‘Israeli-occupied’ Congress no more
Democrats also need to examine their own silent betrayal of the American-Israeli relationship.
Abbas and Congressman Ackerman in 2007. Photo: REUTERS
For those of us in the pro-Israel camp who were disappointed by the reelection
of President Barack Obama, there’s more bad news.
While there is no
dearth of analysis of the impact of the US presidential election on the
America-Israel relationship, Israel’s military and diplomatic strategies or on
Israel’s upcoming elections, analysis of the Congress that has just been elected
has been in short supply.
And while the precise impact of this election
is difficult to predict, there is one inescapable conclusion: The incoming 113th
Congress to be sworn in this January is materially more left-leaning and
materially less pro-Israel than the outgoing 112th.
Especially on the
Between retirements, redistricting, and reelection bids
that faltered, a who’s who of famously pro-Israel legislators have been swept
out, many to be replaced by those with a less friendly orientation toward Israel
and its relationship with America.
Particularly in the offices of
Democrats, Capitol Hill will no longer be, as Pat Buchanan once described it,
The ranks of staunchly pro-Israel
legislators have been thinned. Gone are Senator Joe Lieberman, and
Representatives Joe Walsh and Allen West (pending a long-shot recount battle).
The number of reliably pro- Israel Jewish Democrats in Congress continues to
dwindle, as Representatives Steve Rothman, Gary Ackerman, Shelly Berkeley and
Howard Berman won’t be returning. In fact, the number of Jewish members of
Congress has just been chopped by 20 percent.
How bad is the erosion of
the pro-Israel camp? Consider that J Street, the “pro- Israel” group that can
never bring itself to articulate even consensus pro-Israel positions, singled
out 71 candidates worthy of their support. 70 of them were victorious (all are
The organization, which advocates stronger American pressure
against Israel, handed out nearly $2 million in contributions.
not every one of those 71 races was seriously contested, but many were. Walsh
and West were specially – and successfully – targeted.
As one example of
this election’s negative impact on Israel, Rothman’s loss may be particularly
tough. A 16-year Congressman, Rothman served on the House Appropriations
Committee and its Subcommittee on Defense, which apportions how much US military
aid goes to Israel.
He was known to have spearheaded efforts behind the
scenes to increase aid for Israel’s most critical defense programs and promote
an ever-closer military alliance between Israel and the US. He was defeated in
the primaries by Democrat and Israel critic Bill Pascrall in a campaign focused
on Rothman’s support for Israel – or as his growing Arab constituency put it,
“loyalty to a foreign flag.”
Panic in pro-Israel circles is not yet
Overall, support for Israel in Congress will still be pretty
solid – especially among Republicans. The GOP still has a comfortable majority
in the House of Representatives, and remains as overwhelmingly pro-Israel as
But the trend, particularly among the Democrats, is troubling.
What we witnessed at the Democratic convention, when delegates shockingly booed
(and at least half opposed) the reinsertion of pro- Israel language into the
party platform, may not be an aberration. Overt anti-Israel positions are
increasingly common in the once-solidly Zionist party.
We can expect a
sharp rise in expressions of anti-Israel sentiment from the new class of
Congressional Democrats. Wisconsin Jewish Senator Herb Kohl retired after 24
years, replaced by Democrat Tammy Baldwin.
She has accused Israel of war
crimes and defended the libelous Goldstone Report.
Arizona just elected
to Congress rabidly anti-Israel advocate Krysten Sinema, who has founded
organizations supporting a Palestinian “right of return” and served as spokesman
for Women in Black, an organization which backed Palestinians during the
And the list of victorious J Street-backed “Gaza 54”
supporters, critics of Israel’s confronting the Gaza flotilla, accusers of
Israeli war crimes and those refusing to sign letters of support for Israel is
far too long to go through here.
We are already seeing a similar effect
in terms of American support for Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. From an
American standpoint, it should be a no-brainer to support Israel in finally
responding to relentless, unprovoked, lethal rocket attacks on its civilian
population by jihadist Hamas terror-crats.
Yet, while Republicans support
Israel’s response by better than a six to one margin, a mere 41% of Democrats
express support for Israel’s actions – this, for an action overwhelmingly
supported across the entire Israeli political spectrum.
The Democrats can
complain all they want about Republicans turning Israel support into a partisan
issue. But the Republicans’ continued rock-solid support for Israel is not the
cause of the encroaching partisan divide. The Democrats who strongly support
Israel need to confront the developments in their own party; all the Republicans
have done is point them out.
Democrats also need to examine their own
silent betrayal of the American-Israeli relationship. Putting party ahead of
principle, 40 Jewish Democratic Congressman would not utter a peep of protest
against President Obama even during his worst mistreatment of Israel and Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. It is that silence, that failure to take a stand,
and that failure to publicly articulate pro-Israel positions that has allowed
the Democrats to drift into ambivalence – even hostility – regarding
When their pro-Israel caucus is silent, we should not be shocked
that the new voices emerging from the Democrats are not
The writer is an American attorney and political
commentator living in Israel. He serves as Counsel to Republicans Abroad Israel.