Vice President Joe Biden and Representative Paul Ryan will have only one debate this election season on October 11 at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Given that this is the only debate the two candidates are scheduled to have there is a strong likelihood that the interrelated subjects of the Middle East, U.S. national security and Islamic terrorism will be a part of the evening. Bearing in mind that Israel was not mentioned at all in the first debate between President Obama and Governor Romney and that the issues that arose at the 2012 Democratic National Convention surrounding Israel and Jerusalem in particular generated so much (negative) media attention for the Obama-Biden campaign it is a better than even bet that Israel will be discussed.
Biden has long been touted by liberals as a friend of Israel and has addressed the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C. as far back as at least 1991 when this writer heard him there.
Of course, Biden’s commitment to Israel has often been questioned, perhaps most seriously after he strongly blasted Israel’s government in March 2010 for announcing the approval of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem. And this was while he was in Jerusalem on his first visit to Israel as vice-president. This incident was especially stinging to the Netanyahu administration given that Biden stated that the new Israeli housing ‘undermines’ trust.
While there may not be much information on Paul Ryan and his attitudes toward the U.S. – Israel relationship there is much that can be assumed if the adage of “Want to Know More About a Person? Look at Their Friends.”
A quick review of two of the clearly most significant professional relationships of Ryan’s early years in Washington, D.C. reveals much.
A brief look at the individuals Wikipedia mentions in its entry on Ryan is especially instructive.
“…Ryan became a speechwriter for Empower America, a conservative advocacy group founded by Jeane Kirkpatrick and William Bennett. Ryan later worked as a speechwriter for Jack Kemp…and later worked for U.S. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas.”
The four individuals listed were among the most unabashedly pro-Israel American political figures of the last 30 years.
After Jeane Kirkpatrick died on December 8, 2006 the Jewish Telegraphic Agency / JTA newswire reported in an article titled “Jews Remember Kirkpatrick, 80, As Friend of Israel, Moral Beacon” that Malcolm Hoenlein, the longtime executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said of her that “(s)he was a great friend of Israel, of the Jewish people.”
William Bennett wrote in 2006 that Israel has “shown itself to be a model of democracy and decency” and “Yes, Israel’s war is our war. About this, our mutual enemies have no doubt.”
When Jack Kemp died in 2009 the JTA stated he was “known for his affection and activism for Israel.”
Lastly, Sam Brownback spoke at the first Washington, D.C. Summit of Christians United for Israel in July 2006 to an audience of 3,500. In October 2007 The Jerusalem Post reported that Brownback said “Land for peace does not work.” Brownback used the example of the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as evidence.
Ryan is also close to Representative Eric Cantor, the only Republican in Congress that is Jewish. Cantor and Ryan coauthored the book Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders. The book’s pro-Israel approach is plainly stated.
As with so many other issues Biden and Ryan are probably poles apart on the Israel-U.S. relationship. Will this debate bring out the differences?