Israel is a Wedge Issue (and the Democrats Make it One)

Senator Kamala Harris recently said that “the bonds between the people of the United States and the people of Israel are unbreakable and we can never let anyone drive a wedge between us…Israel should never be a partisan issue.” This is what George Orwell would call “doublespeak,” as the major Democratic presidential candidates are fast forging that partisan wedge. When they discuss Israel, they advocate for policies that harm American interests and the American-Israeli strategic partnership.

To me, a pro-Israel presidential candidate regardless of party affiliation would adhere to at least most of the principles below. He or she would:

  • Support Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. [Here are some reasons why the U.S. was right to recognize the Golan as part of Israel.]
  • Support Israel’s sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and at the very least: 1) not dismiss the possibility that Israel has a right to annex at least some of Judea and Samaria; 2) not dismiss the “settlements” as illegitimate, as Israel has a right to build them; and 3) not dismiss Israel’s claim to Judea and Samaria as being one of “occupation,” as it isn’t.
  • Conversely, oppose Oslo/two state solution/land-for peace frameworks for achieving Arab-Israeli peace. [In exchange for Israel’s willingness to give land for peace, Israel has received two wars with Hezbollah, three wars with Hamas, the Second Intifada and the Knife Intifada. That’s seven wars in twenty years. The Arabs have also rejected sovereignty in Judea and Samaria at least seven times. So, sticking to old paradigms of solving the conflict is ludicrous. It is better to consider alternatives.]
  • Support Israel’s right to defend itself from Palestinian terror attacks from Gaza, eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
  • Support Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem and the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Support Israel’s right to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting Israel. [Here are some reasons why Israel was right to bar them.]
  • Not demonize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his “right wing” government. [Much of this is a vague swipe against some or all of the above principles, and against the will of the Israeli people. Benjamin Netanyahu is now the longest serving Israeli prime minister ever, and the Likud has been the dominant party of Israel since Menachem Begin was first elected in 1977. The staying power of both reflects the politics of the Israeli electorate. Can we move on?]

So how do the major candidates stack up on these issues? All fall short, to varying degrees.

Joe Biden

  • Opposes the “occupation”
  • Opposes the “settlements” as “unnecessary.” [There are currently about 400,000 Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria, in addition to another 300,000 living in eastern Jerusalem]
  • Supports a two state solution
  • While he opposes moving the US embassy back to Tel Aviv, he supports re-opening the U.S. consulate to the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel

Bernie Sanders

  • Opposes the “occupation”
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Would consider cutting aid to Israel to pressure Israel in the peace process
  • Opposed how Israel fought Hamas in the 2014 war in Gaza
  • Opposed moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and wouldn’t state definitively whether or not he would move it back to Tel Aviv. He had previously voted for a 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Skipped Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress
  • Called the Israeli government racist

Elizabeth Warren

  • Opposes Israel unilaterally annexing Judea and Samaria
  • Opposes the “occupation.” Interestingly, she has hired Max Berger, a co-founder of IfNotNow, a group that advocate against the “occupation” of Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem.
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Was non-committal when asked if aid to Israel should be conditional on Israel ceasing to build “settlements”
  • Opposed Israel’s response to the March 2018 Gaza protests
  • Opposed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and did not respond / refused to comment when asked if she would move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv. She had previously voted for a 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Skipped Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress
  • Opposes Netanyahu as “embracing right wing extremism”

Kamala Harris

  • Opposes Israel unilaterally annexing Judea and Samaria. In 2017, she had opposed the Obama Administration’s abstaining on a U.N. Security Council resolution that declared that Israeli “settlements” had “no legal validity.”
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Did not respond when asked if she would move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv. She had voted for a 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel

