Preparing for an American Democratic president

It is a great problem for Israel that the majority of American Jews will probably vote for the Democratic nominee, whoever that is.

DEMOCRATIC 2020 US presidential candidate and former US vice president Joe Biden attends a campaign event in Las Vegas. (photo credit: REUTERS)
DEMOCRATIC 2020 US presidential candidate and former US vice president Joe Biden attends a campaign event in Las Vegas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If a Democratic candidate wins the next presidential election, he or she will be a much less supportive president to Israel than was Donald Trump. This is particularly true for Bernie Sanders – the favorite of some prominent American Muslim antisemities – and Elizabeth Warren. Should Israel sit back and wait for whatever happens? This question should have been asked long ago. Yet, even if it is late in the game, that doesn’t mean that our government should not take actions.
It is a great problem for Israel that the majority of American Jews will probably vote for the Democratic nominee, whoever that is. American Jews have supported Democratic presidential candidates for decades with only one exception: In the 1980 election, the country’s Jewish community strongly opposed the incumbent president Jimmy Carter. Many thought he had been too hard on Israel during the peace negotiations with Egypt. In those elections, Carter got 45% of the Jewish vote, and his Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, got 39%. The rest went to third-party candidate John Anderson.
Likud-dominant governments have neglected American Jewry. What can and should be done in the coming months? The murders of Jews and antisemitic attacks in the US have created an opportunity for better mutual understanding. The reality is that Israelis and American Jews are nowadays more a community of fate than of faith. Both are up against murderous enemies.
There are American Jews on the Left-liberal side who are beyond rehabilitation. J Street is a typical example. If one reads its press release on the Soleimani assassination, one realizes that between the white of democracy and the black of terrorism, J Street’s attitude is some shade of gray. Even worse is their highly negative position on the Trump peace plan. One can define J Street as an organization that releases Jewish darkness to the nations.
A Jewish majority vote for Sanders would be seen by him as legitimization for his positions on Israel. He frequently speaks about the dignity of Palestinians. In the only democratic parliamentary elections of 2006, the Palestinians voted a majority to Hamas, which promotes the genocide of Jews. The only other significant Palestinian party is Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority. That body has a “pay for slay” policy that rewards terrorists or their families for the murder of Jews. Sanders thus claims dignity for a society permeated with support for killing Jews.
It is thus important for Israel to use the coming months to fully expose the glorification of murderers by the Palestinians. Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has collected much material about this. Information about the 480 terrorist attacks Israel’s domestic security agency prevented in 2019 alone should be added.
ONE OFTEN hears that Israel does not want to create international attention to Palestinian murder glorification in view of the country’s collaboration with the Palestinian security services. Be that as it may, the price to be paid for that is possibly far too high. This is even more true if PA President Mahmoud Abbas indeed ends the security collaboration with Israel as he has threatened.
If a Democratic president reverses some of Trump’s measures it may be unpleasant, but not more. Moving the American Embassy back to Tel Aviv once it has been in Jerusalem is of secondary importance. Where Israel is truly vulnerable is at the UN Security Council. In his last days as president, Barack Obama acted against president-elect Trump’s request and decided not to veto an anti-Israel resolution.
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334 was adopted on December 23, 2016. It states, “Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including east Jerusalem, had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.”
If Sanders is elected president, Israel could possibly be in trouble at the UN Security Council. All other Security Council members have regularly supported anti-Israel resolutions. This includes EU countries. Israeli governments have been negligent in pointing out that these were antisemitic acts, a modern version of the many acts against Jews by European governments in the past thousand or so years.
Many European countries have accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) antisemitism definition for domestic use. According to this definition, European votes against Israel at the United Nations are antisemitic acts. This results from the fact that no similar voting exists against any other democracy.
The key to changing these attitudes is Germany. A beginning awareness exists, even in its parliament, that Germany promotes antisemitism by its frequent votes against Israel at the UN. When Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke in the Bundestag at the end of January, he missed a unique opportunity to draw attention to this issue.
Yet it is not too late to try. Israel has important allies in Germany on this issue. The country’s largest daily, Bild, is only one example. If Germany – the dominant force in the EU – can be persuaded to change its voting pattern in the Security Council, it can probably sway other EU countries.
This is not foolproof against possible mischief in favor of Palestinian murderers by Sanders or another Democratic president. Yet at least it makes anti-Israeli support at the UN more difficult. This may be the best one can hope for.
The writer is emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He received the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s International Leadership Award and the Canadian Institute’s for Jewish Research’s International Lion of Judah Award.