Preliminary results from Iowa caucus suggest good news for Israel

With around 70% of votes counted, moderate candidates were leading over the progressives, suggesting good news for US-Israel relations.

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price speaks ahead of the Iowa Caucus results announcement in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., February 4, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/BRENNA NORMAN)
Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price speaks ahead of the Iowa Caucus results announcement in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., February 4, 2020
For the Democratic Party, Monday’s Iowa caucuses were a disaster.
They were a disaster, first and foremost, because of the technological glitch that deprived the American public – which has been gearing up for the beginning of the primary season since the first debate last June – of the ability to immediately know who won and who lost.
Two days after the caucuses ended, all the votes from all the precincts had not yet been counted and no clear winner declared.
Des Moines is not Dimona. Americans, unlike Israelis, are not accustomed to having to wait for clear election results – a few hours, maybe, but not a few days. Israelis, by contrast, are still essentially waiting for clear results from an election that started way back on April 9.
But the disaster for the Democrats does not end with the breakdown of the Iowa reporting system, leading Republicans to jump on the mishap and ask, if the Democrats can’t run a primary election in a midsize Midwestern state, how can they run a country? The caucuses were also a disaster for the party because no clear victor emerged.
With the counting still underway, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders were nearly even at the top, followed by Elizabeth Warren, and then – falling behind – Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar.
Iowa is traditionally important because it provides the winner with momentum as the primaries move to New Hampshire. But this time, no Democrat came out of Iowa with a clear-cut advantage.
That situation reflects the deep divisions within the Democratic Party.
True, the party is united by an intense dislike of President Donald Trump – a dislike on display during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address where Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi unceremoniously ripped up a copy of the president’s speech, after Trump did not shake her hand at beginning of his address. But the party is also split sharply among itself between the progressive and moderate wings of the party.
Though no clear winner has yet emerged from Iowa, in the progressive vs moderate race, the moderate camp limped out of the state in the lead.
Buttigieg, Biden and Klobuchar represent the moderate, traditional wing of the party, while Sanders and Warren represent the progressives. Though the results are still pending, after about 70% of the precinct results were counted, the three moderate candidates were leading the two progressive hopefuls by a margin of about 56% to 44%.
THAT HAD to bring some relief to those in Jerusalem watching these primaries carefully and warily to see which camp inside the party gets the upper hand, concerned about what a progressive nominee would mean in terms of US-Israel ties.
A Gallup poll last April showed only 3% of liberal Democrats said they viewed Israel more favorably than the Palestinians, while this number was 28% among moderate Democrats, and 81% among conservative Republicans.
Sanders and Warren, with their tough talk against Israel in the campaign – including a threat to use military aid against Israel as leverage to change its policies toward the Palestinians – are causing concern in Jerusalem, increasingly troubled by worrying trends inside the party.
While Warren and Sanders crossed what was believed by many to have been a redline during a campaign in threatening to withhold aid from Israel, Buttigieg did not go that far, though he has made some very critical comments about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the campaign.
Grading the candidates on how they would be for Israel, officials in Jerusalem have said Sanders and Warren would be the most difficult; Buttigieg and Klobuchar would be okay to Israel, but difficult toward Netanyahu; and Biden – out of this bunch – would be the best.
The officials have said the very best candidate among the Democrats, however, would likely be Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, who has shown that unlike the other candidates – with the possible exception of Biden – he has an emotional commitment and connection to Israel.
Bloomberg was not on the ballot in Iowa, and will also pass on the remaining three primaries this month before contesting the March 3 Super Tuesday races, when more than a dozen states will hold primaries.
For those hoping to see Bloomberg emerge as a leading candidate, the Iowa caucuses proved a bit of a disappointment.
Those wanting to see Bloomberg take off in the campaign were hoping for a conclusive victory by Sanders – the darling of the progressives – if only to pave the way for the moderate Bloomberg to come in and “save the party from itself.”
According to this thinking, Sanders and Warren are too far to the Left to defeat Trump, so that if one of them emerges as the front-runner, the party may turn to a moderate – Bloomberg – to do the trick.
But Buttigieg’s strong showing may dash those hopes, since Buttigieg is – like Bloomberg – a moderate Democrat. If Buttigieg is showing signs of electoral strength, hopes for a Bloomberg coronation by a party thirsty for a moderate candidate might go out the window. And with those hopes will go the hopes of officials in Jerusalem who have said in private that Bloomberg would likely be the best Democratic nominee for Israel.