The Democratic Party remains the natural home of American Jews. Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, recently said that “there is very strong support for Israel in the Democratic Party.” Both parties are pro-Israel, but only the Democratic Party shares the values of most American Jews on economic and social issues. Republicans can only increase their share of the Jewish vote by disagreeing with Dermer and misrepresenting Democratic positions on Israel; otherwise, there is no reason for most Jews to vote Republican.
Tamara Cofman Wittes and Dan Shapiro explored some of the flaws in the poll, but even if we take it at face value, it’s clear that one can sympathize with the Palestinians and support Israel; the two are not mutually exclusive, and as Wittes and Shapiro explain, “Americans are far more divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than they are on Israel or the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
The poll that really matters is how Congress votes, and support for Israel remains strong despite the partisan divide that the Pew poll purports to show. Nathan Guttman, writing about the Pew poll, asks
With such a partisan divide, how do pro-Israel resolutions and foreign aid budget bills get approved overwhelmingly in Congress? How do both parties boast a pro-Israel platform? The answer is in the divide between grassroots and leadership. Democratic leadership remains strongly sympathetic to Israel – a result of years of work with pro-Israel activists and of deep ties with players on the ground. The Democratic grassroots: not so much.
Also, polls like these don’t measure intensity of opinion or priorities. Anyone will give an opinion if asked, and it will be a strong opinion if that’s what the question elicits. But few people who run for Congress have experience or much interest in foreign affairs; with notable exceptions, they and their constituents tend to be motivated by domestic issues, and it then becomes our responsibility to help educate them on foreign policy issues.
Some of Bibi’s policies and his meddling in American politics don’t help either. It’s more important than ever to be clear that just as one can oppose Trump’s policies (or Obama’s) and be pro-America, so too one can oppose Bibi’s policies and be pro-Israel. If we fall into the trap of taking criticism of Bibi as criticism of Israel, we will do lasting harm to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Tribalism is a fact of life on both sides of the aisle in America. We can’t stop it, but we can focus it–better that Americans conflate Trump and Bibi than Trump and Israel.
It is a Jewish and American value to care about others. As Hillel famously asked, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” Indeed, as Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) recently wrote, “We cannot identify only with our own tribe, be it based on race, religion, whom we love, or where we come from.”
We must not disengage. Certain anti-Israel groups, such as Jewish Voice for Peace and Code Pink, pulled out of the Los Angeles Women’s March because Jewish actress Scarlett Johannson was a featured speaker. In doing so, all they proved was that they are motivated by bigotry and would not participate in the March if they could not get their way. Contrast that attitude to Zioness, which proudly participated in the Marches as a pro-Israel group.
Don’t forget about Iran. Philip Gordon and Robert Malley explain that insisting on a “better” agreement, and threatening to walk away, is a recipe for no deal at all. Their article is essential reading, including their reminder that “The real choice in 2015 was between achieving a deal that constrained the size of Iran’s nuclear program for many years and ensured intrusive inspections forever, or not getting one, meaning no restrictions at all coupled with much less verification.”
President Obama discussed the U.S.-Israel relationship last week. At Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, Obama discussed Israel’s security, settlements, the abstention at the U.N., and the peace process. I’ve updated my comprehensive Q&A about the U.N. vote accordingly.
Rep. Raja Krishamoorthi (D-IL) urged the Trump administration to fill the still-vacant post of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism. In his letter to Secretary of State Tillerson, Raja noted that “this position is a vital part of our country’s efforts to promote human rights and tolerance among our allies and the rest of the world” and that the post has been vacant since January 20, 2017.
N.S.S Beth EL Men’s Club 2018 Democratic Candidate Town Hall. This morning, Sunday, January 28, meet Democratic Attorney General candidates Pat Quinn, Nancy Rotering, Scott Drury, Sharon Fairley, and Jesse Ruiz, plus gubernatorial candidates Chris Kennedy and Tio Hardiman. Programs start at 10:00 a.m. sharp at 1175 Sheridan Road in Highland Park. Please attend this always interesting forum and bring your questions for the Q&A. All are welcome. Any questions contact Michael Salberg at 847-831-0581.