New York City Councilman Erik Dilan (D-Brooklyn) is a candidate in New York’s 7th Congressional District in the June 26 Democratic primary.
The Jewish Press: In general, should the U.S. “tilt” towards Israel in disputes with its neighbors? What is the basis for your position?
Dilan: The U.S. should never tilt towards any other nation in and of itself. The United States foreign policy should be guided based on what is best for the United States and the expansion of freedom and human rights. That being said, as a nation that believes in freedoms and the protection of human rights and as the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel is uniquely situated to be one of America’s closest allies. Its goals and interests generally go hand in hand. These shared values create an ideal friendship and have done so for the last 64 years Typically, what is good for the United States is good for Israel and vice versa.
My opponent, Nydia Velasquez, has been in Congress for the last 20 years. During that time she did not side with the pro-Israel community a whopping 40% of the time on issues of foreign aid, Jerusalem, arms sales, Iran, etc. Unlike her, I will be a reliable and solid vote when it comes to supporting Israel in the U.S. Congress.
Is Israel treated fairly in the UN and its affiliated agencies?
Historically, Israel has been singled out far and away above other nations for various accusations. Like any nation, Israel may make mistakes. However, as an open democracy with a strong justice system, Israel reviews all possible violations of human rights with extreme scrutiny. The scorn Israel receives in the UN and its other similar agencies is without cause. It’s ironic and hypocritical that countries like Syria and Libya sit on the UN Human Rights Committee but for some reason Israel is always the target of all resolutions.
Such is the case with Palestinian statehood, which has been repeatedly used by some nations as a platform for blatant anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric. That is counter-productive.
Generally, Should the United States support Israel when it is attacked in the UN and other international organizations?
When the US believes its friends and allies are being unfairly attacked in the UN, it is our duty to defend that ally.
Do you believe, as does President Obama, that the 1967 borders, with “swaps,” should be the starting point for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on final borders?
I think going back to the ’67 borders is a non-starter and even President Obama has to understand that. The details of any eventual peace process must be negotiated between the two parties. There should be no pre-conditions other than recognizing each other’s right to exist and committing to the complete cessation of violence against one’s partner for peace. Israel has yet to find a peace partner to negotiate with. It is Israel’s right to decide what it will negotiate on and with whom. It is her citizens’ lives that are being affected. Pre-conditions should not be forced upon it from the outside.
Unlike my opponent, I would not have signed on to a “two-state solution” letter which would tie Israel’s hands in future negotiations. And when the resolution condemning the International Court of Justice ruling on Israel’s security fence came up, Velasquez only voted present, while 361 Members of Congress voted for it.
Should Israel halt settlement building as a precondition for negotiations with the Palestinians?
The term settlement building is misleading. What has generally occurred there is the expansion of existing neighborhoods or even existing buildings in suburbs that often house tens of thousands of Israelis. The idea that settlements are popped up tents, built to create political statements is inaccurate. It is Israel’s decision how it will proceed on its settlement policy. The United States should not force any conditions regarding this issue.
Should Israel commit, in advance of negotiations, to the release of Palestinians whom it has jailed for violence committed against Israelis?
Again, this should be an item negotiated amidst a greater peace process. If Israel wishes to commit to the release of certain criminals or terrorists, that will be Israel’s decision to make and only Israel’s.
Should American policy favor Israel’s retaining the major Jewish population centers in settlements in the West Bank?
Israel is a sovereign country and only Israel has the right to decide what policy it wishes to pursue when it comes to her security.
Do you believe American policy should be to support Israel retaining all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital?
Jerusalem has been the focal point of the hopes and prayers of the Jewish people for over 3,000 years. It became the capital of Israel almost 2,500 years before Columbus discovered America. I believe that the United City of Jerusalem must remain the eternal capital of Israel. And if we Americans consider Washington DC as our capital because the U.S. Congress and our president reside there, then Jerusalem, where the Knesset and Israel’s prime minister are located, should be its capital and we should move our embassy there.
Amazingly, my opponent did not sign on to any Jerusalem letters and chose not to vote on the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act.
Do you believe that parochial schools students and their parents are entitled to the same assistance for the secular portion of their education as public school students and their parents?
Government has an obligation to ensure that all school children have access to a first rate education, be it public or private school.
What is your position on tuition vouchers generally? Tuition Tax credits?
While I believe vouchers are not realistic at this time, government must understand the intense burden placed on tuition-paying parents and it is important to find creative and realistic solutions. To that end, I support tuition tax credits or some other kind of reimbursement program that offers parents financial relief. The education of all of our students is a top priority for me and I am committed to helping public and private school students achieve education excellence.
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