In Pennsylvania, two Jewish female candidates are running for 7th district

The first question of the debate they had was about the US-Israel relationship.

The facade of the Tree of Life synagogue, where a mass shooting occurred last Saturday, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018 (photo credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS)
The facade of the Tree of Life synagogue, where a mass shooting occurred last Saturday, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., November 3, 2018
(photo credit: ALAN FREED/REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Last week, the Jewish Federations of Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, hosted a debate between the two candidates for the state’s seventh district: the incumbent, Democrat Susan Wild, and her challenger, the Republican Lisa Scheller.
David Bernstein, the CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, who was the moderator of the event, noted that it is the first time that both candidates are Jewish women, “and both are active supporters of the Jewish Federation.”
The first question of the debate was about the US-Israel relationship. “The US and Israel face common enemies, and I believe that the alliance needs to be a strong alliance,” said Scheller. “When I look at the Abraham Accords, I can’t help applaud what is going on in Israel right now, in garnering people to get together with the Arab nations is now coming together and normalizing economic relationships with Israel, so that we can face that common enemy to both the United States and Israel – Iran.”
Congresswoman Wild, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, voiced support for the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “The United States has and must play an important role in any negotiations,” she said. “I think it’s in the best interest of all parties, including the United States, but I think it’s very, very important that the United States act as a moderator. We need to negotiate and be a moderator from a position of strength and use the strength that we have as the biggest supporter of Israel worldwide to help bring the parties to the table.”
The county is located in Eastern Pennsylvania and includes portions of Lehigh, Monroe, and Northampton counties. And while Wild is polling ahead, she told The Jerusalem Post that Democrats have learned from 2016 to take the polls with a grain of salt. “I’m a big believer of not necessarily believing polls,” she noted. “The polls clearly show me ahead, but I can say I think we all learned from 2016.”
Wild noted that out of the 730,000 residents in the district, the Jewish population is relatively small. A census that took place some five years ago indicated that nearly 8,000 distinct Jewish families in the district. However, she added that Jewish voters usually turn out to vote at a high rate.
“And so I consider it to be a really important part of my constituency, notwithstanding the relatively small size,” she told the Post.
“I have found that apart from Israel and antisemitism, which are two obviously huge topics for most Jewish voters, Jewish voters as a whole also have all the same interests that other voters do,” she continued. “How much is my healthcare going to cost? How good is my healthcare going to be? How much am I paying for prescription drugs? Are we taking care of our senior citizens? Those kinds of issues cross pretty much all political lines of religious and ethnic lines. Israel is important, and it’s certainly important in a race where you have two Jewish women running against each other.”
She said that one opinion she shares with Scheller is regarding Iran. “We both believe that a nuclear-free Iran is the only kind of Iran that we can tolerate. I don’t believe that Joe Biden’s position, by any means, is to just reenter the JCPOA as it existed previously,” she added.
“I don’t think that if we were as a country to reenter it, it would be under the same circumstances or terms. And I think that, frankly, a Biden administration would probably have a hard time getting the consent of Congress to reenter the JCPOA that previously existed.”
Scheller, in an interview with the Post, said she is convinced that Biden is going to reenter the Iran deal. “I believe that the Iran deal is an arrangement that provides a certain path to a nuclear Iran with missile capacity to destroy Israel and ultimately target the United States,” she said.
“I think it was flawed from the very beginning, and it provided the means for Iran to officially continue to enrich uranium. And Obama and Biden let this happen. They were part of it. Biden was part of this deal. So I don’t see why he would want to get back into it. And you know what? When you aim missiles at Israel, you aim missiles at Jews. And that’s very concerning to me.”
Another area of disagreement, Scheller noted, is the position towards the two-state solution. “I think the two-state solution might possibly work, but I don’t believe it should be a mandate coming from the United States,” she said. “And there was a House resolution earlier this year that said the two-state solution is the only way to achieve peace in the Middle East. And when that happens, my concern then becomes that as it’s mandated, it becomes a basis for conditions to be placed on the support [for Israel].”
Scheller said that the US-Israel relationship is a factor in the Lehigh Valley because the Jewish community wants to know their representatives’ values and their policies. “I think that the US-Israel relationship needs to be protected, and I don’t think what’s coming from the Left is working towards protecting that relationship, particularly when it comes to things like the Iran deal.”
Asked about whether she believes that the community could come together after the election, she said: “I hate to see politics in our houses of worship, so I hope that people can come together.”