Israel's battle to keep both US parties close amid election fog - opinion

The race for the White House is still two years off and many things could still change, but whatever the possible script, very careful diplomacy will now be required on the part of Israel.

 FLORIDA GOVERNOR Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, earlier this year. DeSantis presents a concrete threat to Trump’s primacy in the Republican Party, says the writer (photo credit: MARCO BELLO/REUTERS)
FLORIDA GOVERNOR Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, earlier this year. DeSantis presents a concrete threat to Trump’s primacy in the Republican Party, says the writer
(photo credit: MARCO BELLO/REUTERS)

There are increasing signs that neither US President Joe Biden nor former president Donald Trump might be their respective party’s candidate in the 2024 election. As to Trump, who is rumored soon to announce his decision to run, this could be the result of the congressional investigation into his role in the events of January 6, 2021, when armed rowdy masses broke into the Capitol, but also due to the polls which show that close to one-half of Republican voters would prefer a candidate other than Trump.

There is at least one Republican politician, popular Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who presents a concrete threat to Trump’s primacy with former vice president Mike Pence also being in the picture.

Though sitting President Biden has already announced that he will run in the 2024 elections, a New York Times/Siena College poll found that 64% of potential Democratic voters would prefer a different candidate, while only one-third of the American public expresses confidence in his leadership ability. This is also the opinion of independent voters, who are likely to determine the outcome of the elections. The central cause of doubts about Biden, in addition to the discontent with the economic situation, is the age factor – on Election Day he will be 82, and if reelected, 86 at the end of his term (albeit Trump is only a few years younger than him).

Actually, there are no signs of his health or his cognitive abilities being in decline, and as former ambassador in Washington Ron Dermer, who participated in the meeting between Biden and Netanyahu during the former’s visit to Jerusalem observed, and as I myself could ascertain during the event at President Isaac Herzog’s Residence, Biden had complete mastery of all the relevant topics.

Public perception of the matter, however, is a different story, though the standing of the president and his party has recently somewhat improved thanks to the successful Zawahiri operation, but especially as a result of the improvement on jobs, lower oil prices, and, finally, moving forward on assuring the large-scale economic programs and climate reforms which were stuck in Congress. Still, as The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote this week: “Hey, Joe, please don’t give it a go.”

Democrats, fractured with progressives and moderates, have no serious alternative

In any case and in contrast with the Republicans, the Democrats do not currently have a prominent, serious alternative candidate, and the standing of Biden’s Vice President Kamala Harris is even more shaky than his. The left wing of the party, the so-called progressives with the “Squad” at its center – led by radical member of Congress, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez – who aspire to fill this gap, disagree with the traditionally moderate majority of the party on most issues and aim to shape American politics along the lines of the radical left of the British Labour Party and French leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon. The Left’s ultimate aim is to take over the leadership of the party or at least gain enough power to dictate its platform and Congressional programs.

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden debate in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday. (credit: BRIAN SNYDER / REUTERS)US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden debate in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday. (credit: BRIAN SNYDER / REUTERS)

AMONG OTHER items, this group calls for the dissolution of the police, lifting restrictions on immigration, changing curricula in schools and universities to fit their concepts, and disqualifying teachers and lecturers who do not fall in line. On the economy, they call for draconian measures to control free markets and business in general. With regards to foreign and security policy, they tend towards isolationism and demand major cutbacks to military spending and curtailing the pursuit of American interests overseas.

Most of them – especially some of the leading figures – take an extreme anti-Israel and sometimes antisemitic stance often abetted by the leftist Jewish J Street, which pretends to be a pro-Israeli organization but in practice usually serves the aims of Israel’s opponents including Iran and the boycott movement. As The New York Times recently wrote, the confrontation between supporters of Israel in the Democratic Party and its opponents on the Left has become one of the most contentious disputes in the primaries for the upcoming midterm elections, and in the light of this the drubbing in the primaries of far-out Left candidate and incumbent Congressman Andy Levin who increasingly took anti-Israel positions, by AIPAC-backed Congresswoman Haley Stevens was especially noteworthy.

“Democrats in America are realizing they must moderate or die.”

The Economist

'Moderate or die'

The outcome of the current primaries could determine the internal division between the left and the center of the party for years to come. However, contrary to forecasts it seems that considerable parts of American public opinion now believe that the radical Left has gone too far, and it has come out against its position on law and order, immigration and education. As the UK-based Economist said: “Democrats in America are realizing they must moderate or die.”

Although this is not yet the end of the story, it is also good news for Israel and its friends in Congress. The race for the White House is still two years off and many things could still change, but whatever the possible script, very careful diplomacy will now be required on the part of Israel. Every Israeli government tries, as it should, to be on the same page as the administration.

The opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu-led government was indeed close to the Trump administration and the positive results speak for themselves, but at the same time it fastidiously maintained its ties with the leaders of the Democratic party, even angering losing candidate Trump when Netanyahu, as befits an Israeli prime minister, congratulated Biden on his victory. The task Israel now faces is perhaps even more complicated, i.e. keeping the close relationship with the two parties’ present leaders, without losing sight of their potential successors.

The writer, also a former MK, served as ambassador to the US from 1990-1993 and 1998-2000.