Elissa Slotkin, now a Democratic candidate in Michigan, signs an agreement to support the Kurdistan Region's during the war against the ISlamic State when she was an Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One of the enduring myths of American politics is that we have to choose between national security and social issues, as if only one party understands military and intelligence issues and only the other party has a heart. But this is a false choice. Democrats are strong on the social and economic policies that Jewish voters support, and are strong on security as well. Democrats have a long and solid history of being thoroughly supportive, not only on the safety and security of Israel but on the institutions and programs that assure a secure and strong America. Jewish voters know that today the Trump administration is weakening America by undermining key institutions – and a weakened America truly does threaten the security of Israel.
This November, we have the opportunity to elect to Congress a large cohort of women with impeccable national security credentials, including many who served in the military. They’ve been called “badass women,” but I prefer to simply call them “eminently qualified.” These women represent a Democratic Party that continues to be strong on Israel and will protect America at home and abroad while fighting for – instead of compromising – our values.
Most candidates for Congress, understandably, focus on domestic issues and some, over time, might develop some expertise in foreign policy. Most voters, understandably, are concerned with issues like jobs, health care and education. But in this election, the Democratic Party has also produced a wave of women who will enter Congress fluent in the language of foreign policy, national security and defense.
They are all unfailingly supportive of a strong US-Israel relationship, and their election will ensure that the Democratic Party has effective advocates for that relationship for years to come. Their support for Israel is based on their individual knowledge and real-life experiences, not on political expediency. And their positions on Israel are bedrock positions for them, not tangential beliefs low on their priority lists. These women are the future of the Democratic Party, which bodes well not only for the strength of the US-Israel relationship, but the overall security of the United States.
• Nancy Soderberg (FL-6th District), for example, served as the third-ranking official on the National Security Council staff during president Clinton’s administration and was integrally involved in the efforts that led to Israel’s historic 1994 peace agreement with Jordan and with the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. During her tenure as alternate US representative to the United Nations, she played a critical role in fending off anti-Israel votes in the Security Council and worked closely with the Israeli government. She negotiated the UN Security Council resolution that accounted for Israel’s legitimate security concerns, including regarding Israeli troop withdrawal from Lebanon. Most recently, in 2016, she served on the Democratic Platform Committee representing candidate Hillary Clinton, where she personally spoke out against and helped defeat a variety of anti-Israel amendments.
• Elissa Slotkin (MI-8th District) worked in the CIA as a Middle East analyst and within a year of joining the agency was deployed to Baghdad, serving a total of three tours in Iraq over a span of only five years. She then held various defense and intelligence roles at the White House, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the State Department. She worked for president Bush as a member of his national security staff and was asked to stay on when Obama took office. Until January 2017, she oversaw policy at the Pentagon on Russia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa as acting assistant secretary of defense, where she helped to finalize the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel.
• Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11th District) spent almost 10 years on active duty in the United States Navy. She flew missions throughout Europe and the Middle East as a Sea King helicopter pilot. Sherrill worked on the Battle Watch Floor in the European Theater during the Iraq invasion, and served as a flag aide to the deputy commander in chief of the US Atlantic Fleet. She also served as a Russian policy officer and worked on the implementation of our nuclear treaty obligations and oversaw the relationship between the US Navy and Russian Federation Navy. She believes that a strong US-Israel relationship is “instrumental to global security.”
• Elaine Luria (VA-2nd District) served for 20 years as a surface warfare officer and nuclear engineer, deploying six times – twice forward-deployed on ships stationed in Japan – conducting operations in the Middle East and Western Pacific on destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers.
• And Lauren Baer (FL-18th District) was a senior adviser to secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, as well as to former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power.
This group of women brings more than just military and government experience. Kathy Manning (NC-13th District) was the head of the Jewish Federations of North America and has met on a regular basis with Israel’s prime ministers. She sat at the table making decisions on how to allocate emergency funds to the people of Israel. Her leadership has impacted thousands of people whose lives have been affected by constant terrorist threats.
These women are not only more than qualified to handle issues pertaining to the safety and security of the US and Israel; they will fight for reproductive freedom, gun safety, immigration and the other domestic values that most Jewish voters cherish. These women are not only the future of the Democratic Party, but will be strong, respected voices for a strong US-Israel relationship within the Democratic Party.
Perhaps most important, they are living, running-for-Congress proof that the so-called choice between support for a strong US-Israel relationship and support for our domestic values is an unequivocally false choice. The Democratic Party is the home of American Jewry precisely because it is the home for both.
The writer is a member of the executive committee of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. Jewishdems.org.
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