Haaretz: Race for top House committee position reflects Democratic Party’s Israel dilemmas

A battle currently being waged within the U.S. Democratic Party over a top position on the Senate Judiciary Committee represents the growing divide within the party on Israel. The Democratic members of the House of Representatives will decide next week who will replace Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), a veteran member of Congress who recently resigned as the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee over alleged sexual misconduct. The two leading candidates for the post represent two different approaches regarding Israel among Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The current ranking member on the committee, who replaced Conyers temporarily last month, is Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a Jewish lawmaker from New York. Nadler is considered a strong supporter of Israel, although in 2015, he came under sharp criticism from some groups in the Jewish community for voting in favor of the Iran nuclear deal. Nadler is running to become the permanent ranking member on the committee, and is considered the favorite to win the position.

His opponent for the post is Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who is affiliated with the left-wing, progressive faction of the party. Lofgren voted during the 2014 Gaza war against additional funding to the Iron Dome missile defense system (one of only eight members of Congress to cast such a vote), and in 2009, did not support a congressional resolution denouncing the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.

“I think if you asked them directly, both of them would tell you that they consider themselves supporters of Israel,” a Democratic staffer who has worked with the offices of both Nadler and Lofgren told Haaretz. “But of course, there would be a big difference in how exactly they both define support for Israel. This is the big question the party is facing on Israel: where does our support begin, and where should it end. Different groups within the party are offering very different answers to that question.”

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