Monday, October 24, 2011

Partisan debate over Israel's Bipartisan support in a divided electorate

(JTA) -- The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee are co-sponsoring a pledge for unity on Israel.

The groups' National Pledge for Unity on Israel initiative aims to rally bipartisan support for Israel while preventing Israel from becoming a wedge issue during the next election season.

The pledge is aimed at other national organizations, elected officials, religious leaders, community groups and individuals.

"America’s friendship with Israel is an emotional, moral and strategic bond that has always transcended politics, Support for Israel has never been merely a plank in a Republican or Democratic Party or candidate’s platform. It is a core American policy that serves our nation’s most fundamental national interests.

Abraham Foxman, ADL's national director, said:
“We want the discourse on U.S. support for Israel to avoid the sometimes polarizing debates and political attacks that have emerged in recent weeks, as candidates have challenged their opponents’ pro-Israel bone fides or questioned the current administration’s foreign policy approach vis-a-vis Israel. The last thing America and Israel need right now is the distractions of having Israel bandied about as a tool for waging political attacks.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) fired back in response, rejecting to sign the pledge, in a press release by RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks stated:
"An open and vigorous debate on the questions confronting our country is the cornerstone of the American electoral process. Allowing the American people to see where candidates stand, pro and con on critical issues, is the hallmark of our free and democratic political system. For this reason, the RJC will not be a signer to this pledge. 
"This effort to stifle debate on U.S. policy toward Israel runs counter to this American tradition. Accordingly, the RJC will not be silenced on this or any issue.
Jonathan S. Tobin in Commentary magazine questions the timing of the pledge and the actual pledge seen as a partisan effort to avoid a democratic debate in a divided electorate, saying:
"The effort to impose a ban on discussions of whether certain candidates or even the current administration has done right by Israel is itself something of a partisan argument. Since the overwhelming majority of Jews are Democrats, it is in that party’s interest to stifle debate on Israel, as that removes the GOP’s best argument for attracting Jewish votes.
 "To demand, as the pledge does of those who support it that “U.S.-Israel friendship should never be used as a political wedge issue” is to effectively remove the question of whether policies enacted by a particular administration or individual politicians are helping or hurting Israel from the public square.
"Obama supporters can and should make their arguments that shows his record is not as bad as some would say, but given the growing disgruntlement with the president’s handling of Israel, those who point out his determination to distance the United States from Israel and to undermine the Jewish state’s hold on Jerusalem must also be given a fair hearing. It is up to the voters and not the ADL or the AJC or anyone else to judge who is in the right."