Tuesday, September 27th | 2 Tishri 5783

November 15, 2019 11:24 am

The Democratic Party Faces a Choice on Israel

avatar by Morton A. Klein and Daniel Mandel


Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg wait onstage before the fourth Democratic US 2020 presidential election debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, Oct. 15, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Aaron Josefcz / File.

A few years ago, it would have been unimaginable: the Democratic Party, the party supported by the overwhelming majority of American Jews and with a long record of pro-Israel figures — Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Henry Jackson, Frank Church, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and so on — is now fielding presidential candidates calling for cutting aid to Israel.

Those include Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D–MA) and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. All three have called for making US annual military aid to Israel conditional on Israel embracing the so-called “two-state solution” — that is to say, establishing an unreconstructed, unreformed Palestinian Arab terror state on Israel’s doorstep.

Senator Sanders has said that he would “absolutely” consider cuts to American military aid to Israel in order to pressure Israel, which he described as having “an extreme right-wing government with many racist tendencies … $3.8 billion [a year] is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government. If you want military aid, you’re going to have to fundamentally change your relationship [to Gaza].”

Senator Warren has said: “Right now, [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu says he is going to take Israel in a direction of increasing settlements. That does not move us toward a two-state solution. It is the official policy of the United States of America to support a two-state solution, and if Israel is moving in the opposite direction then everything is on the table.”

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Mayor Buttigieg states: “I think that the aid is leverage to guide Israel in the right direction … If, for example, there is follow-through on these threats of annexation, I’m committed to ensuring that the US is not footing the bill for that.”

Only in recent days has there been any notable repudiation of this position from prominent Democrats. Queried by a reporter, former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden responded, “Look, I have been on record from very early on opposed to the settlements, and I think it’s a mistake. And President [sic] Netanyahu knows my position. But the idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find to be absolutely outrageous. … Anyway, no I would  not condition it and I think its’ a gigantic mistake.”

Also, Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee, has criticized his Democratic colleagues: “We have a $38 billion commitment over 10 years for military aid to Israel … The Israelis need it for defense … Whether we approve or disapprove of specific policies, we shouldn’t use military aid as a pressure point on specific policies — because Israel’s security is paramount.”

Welcome as Biden and Nadler’s disavowals are, it remains astonishing that so few Democrats have come forward to repudiate these suggestions.

Allies do not issue dictates to one another. Disagreement among allies are usually handled delicately and privately, not with grandstanding threats about withdrawing aid — all of which clearly suggests that Israel is viewed in hostile terms by an increasing number of Democrats.

Consider the draconian implications of their insistence on economically and militarily penalizing  Israel to end its development of Jewish communities beyond the 1949 artistic lines. They are not only saying that these territories should be free of Jews, but revealing that they do not regard Israel as an ally.  And anyone who demands that Israel establish a Palestinian terror state ala Gaza is blind to the reality of the Arab Islamic war against the Jewish State.

The Sanders–Warren–Buttigieg trio display either hostility or ignorance, or possibly both, when they assert that US policy supports creating a Palestinian Arab state. To the contrary, the Trump administration, while not ruling it out, has explicitly not adopted this position — and it is the executive branch that sets foreign policy.

It is additionally deeply hypocritical that Senators Sanders and Warren have called for cutting aid to Israel over an issue of policy when, in September this year, both senators opposed President Trump’s cuts in aid to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

The PA has refused negotiations for nearly a decade and insists it will never return to them, refused to dismantle terrorist groups, refused to end the incitement to hatred and murder that suffuses the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps, and has refused to stop paying salaries to blood-soaked, jailed terrorists and stipends to the families of deceased terrorists who murdered Jews. (These payments totaled $318 million in 2016).

The PA, moreover, has made the astonishing declaration that it regards US aid as a “political and moral right” on account of US support for Israel’s establishment in 1948. These policies adhered to by the PA diverge massively from the US position — unless Sanders-Warren-Buttigieg mean to changer that too. Yet none of these positions attracts even the suggestion from these Democrats that the PA deserves no or less US aid.

These new, diametrically-opposed positions will not long coexist in the same party. The Democratic Party is fast reaching the point where it must either succumb to the new radical leftist positions on Israel espoused by Sanders-Warren-Buttigieg (not to mention ‘The Squad’) or reassert its traditional, liberal support for the Jewish state.

Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). A national Jewish weekly named him one of the top five Jewish leaders in America and one of the top Jewish activists of the last century. Follow him @mortonaklein7 and at ZOA.org. Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’ s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establishment of Israel (Routledge, London, 2004). A version of this article was originally published by The Jewish Press.

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