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In N.J., Pro-Israel Congressman Faces A Primary Battle

Rep-Steve-Rothman-011312

“Steve Rothman has been instrumental in actively championing missile defense cooperation for years,” said an official at the Israeli embassy who was familiar with Rothman’s work on missile defense.

Josh Block, a former longtime spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said that Rothman’s “record of pro-Israel leadership is second to none, and in this particular race the differences couldn’t be clearer.”

Block accused Pascrell of having “actually sided against American support for Israel’s right to defend herself against weapons smuggling and attacks by terrorists.” He pointed to Pascrell’s signing of a January 2010 letter to Obama criticizing the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza. The letter, signed by 54 House members, called on the president to press for the easing of the blockade to improve conditions for Palestinian civilians.

Darcy, the Pascrell campaign spokesman, defended the congressman’s record and noted that he “has voted for and fought for security aid to Israel in every year that he has been in Congress.” Darcy also explained Pascrell’s reasons for signing the Gaza letter.

“At the time, Congressman Pascrell agreed that certain aspects of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, including restrictions of certain types of food and medicines, were counterproductive to that goal and hurt ordinary Gazans far more than the terrorists in Hamas,” Darcy said.

“He believes that support for Israel’s right to defend itself and a concern for the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip are not mutually exclusive.”

In June 2010, the Israeli government announced it would modify its Gaza blockade to allow in a wider array of civilian goods.

NORPAC’s Chouake said that while Pascrell does vote for foreign aid and supports Iran sanctions, his support for the Gaza letter “upset many of his constituents.”

– JTA in conjunction with
the Washington Jewish Week

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