Netanyahu: If support for Israel among Democrats decreases, it concerns us

The Prime Minister also stressed that Israel should be in charge of security in the West Bank in any future agreement with the Palestinians.

By OMRI NAHMIAS
June 4, 2019 06:43
4 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Knesset ahead of the vote

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at the Knesset ahead of the vote on whether it will disperse, May 29. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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WASHINGTON - Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said there is no significant gap in partisan support for Israel.

In a conversation with American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris that took place May 10 and was aired during the AJC Global Forum, the organization’s annual policy and advocacy conference in Washington, Netanyahu said: “I don’t think there’s a big difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party as I have known it over the years on these issues.”

Speaking of the Democratic Party specifically, he said: “The people that I know there are staunch supporters of Israel, and I hope it will remain the same. If it changes that obviously will concern us. I think it should concern everyone.”

The prime minister stressed that Israel should be in charge of security in the West Bank in any future agreement with the Palestinians. “It’s about 40 miles at its widest point, about the size of the Beltway of Washington, DC,” he said.

Israeli Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, also addressed the wide gap between Republicans and Democrats in support of Israel. “There is a 40-year gap of support between Republicans and Democrats on Israel,” he said during a conversation on stage with Harris.

“The gap has grown from about 20% to 30% in the first two decades to about 45% today. Right now, the gap is not at an all-time high. The all-time high happened in 1991 during the first Gulf War. Most of the increase in the gap is not coming from a decline in support among Democrats. It’s coming from an atmospheric rise in support among Republicans for Israel,” he said.

Speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Dermer criticized the way the media covers Israel, specifically The New York Times. “I think the Times has done a good job in demonizing Israel week after week after week after. I think it’s a serious problem. When that cartoon was published about a month ago, and The New York Times wrote, ‘Hey, only one person saw it. And so it slipped through the cracks.’

And then there was an editorial the next day that was the best editorial probably written in The New York Times for 20 years, which is another very low bar. They said the Times has always been a stalwart supporter of Israel. Really? Really?

“When you demonize Israel, when you take all of these marginal phenomena in our society, and you put them on the front page, it starts affecting people’s view,” Dermer continued. “And that’s a decision of editors. Some editors there decided during the [Iran] nuclear deal debate to highlight in yellow the Jewish members of Congress who had decided to oppose the nuclear deal with Iran. How many editors saw that? Was that one person who was on the night desk? There is an attempt and a consistent effort to demonize the Jewish state.

And what disturbs me, and this is important for how it affects the broader American society, people who demonize the Jewish state – to believe that that’s not going to lead also to the spread of antisemitism. They’re kidding themselves.”

Dermer added: “That’s a paper that editorializes and calls on political leaders to be careful with their rhetoric because even if not directly, you’re contributing to a climate where bad things can happen. Well, they should look in the mirror. That New York Times editorial board should look in the mirror and say, have you contributed to a climate that is demonizing the Jewish state and thereby the Jewish people?”

Elan Carr, special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, said during the morning plenary session that one of the biggest challenges in fighting antisemitism is school textbooks. “If there’s an organized institutional indoctrination of antisemitic hatred in kids that is something that we have to combat and end immediately. Because once you do that, it becomes almost impossible to undo the damage.

“This is something we see a great deal in the Middle East, and I’m not talking about Iran. I’m talking about even our allies that are indoctrinating kids in an antisemitic way,” he added.

When asked which countries are educating their children in an antisemitic way, he said: “I don’t want to start naming countries. But there are textbooks in countries, including our allies, that are appalling. And that is something that’s got to stop because it’s very important to remember what happens in the Middle East doesn’t stay in the Middle East. What happens in the Middle East directly affects the European street and the American college campus. And so, textbooks are a key issue.”

Carr also said that there is strong cooperation between the Trump administration and European countries in fighting antisemitism. Speaking about his last visit in three European countries, Carr said: “One country complied with a specific request I made. They dropped a piece of legislation. It wasn’t a small [thing to ask]. It was a piece of legislation that was about to be introduced. The country dropped that piece of legislation. That was one of the things I requested. We’re getting work done. We have a lot to do, but I’m actually optimistic.”

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