Pete Buttigieg

  • Opposed the U.S. unilaterally recognizing Israeli sovereignty of the Golan, and opposed doing so without some concession from Israel, and equivocated on if he would reverse this if elected
  • Opposes the “occupation” and states that “it must end”
  • Opposes Israeli annexation of Judea and Samaria
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Opposed moving the embassy to Jerusalem without some concession from Israel, but opposes moving it back to Tel Aviv
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Opposes the “right wing policies by the Netanyahu government” and criticizes Netanyahu for “turning away from peace” [I debunk the assertion that Netanyahu turned away from peace here]

Beto O’Rourke

  • Equivocated on whether U.S. should recognize Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights and equivocated on whether or not he would reverse this if elected
  • Opposes Israel building in Judea and Samaria, and supported the Obama Administration’s abstaining on a U.N. Security Council resolution that declared that Israeli “settlements” had “no legal validity.”
  • Supports a two-state solution as the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict
  • Opposed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and equivocated on whether he would move it back to Tel Aviv
  • Called Netanyahu racist
  • Skipped Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress

Cory Booker

  • When asked about the “occupation” from the group IfNotNow, he did not use the word “occupation,” but cryptically stated, “we may not agree on strategies, but we agree on outcomes.”
  • Supports a two-state solution
  • Opposed the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem without obtaining a concession from Israel, but opposes moving it back to Tel Aviv. He did not vote either yes or no in the 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Held up a sign that read “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go.” This seems to indicate that Senator Booker does not think that Israel has a right to defend its citizens from terror attacks with its separation barrier.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Equivocated when asked if Netanyahu was a racist, stating “I’m not going to judge Israel by Netanyahu.”

Conclusion

Despite rhetoric opposing making Israel into a wedge issue, the major Democratic presidential candidates have done just that. They often take positions that are driven by partisan politics, rather than by sound policy. By compromising on issues essential to Israeli’s sovereignty, security and inalienable rights, they push Arab-Israeli peace further and further away from realization.

Image credit: Wikipedia // public domain

 

Senator Kamala Harris recently said that “the bonds between the people of the United States and the people of Israel are unbreakable and we can never let anyone drive a wedge between us…Israel should never be a partisan issue.” This is what George Orwell would call “doublespeak,” as the major Democratic presidential candidates are fast forging that partisan wedge. When they discuss Israel, they advocate for policies that harm American interests and the American-Israeli strategic partnership.

To me, a pro-Israel presidential candidate regardless of party affiliation would adhere to at least most of the principles below. He or she would:

  • Support Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. [Here are some reasons why the U.S. was right to recognize the Golan as part of Israel.]
  • Support Israel’s sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, and at the very least: 1) not dismiss the possibility that Israel has a right to annex at least some of Judea and Samaria; 2) not dismiss the “settlements” as illegitimate, as Israel has a right to build them; and 3) not dismiss Israel’s claim to Judea and Samaria as being one of “occupation,” as it isn’t.
  • Conversely, oppose Oslo/two state solution/land-for peace frameworks for achieving Arab-Israeli peace. [In exchange for Israel’s willingness to give land for peace, Israel has received two wars with Hezbollah, three wars with Hamas, the Second Intifada and the Knife Intifada. That’s seven wars in twenty years. The Arabs have also rejected sovereignty in Judea and Samaria at least seven times. So, sticking to old paradigms of solving the conflict is ludicrous. It is better to consider alternatives.]
  • Support Israel’s right to defend itself from Palestinian terror attacks from Gaza, eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
  • Support Israel’s sovereignty in Jerusalem and the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Support Israel’s right to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from visiting Israel. [Here are some reasons why Israel was right to bar them.]
  • Not demonize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his “right wing” government. [Much of this is a vague swipe against some or all of the above principles, and against the will of the Israeli people. Benjamin Netanyahu is now the longest serving Israeli prime minister ever, and the Likud has been the dominant party of Israel since Menachem Begin was first elected in 1977. The staying power of both reflects the politics of the Israeli electorate. Can we move on?]

So how do the major candidates stack up on these issues? All fall short, to varying degrees.

