US Midterm elections: Will there be an increased focus on Israel? - editorial

Support for Israel should not be seen as controversial. That is what is important.

COLORADO RESIDENTS vote in the US midterm elections (photo credit: REUTERS)
COLORADO RESIDENTS vote in the US midterm elections
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Americans went to the polls yesterday in important midterm elections.

There were 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 seats in the US Senate up for election and the outcome of the vote has the potential to determine the course America will take in the years to come.

A beacon of democracy in the world, the United States has an opportunity with its elections to show the best in democracy. Unfortunately, the last several years have revealed increasing partisan rhetoric and controversies, some of which we experienced here in Israel through five rounds of elections over three-and-a-half years.

We hope that after Tuesday’s elections the bipartisan support of Israel will continue and that the strength of the United States as a force for good in the world will continue.

Several issues of concern have come up in recent years in both the US Congress and also the wider discussion in America around politics. While support for Israel continues to be bipartisan and we feel that the support is continuing along the lines of a healthy relationship that builds on existing defense, security as well as cultural and religious ties, there are voices in Congress that have sought to undermine US-Israel relations. Every election brings with it the partisan rhetoric that can sometimes be influenced by negative campaigns that seek to spotlight Israel.

The US Capitol building, which contains the House of Representatives and the Senate. (credit: PIXABAY)The US Capitol building, which contains the House of Representatives and the Senate. (credit: PIXABAY)

For instance, this recent round of elections saw some focus on pro-Israel groups spending in Pittsburgh and other places, with accusations that the groups favored Republicans or even supported “election deniers.” This kind of talk is not helpful and it is obvious that anti-Israel voices have sought over the years to try to put a negative spotlight on pro-Israel candidates and to try to make Israel a wedge issue in local elections.

It is not in our interest to focus on the individual groups that may be seeking to make anti-Israel rhetoric an issue. What is important, is that support for Israel not be seen as controversial; nor that some try to exploit anti-Israel views in elections.

Increased focus on Israel during US midterm elections

In the wake of the midterms, there will be an increased focus on Israel because Israel will have a new government and a new coalition. The outgoing administration of Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett made important inroads abroad, particularly in relations in the region and in Europe. In addition, Israel has continued to be a close partner of the Biden administration on a wide range of issues – from confronting Iran to building on the Abraham Accords and moving forward on defense talks that include more Israeli procurement of US military systems.

There is more to be done on these issues, especially as Israel works on cutting-edge systems such as lasers like the revolutionary Iron Beam system. But there may also be controversies in the future as pressure increases on Israel to support Ukraine with defense systems.

It’s important to have a healthy and open discussion with the US about geopolitical issues. These could include discussing whether and how Israeli systems might be more useful in Europe or how Israel and the Gulf states can build on existing ties to improve the US-led system of global security in our region.

In the wake of the midterms, with a new incoming Congress and a new administration in Israel, there will be new voices that will be learning more about Israel on the Hill for the first time. There will likely be a concern in some sectors in the US about how the incoming Israeli government – with its far-right and religious coalition partners – will govern and what policies it will seek to promote.

In the long term, there are other issues to focus on, from the maritime deal with Lebanon to working with the Palestinian Authority.

We hope the new members of Congress who are elected will continue to see bipartisan support for Israel as a key building block of our alliance. We hope that the US elections will bring an emphasis on stability – both in the US and in spheres where the US is active.

The existing world order requires a strong US presence and robust American democracy. Congratulations on a successful election process.