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Making Israel A Wedge Issue


 

In the face of Obama’s unprecedentedly harsh treatment of Israel, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz used the opportunity of a joint meeting with Netanyahu for leaders of the National Democratic Jewish Council and the Republican Jewish Coalition to make the case for silence concerning her party’s weak support for Israel.

 

Her statement reportedly made Netanyahu so uncomfortable that he asked, “Do you guys want me to leave the room and give you guys some privacy?

 

While requests to block debate on Israel were respected in the past, the current divide between Democrats and Republicans on Israel is so wide that avoidance of the issue no longer makes sense for Republicans. And so, days after the meeting with Netanyahu, Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks wrote a letter to Wasserman Schultz officially rejecting her request.

 

As he put it, “The Jewish community has a right to be informed about people’s records and people should be answerable for the positions they take. This is the essence of democracy.”

 

And indeed both the RJC and the Emergency Committee for Israel, a conservative group formed ahead of the 2010 Congressional elections, made Obama’s hostility to Israel a major issue in the NY-9 race.

 

Congressional Republicans have also stopped giving the Democrats a free ride. In the past Republicans avoided introducing major legislation on Israel without Democratic co-sponsors and willingly watered down their initiatives to attract Democratic support. This is no longer the case.

 

Last month Cong. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a bill that will end U.S. financial support for the Palestinian Authority and steeply curtail U.S. funding for the UN if the UN upgrades the PLO’s diplomatic mission. All 57 of the bill’s co-sponsors are Republicans.

 

Congressman Joe Walsh introduced a resolution this month calling for Israel to annex Judea and Samaria. His resolution’s 40-odd co-sponsors are also all Republicans.

 

Israel’s enemies in the U.S. peddle the anti-Semitic fiction that Israel’s supporters are nothing more than a cabal of activists who band together to defend Israel at America’s expense. Extensive polling data shows that the “pro-Israel cabal” includes the vast majority of Americans. It is due to the public’s overwhelming support for Israel that pro-Israel activists have no reason to fear injecting support for Israel into the political debate. The more politicians are called to account for their positions on Israel, the most pro-Israel their positions will be.

 

In fact, it was due to the Jewish community’s willingness to pretend there is no partisan divide on Israel that for the past generation, in the face of growing popular support for Israel, successive administrations adopted policies of appeasement toward the Arabs that required Israel to take actions that weakened it. That is, because American Jews have agreed not to make Israel an issue, politicians have felt free to pressure Israel to take steps that harm it – without the public’s knowledge and against its wishes.

 

Bob Turner’s victory and Obama’s UN speech expose the folly of this practice. They show that Israel’s position in the U.S. is enhanced, not weakened, when politicians are called to account for their positions.

 

Caroline Glick is senior contributing editor at The Jerusalem Post.Her Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the last week of every other month.

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