The danger of Israel becoming a partisan issue

Liberals must speak up and explain how their values and support of Israel coexist harmoniously.

August 2, 2012 16:28
2 minute read.
US President Obama, PM Netanyahu at White House

US President Obama with PM Netanyahu at White House 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)


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Alan Dershowitz’s latest article in the Jerusalem Post, which boldly reaffirms the Harvard Law professor’s decision to vote for US President Barack Obama without “buyer’s remorse,” seems to contradict Dershowitz’s previous criticisms of the president, particularly on the subject of Israel.

While Dershowitz extolling Obama seems inconsistent and somewhat puzzling, in truth, his doing so was inspired by Republicans, like billionaire Sheldon Adelson, rapidly turning Israel into a partisan issue for the upcoming presidential election. This trend – of Israel transforming into a partisan issue -- is not only extremely dangerous for America from a foreign policy perspective, but is also harmful to Israel and its supporters.

What is so dangerous about Israel becoming a partisan issue? After all, if Republican candidates battle for the title of “most pro-Israel,” it would seem Israel would only benefit. This logic is deeply flawed because it takes the American government’s support of Israel for granted. Today support for Israel in Congress is nearly ubiquitous, and bills granting foreign aid to Israel, especially for important defense technologies, are passed on a regular basis.

For example, last week Obama said he was releasing an additional $70 million in military aid for Israel. But the status quo is not permanent. If Israel becomes a partisan issue Democrats will feel less incentive to support Israel since it is a “Republican cause.” Therefore, it is important not to grossly under exaggerate a particular candidate’s support of Israel because in reality, the politician’s support could diminish if they feel that, despite their efforts, they are still labeled “anti-Israel.”

Now it is true that Obama has made many errors on the topic of Israel. For example, his naming the 1967 borders as a basis for any two state solution was largely inappropriate, and it is not Obama’s place to be meddling extensively in Israel’s affairs as a sovereign nation. Despite the errors, however, it is important to recognize – as a Republican, Democrat, or Independent -- that in many ways, Obama has been a supporter of Israel through both word and deed.

If support for Israel does eventually become a partisan issue, liberal Jews are going to be forced to decide between Israel and their liberal values. Unfortunately, many may not choose Israel. It is becoming harder and harder for Americans to reconcile liberalism with support for Israel. This is because many extreme leftist groups, like the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine, which just spent millions of dollars on deceptive anti-Israel ads in New York, have hijacked the Palestinian cause in the name of “social justice” and “human rights” as a way to demean and slander Israel. Making Israel a partisan issue will only exacerbate this phenomenon, and will make it harder for liberals, like Dershowitz, to easily and effectively voice their pro-Israel opinions.

As a college student, I find that a vast majority of my peers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who support Israel are conservative. This is unfortunate because a strong American-Israel relationship benefits the entirety of both nations, not a particular party or ideology.

More liberals must speak up and explain how their liberal values and support of Israel coexist harmoniously. This is the only way to eliminate the risk of alienating a major party’s support of Israel, and the next generation of college students will be able to support Israel from both sides of the aisle in equal numbers.

The writer is President of MIT Students for Israel.

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