Joe Lieberman at Herzl Conference: I see storm clouds gathering on American support for Israel

The former senator and Democratic nominee for vice president expressed his concern over recent statements by Democratic presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders.

Joe Lieberman speaks at the Herzl Conference on October 30, 2019
With Democratic presidential hopefuls including Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders threatening to withhold American aid to Israel, former US Senator and Democratic nominee for Vice President Joe Lieberman warned of the presence of “storm clouds gathering” on American support for Israel while speaking at the first Herzl Conference on Contemporary Zionism organized by the World Zionist Organization in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
“In my opinion, [bipartisan American support for Israel] is not collapsing, but it is changing and there are parts of the American political spectrum where support for Israel is dearly diminishing. I am not by nature an alarmist, but amidst the continuing encouraging facts on the ground, I see storm clouds gathering,” he said, mentioning “real attrition among liberals, Democrats and younger people – millennials.”
The former senator expressed his concern over recent statements by Democratic presidential hopefuls Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders about rethinking US military aid to Israel.
“What is most troubling about these statements is not that they are challenging elements of Israeli policy. That has been happening in America for a long time. It is healthy and will continue,” Lieberman said. “The ominous unprecedented factor here is American presidential candidates threatening to withhold American aid to Israel. This I fear is a reflection of what they are hearing among potential Democratic primary voters.”
In 2000, Lieberman became the first Jewish nominee on a major party presidential ticket when Democratic candidate Al Gore named him as his running mate. Today he is the chairman of a bipartisan advocacy group called United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI).
Speaking at the Herzl Conference, the Connecticut-born politician also offered his perspective on the topic of the event, “From Herzl’s Vision to the Reality of Zionism in the Twenty-First Century.”
“When King David founded this shining city on a hill more than 3,000 years ago and his son, King Solomon, built the first Temple here, they united in one place the spiritual and political capitals of the Jewish people. You and I are blessed to be alive at the third time in history when that unity has been realized in Jerusalem,” he said, adding that he has lately found even more reasons to visit Israel often, since his daughter with her husband and children, as well as another granddaughter, made aliyah in 2018.
“I am not critical of Herzl or Israelis for the ways in which the details of his Zionist dream have not been realized. It was, after all, a dream that became prophetic in the sense that the essence of it was realized,” he noted.
“But the way in which the normative parts of Herzl’s vision of the state have not been implemented in 21st-century Israel are worth exploring to see whether Israel should and can do more to implement his designs for religious freedom, and inclusiveness, better relations between Arabs and Jews, and broader economic well-being,” he added.
President Reuven Rivlin also spoke at the event.
“The title of this conference, ‘From Vision to Reality,’ sums up better than anything else the passage of history since Herzl published Der Judenstaat and Altneuland. It was an incomparably grand but sober vision, which the Zionist movement turned into reality. It is in that reality that we live and work, and it is that reality that we are required to refashion for future generations of the Jewish people,” he said.
Rivlin emphasized that for the founder of Zionism, “the rule of law and the sovereignty of the Jewish people were synonymous.”
 In the Jewish State, everyone is equal before the law – Jews and Arabs, men and women, rich and poor. A reality where we decide for ourselves, on our own, for our own good, according to ‘the principles of liberty, justice and peace, according to the visions of the prophets of Israel’, is an immense and rare treasure that few Jews have been fortunate to receive over the generations,” he added.
Rivlin also invited current Israeli leaders to learn from Herzl, “balancing respect for tradition with the ways of a modern state.”
“At times like this, the role of leaders is not to divide or exclude those from different parts of society. Their role is to show how, and it is certainly possible, to preserve the social contract, which is the essential soul of the Zionist state: a Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish state, both at the same time,” he concluded.