Support Sherman, not Berman

Whereas they are very similar on domestic issues, the far better candidate for Israel is Brad Sherman.

HOWARD BERMAN_370 (photo credit: Reuters)
(photo credit: Reuters)
Recently, The Jerusalem Post published a dangerous piece, “Washington Watch: Can foreign policy be good local politics?”, which mistakenly endorsed Congressman Howard Berman (71) over Congressman Brad Sherman (57) in what is the most important Congressional race for the pro-Israel community in America.
Both congressmen are moderate Democrats, Jewish, senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and are contesting a newly re-drawn California Congressional district pitting two veteran officials into a heavily Democratic district. Berman has served far longer in Congress, and is thus the ranking member in House Foreign Affairs. However, his most productive days in Congress are long behind him. Whereas they are very similar on domestic issues, the far better candidate for Israel is Brad Sherman. 
Sherman is an outspoken champion for stopping the Iranian nuclear threat and is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade. Sherman is energetic, focused and will make an outstanding difference for years to come.
I have not been partisan or spoken out about any race for a full decade. However, I can’t remain silent on this race because it is far too important to get fully behind Brad Sherman. While Sherman is leading by 13 points in public polls, there are a massive number of undecided voters.  It is vital to rally behind Sherman while there is still time.
I met Howard Berman for the first time around 26 years ago. He is a smart and friendly guy who cared about Israel and did some very important positive things earlier in his career. I am grateful for those efforts. However, those days are long gone.
When Berman chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee from 2008 to 2010, he personally delayed the Iran sanctions bill from moving out of his committee. Pro-Israel organizations and leaders did not want to say anything out loud about Berman’s disastrous policies because of his important seniority on the key committee and because of his personal friendships with many big donors. However, if Howard Berman had not blocked sanctions on Iran, they could have been in place at least far earlier. This wasted critical time which in turn enabled Iran to spin a lot more centrifuges and further enrich uranium toward nuclear weapons capability. Now there is a risk that military action by Israel and/or America may be needed. That responsibility sits in Howard Berman’s lap as he has been working on these foreign policy issues for decades and should have known better.  Bad things happen when good people sit idly by and do nothing.
Worse yet, Berman actively blocked the sanctions. Indeed, Berman also initially attempted to water down the critically important provisions in the Kirk-Menendez Amendment sanctioning foreign banks that do business with the Central Bank of Iran.
The Iran Sanctions Act was passed in 1996.  For well over a decade, while Iran was pursuing an illicit nuclear weapons program, no comprehensive Iran sanctions was enacted in Congress and successive administrations did not truly enforce the Iran Sanctions Act against corporations doing millions and millions in business with Tehran.
Berman’s record is in stark contrast to Brad Sherman who has been raising the alarm bells on Iran since 2000 when he introduced legislation calling for tougher economic sanctions on Iran until Tehran terminates weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, ceases support for international terrorism, and respects human rights for its own people. Back then, Sherman was part of a lonely few in Congress who understood the threats early. He was ready to make a difference.
Additionally, in 2002, Sherman was so concerned about Israel’s image in the media and the lack of public awareness on the threat of Iran that he convinced me to close my consulting practice and start The Israel Project. He personally joined with me and to bring in a bipartisan team of dozens of Representatives and Senators to join our effort. He spent countless hours briefing reporters, leaders and activists on the threat of Iran for more than a decade.  In contrast, we asked Berman to join the board of advisors and until recently he declined.
Sadly, as was reported in Foreign Policy on December 8, 2011, Berman wasn’t fully onboard Iran issues until he realized that he wanted to run against Sherman and could not afford to look weak on Iran in the 2012 election cycle. Iran has become one of the few consensus issues in America. Even in the mock debate between Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart, the Iranian nuclear threat was one of the few issues they agreed on.
Iran isn’t the only issue at stake. The peace process is also vital. Sadly, Berman – who is still in a key position - could have done a lot more to promote people-to-people peace between Israel and neighbors.  Instead he traveled the world to pursue a failed system of leader-to-leader connections that have delivered shamefully little in all the decades of efforts on those fronts. He nurtured a “settlements are the problem” feeling on Capitol Hill, as opposed to recognizing that while settlements are a problem to be worked out in negotiations, the far bigger issues are the culture of hate that denies Israel’s legitimate right to exist as a country and the ongoing terrorist attacks on Israel. Sherman has been consistently decrying virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel teachings in the Arab world as a major driving force behind the conflict.
Brad Sherman is one of the few supermen in public office today. If Sherman wins this race, he will be in line to become the ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, which would be an incredible improvement in terms of ensuring an effective US policy on the Iranian nuclear threat as well as on how to realistically bring peace between Israel and its neighbors.
The writer founded The Israel Project and led it for a decade. She is devoted to helping protect Israel and the global Jewish family.