Israelis concerned about what a Bernie Sanders presidency might mean for Israel-US ties could heave a sigh of relief on Wednesday following the thrashing he took at the hands of Joe Biden a day earlier in the Democratic primaries in Illinois, Florida and Arizona.
Biden’s victories in the primaries – and the delegates he picked up as a result –make remote the likelihood that Sanders, with his hypercritical progressive agenda on Israel, will become the Democratic nominee.
The November US election is quickly shaping up as a race between former vice president Biden and President Donald Trump. For the moment, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, represented nationally by Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who recently
dropped out of the race, is not taking over the party. The moderate center has held. And that, from Israel’s perspective, is the good news.
The less good news from Israel’s perspective is that it did not hold everywhere. Along with voting in the Democratic presidential primary, Illinois Democrats also voted in party primaries for other offices, including a primary race in Illinois third congressional district, a heavily Democratic district representing parts of Chicago and its southwestern suburbs.
And in that race, Israel lost a staunch supporter in Dan Lipinski, defeated by Marie Newman, a progressive candidate who supports those advocating BDS to “oppose Israeli occupation of the West Bank.”
Lipinski, one of the most conservative Democrats, is an abortion opponent and has voted against same sex marriage, has been a congressman since 2004. Since then he has a track record of supporting Israel, including being one of the few Democrats to vote against then-president Barack
Obama’s 2015 Iran deal. He also supported the Israeli anti-Boycott Act which would ban BDS, something Newman has come out against.
Lipinski barely defeated Newman in 2016, and this time lost by a 47%-45% margin. Rush Darwish, a Palestinian-American, finished a distant third. Since the district is heavily Democratic, Newman is expected to easily win in the general election in November.
She was backed by a political action committee set up last year by progressive New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and was also endorsed by both Sanders and Warren.
In a position paper on Israel/Palestine that she placed on her website, Newman said she supports “the right of Israel, as a democratic state, to exist in peace and security within its borders before June 4, 1967.” Within the State of Israel, she wrote, “the civil, political, and economic rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel must be protected from all forms of discrimination and be allowed to vote.”
Newman said that she opposes “the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Israeli blockade of Gaza. I also oppose the presence of Israeli settlements and housing on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem which violate international law and undermine the prospect for a just peace.”
And, using language that creates a seeming symmetry between Israel and Palestinian terrorists, she said that she opposes “the use of violence by Israelis and Palestinians as a means for resolving the Israeli/Palestinian conflict because the use of such violence is morally wrong and harmful to the achievement of a just settlement of the conflict.”
Furthermore, she came out in favor of a Palestinian “right of return,” writing: “I believe that Palestinian refugees and Palestinians living in the diaspora whose homes in Israel and the Palestinian territories were lost as a result of the conflict have the right to reside in Israel or Palestine and that the resolution of the conflict should include a fair and just resolution of the rights and aspirations of Palestinian refugees and Palestinians in the diaspora in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.”
Newman was supported by the hard Left J Street, and Ben Shnider, the organization’s vice president of political affairs, told the Jewish Insider that Newman’s win “demonstrates the momentum behind her pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-diplomacy views in today’s Democratic Party.”
He may have overstated that momentum, however, as progressive candidates have not so far fared all that well this primary season.
In a Texas congressional Democratic primary earlier this month, Henry Cuellar, a strongly pro-Israel nine-term Democratic representative from San Antonio, held off a primary challenge by another Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders backed candidate: 26-year-old immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros, who was also backed by J Street.