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For more than a half century, American Jews have put aside our domestic political differences to come together in support of the US-Israel relationship. This strong, bipartisan consensus has served the Jewish community and other pro-Israel constituencies well.
Sadly, as partisanship and divisiveness have grown in the American polity, there are some in the Republican Party and conservative movement who are working hard to smash this political consensus and turn support for Israel into a wedge issue.
One such character is Martin Kramer, who recently published an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post about Senator Hillary Clinton's position on Israel ("Hillary, Triangulation on Israel?" November 4 ). His piece is filled with the same shaky logic and intellectual dishonesty that has characterized some Republican attempts to score political points on spreading fear over Democratic support for Israel.
Before delving into the specific charges offered by Kramer, it is important to note that Senator Clinton has been a great supporter of Israel throughout her career, and is one of Israel's strongest friends in the US Senate. She led the charge for Red Cross recognition of Magen David Adom and has an impeccable voting record.
If Hillary were but a fair weather friend of Israel, as Kramer suggests, she surely would not enjoy the immense popularity she has seen in New York. One simply does not get re-elected in the Empire State with 67% of the vote if there is even a smidgeon of legitimate doubt about one's support for Israel.
Here is what the Orthodox newspaper, The Jewish Press, which opposed Clinton in 2000, wrote in support of her candidacy for re-election to the Senate in 2006: "As regards Israel, she has become an important supporter of the Jewish state both in public and, perhaps more importantly, behind the scenes. She is held in the highest regard by those who regularly plead Israel's cause in the halls of government. For those who initially were wary of her positions on Middle East issues - and we include ourselves in that category - Ms. Clinton has proved to be a pleasant and welcome surprise â€¦."
AS FOR Kramer's specific arguments, to say he is fishing for a reason to bash Senator Clinton is an understatement. For instance, he takes a paragraph from the Senator's recent Foreign Affairs article, "Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-First Century" and claims that it is "loaded with allusions and references that the casual reader is likely to miss, but that send a clear signal on the high frequency of the 'peace process.' The message is this: a Hillary administration would constantly busy itself with Israeli-Palestinians talks, regardless of their prospects, and would strive to avoid any appearance of partiality - toward Israel."
Kramer's assertion is patently absurd, as is apparent to anyone who reads the passage in question. Here is the passage that Kramer suggests is filled with anti-Israeli "signals": Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process that would mean security and normal relations for Israel and the Palestinians. The fundamental elements of a final agreement have been clear since 2000: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel's right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel, and normalization of its relations with Arab states. US diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict. In addition to facilitating negotiations, we must engage in regional diplomacy to gain Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is committed to peace and willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis. Whether or not the United States makes progress in helping to broker a final agreement, consistent US involvement can lower the level of violence and restore our credibility in the region.
If this passage were truly objectionable, surely Kramer would say the same about the Bush Administration's efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian agreements at Annapolis. And what, Mr. Kramer, are we to think of Condoleezza Rice's assertion that "We appear to be on course to prepare seriously for continuous ongoing negotiations," and that "I can really say without fear of contradiction that everybody's goal is the creation" of a Palestinian state?"
Perhaps the biggest discernable difference in Kramer's eyes is that Clinton's comments were made by a Democrat - and political foe - while Rice's were made by a Republican political ally. Mr. Kramer is a member of Rudy Giuliani's foreign policy team.
To attempt to demagogue the Israel issue, as Kramer has done in his piece about Senator Clinton, is counterproductive to all of us who care about the future of the US-Israel relationship. This type of tawdry political stunt serves only to cheapen the political discourse. The true best interests of Israel have been, are, and will continue to be best served through a strong, bipartisan consensus.
The writer is executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. He is co-editor of Jews in American Politics.
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