Democrats remain stalwart supporters of Israel

Bernie Sanders doesn't represent Democrats on the issue of support for Israel.

Democrats Abroad-Israel 311 (photo credit: Democrats Abroad-Israel )
Democrats Abroad-Israel 311
(photo credit: Democrats Abroad-Israel )
Ever since president Harry Truman officially recognized the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, just 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion proclaimed its independence, Democrats and the Democratic Party have supported the Jewish state. The Democratic Party always has had a special relationship with the Jewish People and the State of Israel. That strong bond remains unbreakable to this day.
However, some question our strong support for the world’s only Jewish state. Senator Bernie Sanders has embraced a discussion of policies on US aid to Israel long advocated by the fringe Left. Sanders, who considers himself a “democratic socialist,” speaks for neither our party nor the greater American Jewish community on policies and support for the State of Israel.
So perhaps it was not surprising to hear him say that he would support a reduction in aid to Israel and a more “even-handed” approach to Iran – neglecting to mention Iran’s funding and support for many terrorist and vociferously anti-Israel groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah or the harsh antisemitic rhetoric coming out of Tehran.
Sanders also neglected to mention that aid to Israel is a fraction of a foreign aid budget that represents a minuscule percentage of the total US budget.
US policies and relationships in the Middle East have, and always will be, complicated. But, when it comes to Israel, what Sen. Sanders and people who share his viewpoint fail to understand is Israel’s multifaceted and strategic importance to the United States. A stalwart democracy surrounded by dictatorships and authoritative regimes, Israel is our strongest and most loyal ally in a region where other nations (even those we call our friends) harbor terrorists who seek to harm Americans and our interests. Democratic presidents and Democratic members of Congress have long understood that fact.
Unfortunately, by promoting policies that would be harmful to both our country and to Israel, Sen. Sanders plays into the hands of some Republicans who for years have been trying to use Israel as a political football to undermine bipartisan support for Israel. It also gives cover to international organizations that unfairly and unequally single out Israel in one-sided condemnation.
Supporting Israel does not necessarily mean supporting every policy of the government of Israel, just as supporting America does not necessarily means supporting every policy of the US government. But disagreement with the Israeli government should not lead to polices that would harm the State of Israel, such as reducing aid to Israel at a time when Israel continues to live under existential threat from Iran and other enemies sworn to its destruction.
Most Democrats and American Jews hold that same perspective. We see nothing inconsistent between our strong support for progressive values, including some domestic policies supported by Sen. Sanders, and strong support for Israel. Indeed, for years the two have been inseparable, and they have and should remain inseparable.
We believe in a two-state solution that allows Israel to remain a democratic Jewish homeland and allows Palestinians to have their own homeland.
We recognize that Israel is our greatest ally in the region, and that Israel and the US have shared values, including support for democracy and freedom of speech and religion.
We understand that Israel is our strongest, most dependable ally when it comes to intelligence sharing and military cooperation. Our joint training exercises help maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge in a dangerous neighborhood and help both nations improve their military capabilities.
Israel’s experience in intelligence and counterterrorism aids our own homeland security efforts. Israeli-developed technologies have helped keep our own servicemen and women safer.
Those who see bashing Israel or undermining our alliance as a prerequisite to good progressive credentials are wrong. Those on the hard Left who attack Israel are not representative of the Democratic Party. True progressive Democrats support the State of Israel because support for Israel aligns with our other progressive values. Neither the US nor Israel is perfect, but in an imperfect world, both Israel and the United States are still shining lights among the nations.
The author is a former Democratic member of Congress who represented Florida’s 22nd congressional district.