By Larry Gordon
It is untrue that Democratic members of Congress are reconsidering their support for Israel because of the fallout from the planned trip to the Jewish state by Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
The idea that Democrats will reduce their support for Israel is a New York Times and CNN agenda item that is completely detached from what is really going on.
Israel is an independent sovereign state that is ruled by laws passed by their parliament, which is filled with representatives of the people, not unlike our Congress here in the United States.
Israel has a law that allows it to bar entry to any person — Jewish or non-Jewish, member of Congress or regular, average, everyday citizen — who seeks to damage the Jewish state by advocating support for the international BDS movement that strives to delegitimize Israel.
Israel did the right thing by barring the two congress members from entering the country. That fact should be indisputable but, sadly, it is not — or at least not yet.
To say that Tlaib and Omar hate the Jews and Israel is not an exaggeration. Sure, they may have colleagues and friends who are Jews with whom they get along and even like and admire. You will note that it does not say above that they harbor disdain and hostility for specific Jews. It is “the Jews” that they have a problem with, and until such time as they deal with that issue they should not be allowed to enter Israel.
In case you are frightened or wondering whether Democrats in Congress as a whole are going to reduce or withhold their support of Israel because they might feel that their congressional colleagues were not treated with respect, you can rest assured that despite the panic button pressed by Thomas Friedman in the Times last Sunday, that is not happening.
Democrats are not abandoning Israel and certainly not over this matter. The Squad is hurting the Democratic Party’s image, but many, if not a majority of, Democrats in Congress, while not speaking out in favor of Israel’s refusal to allow them into the country, are not opposed to what happened.
The idea that Israel is to diminish itself and allow itself to be steamrolled in the interest of bipartisan support is no longer relevant. The important Democrats who are key members of the House and the Senate are going to be supportive to Israel through this episode and long after Tlaib and Omar are voted out of office in a year or so from now.
AIPAC, the American–Israel Public Affairs Committee, is generally committed to supporting decisions made by any sitting government of Israel. When Prime Minister Netanyahu voiced vociferous objection to the Obama administration’s unbalanced nuclear deal with Iran, AIPAC did not hesitate to take on the administration and campaign against the deal.
In the case of Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar not being allowed into Israel, it appears that this was a sensitive enough issue to oppose the government of Israel and come to the defense of two members of Congress who, given the opportunity, would do everything they could to harm Israel.
This is not just a matter that makes Jewish members of Congress uncomfortable. That, it seems, is what fuels the official Jewish community position on whether the Jewish/Israel antagonists should be given free rein to excoriate and denigrate Jews and Israel right there inside the Jewish state’s own borders. But it’s simple logic: that should not be allowed to happen, Thomas Friedman, CNN and AIPAC’s positions on the matter notwithstanding.
Mr. Friedman has a high-profile platform, but that does not mean that whatever position on a matter he assumes is correct. The Friedman column in the Times last weekend was headlined, “Trump Is Not Helping Israel.” The premise is rooted in the idea that Israel was originally going to allow the congresswomen to enter the country, but President Trump put pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu to reverse that decision. In all likelihood we will never know what, if anything, transpired between the president and the prime minister on this matter.
Mr. Friedman, if you analyze his piece, is hoping that this issue builds a wedge between the U.S. and Israel and adds stress to American support for Israel. Whatever Friedman can imagine is best for Israel from his home in suburban Washington may not exactly translate into what serves Israel’s best interest.
The leftist media is hoping to increase the divide between the U.S. and Israel. And that is not because they want any harm to come to the Jewish state. That is definitely not the objective. The goal is to impact on the upcoming election in Israel in the short term and the 2020 election here in the U.S. in the long term.
In other words, this is a manifestation of the left and even center-left’s desire to dismiss both Trump and Netanyahu from their leadership positions. In Israel, Bibi is simply too far right for the left-leaning media. Here in the U.S., the objective is to run Donald Trump out of office.
Mr. Friedman will tell you that Trump is the worst president for Israel because he is not promoting a two-state solution and the division of Jerusalem. To most clear-thinking people, there has never been a more pro-Israel president in the White House than Mr. Trump. Netanyahu being the best thing that ever happened to Israel is also not really debatable, though in Jewish life or in anything to do with Israel there are always extreme disagreements. That Mr. Friedman thinks otherwise is an all-star demonstration of intellectual dishonesty, nothing more or less than that.
As far as bipartisan support in Congress for Israel, the reality is that if 433 members of the House of Representatives wanted to visit Israel there would be no issue. Actually, even Representatives Tlaib and Omar would have been welcome had their mission not been to spread BDS. A
Ideally, there should always be full and comprehensive bipartisan support for Israel in Congress. Disagreements do not have to damage that relationship. Those who are AIPAC activists or advocates for balanced support of Israel should not be afraid to take a stance that protects the prestige of Israel, as is the case here. AIPAC knows this well from the Iran nuclear deal battle. Israel’s image was burnished here, not tarnished, as so many seem to think.
That does not mean that these are not sensitive issues. They are and they need to be handled with sensitivity. A spokesperson for Congresswoman Kathleen Rice said, “This has absolutely no effect on the Congresswoman’s vocal and passionate support for Israel.” Earlier in a Facebook post on the matter, Ms. Rice wrote: “As a strong supporter of Israel. I believe we should never shy away from engaging in an honest and constructive conversation about the importance of the U.S.–Israel relationship, especially with those who have opposing views. This trip was an opportunity to do just that,” she said.
I asked Long Island Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi if he thought that Democrats might now abandon Israel to an extent in Congress, to which he responded, “Not me.” And then he added:
“While I disagree with Representatives Omar and Tlaib over their position on Israel, the antisemitic language they have used in the past, and their support of the BDS movement, I believe it was wrong for Israel to deny duly elected Members of Congress the opportunity to visit. It is only through seeing and experiencing Israel firsthand that one can truly learn, appreciate, and understand the history, the strategic importance it plays in the region for security, prosperity, and its democratic values.”
The congressman might be right about that. The difference here was that Omar and Tlaib were not going to be changed by what they saw in Israel. They could not even acknowledge that it was Israel they were traveling to. There’s nothing wrong with keeping people with bad intentions out of the country, and that’s why we should all support the Israeli government’s decision.