term House Democrat, Eliot Engel, one of Israel’s staunchest supporters – and the powerful chair of the House Foreign Relations Affairs Committee was defeated in New York’s Democratic primary a couple of weeks ago. The winner, Jamaal Bowman, is apparently from the Rashida Tlaib/Ilhan Omar school of thought vis-à-vis Israel. Quoting the RJC (Republican Jewish Coalition) - Jewish Press  columnist David Israel writes: 
“Engel is a mainstream Democrat who has done a great deal for the US-Israel relationship as chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee,” the boys from RJC continued, pointing out that Bowman, who was recruited and supported by Justice Democrats, has an extreme and dangerous agenda. He subscribes to the full list of radical and anti-Israel policies espoused by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, including support for the US rejoining the dangerous Iran nuclear deal and opposition to Israeli ‘settlements’ in the ‘West Bank.'” 
Mr. Israel criticized the RJC for not  running a Republican candidate to oppose Bowman in the general election. The reason for that is probably because running a Republican candidate in that congressional district would be about as successful as running a Nazi or KKK candidate. Making it a tremendous waste of their time and resources.

This is yet another nail in the coffin of bi-partisan support. Just as was the case when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) defeated another reliable long term supporter of Israel in her Democratic primary a couple of years ago 

That will surely be exacerbated when Joe Biden is elected President. He has already promised to restore the American policy towards Israel to what it was when he was Vice President under Obama.

None of this good news. No matter how you slice it.