Joe Biden

  • Opposes the “occupation”
  • Opposes the “settlements” as “unnecessary.” [There are currently about 400,000 Israeli citizens living in Judea and Samaria, in addition to another 300,000 living in eastern Jerusalem]
  • Supports a two state solution
  • While he opposes moving the US embassy back to Tel Aviv, he supports re-opening the U.S. consulate to the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel

Bernie Sanders

  • Opposes the “occupation”
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Would consider cutting aid to Israel to pressure Israel in the peace process
  • Opposed how Israel fought Hamas in the 2014 war in Gaza
  • Opposed moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, and wouldn’t state definitively whether or not he would move it back to Tel Aviv. He had previously voted for a 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Skipped Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress
  • Called the Israeli government racist

Elizabeth Warren

  • Opposes Israel unilaterally annexing Judea and Samaria
  • Opposes the “occupation.” Interestingly, she has hired Max Berger, a co-founder of IfNotNow, a group that advocate against the “occupation” of Judea, Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem.
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Was non-committal when asked if aid to Israel should be conditional on Israel ceasing to build “settlements”
  • Opposed Israel’s response to the March 2018 Gaza protests
  • Opposed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and did not respond / refused to comment when asked if she would move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv. She had previously voted for a 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Skipped Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress
  • Opposes Netanyahu as “embracing right wing extremism”

Kamala Harris

  • Opposes Israel unilaterally annexing Judea and Samaria. In 2017, she had opposed the Obama Administration’s abstaining on a U.N. Security Council resolution that declared that Israeli “settlements” had “no legal validity.”
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Did not respond when asked if she would move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv. She had voted for a 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel

Pete Buttigieg

  • Opposed the U.S. unilaterally recognizing Israeli sovereignty of the Golan, and opposed doing so without some concession from Israel, and equivocated on if he would reverse this if elected
  • Opposes the “occupation” and states that “it must end”
  • Opposes Israeli annexation of Judea and Samaria
  • Supports a two state solution
  • Opposed moving the embassy to Jerusalem without some concession from Israel, but opposes moving it back to Tel Aviv
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Opposes the “right wing policies by the Netanyahu government” and criticizes Netanyahu for “turning away from peace” [I debunk the assertion that Netanyahu turned away from peace here]

Beto O’Rourke

  • Equivocated on whether U.S. should recognize Israeli sovereignty of the Golan Heights and equivocated on whether or not he would reverse this if elected
  • Opposes Israel building in Judea and Samaria, and supported the Obama Administration’s abstaining on a U.N. Security Council resolution that declared that Israeli “settlements” had “no legal validity.”
  • Supports a two-state solution as the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict
  • Opposed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and equivocated on whether he would move it back to Tel Aviv
  • Called Netanyahu racist
  • Skipped Netanyahu’s March 2015 speech to Congress

Cory Booker

  • When asked about the “occupation” from the group IfNotNow, he did not use the word “occupation,” but cryptically stated, “we may not agree on strategies, but we agree on outcomes.”
  • Supports a two-state solution
  • Opposed the U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem without obtaining a concession from Israel, but opposes moving it back to Tel Aviv. He did not vote either yes or no in the 2017 Senate resolution calling on President Trump to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
  • Held up a sign that read “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go.” This seems to indicate that Senator Booker does not think that Israel has a right to defend its citizens from terror attacks with its separation barrier.
  • Opposed Israel barring Omar and Tlaib from visiting Israel
  • Equivocated when asked if Netanyahu was a racist, stating “I’m not going to judge Israel by Netanyahu.”

Conclusion

Despite rhetoric opposing making Israel into a wedge issue, the major Democratic presidential candidates have done just that. They often take positions that are driven by partisan politics, rather than by sound policy. By compromising on issues essential to Israeli’s sovereignty, security and inalienable rights, they push Arab-Israeli peace further and further away from realization.

Image credit: Wikipedia // public domain