Republican Predictions Proven Wrong
By Steve Sheffey
In the last election, our Republican friends argued that Democratic control of Congress would be bad for Israel. Now that the Democrats do control Congress, let’s see what has actually happened.
The new Congress contains a record 13 Jews in the Senate, only two of whom are Republicans. Of the 30 Jews in the House of Representatives, 29 are Democrats. The reason, of course, is that Democrats are strong on all of the issues of concern to the Jewish community, including Israel, while Republicans, thanks in part to the influence of the Christian right, have only Israel with which to appeal to Jewish voters. It is no wonder that 87% of Jews voted Democratic in the last election, and that even those who dispute that figure admit that Democrats won the Jewish vote by a healthy margin.
New Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV)) is well-known as a strong friend of Israel. Carl Levin (D-MI) now chairs the Armed Services committee. The Foreign Relations Committee will no longer be chaired by Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), who was no friend of Israel and who was defeated last November. The Committee will now be chaired by John Kerry (D-MA), who is unquestionably far better on Israel than Chafee was.
New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated on March 13, 2007 that “America’s commitment to Israel is unshakable…Let us be very clear: Iran must not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon…There are those who contend that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. In truth, the history of the conflict has never been about the occupation. It is over the fundamental right of Israel to exist…The United States will stand with Israel now and forever.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has a long record of strong
pro-Israel activity. Tom Lantos (D-CA), the only Holocaust survivor in
Congress, now chairs the House International Relations Committee. His
deputy, Howard Berman (D-CA), is also Jewish. The House Subcommittee on
the Middle East and Southeast Asia is now chaired by Gary Ackerman
(D-NY), a very pro-Israel Jewish Congressman (he was sworn in on a
chumash). The House Subcommittee on Foreign Operations is now chaired
by another staunch supporter of Israel, Nita Lowey (D-NY), also Jewish.
Brad Sherman (D-CA), who is Jewish, now chairs the International
Terrorism and Nonproliferation subcommittee.
Although the new Democratic Congress has been in session only a few months, it has already proven its commitment to Israel:
• When President Bush announced that he would ask Congress to transfer $86 million to the Palestinian Authority, Nita Lowey used her prerogative as chairwoman to block the transfer; she later agreed to $59 million after the scaled-back Administration proposal was supported by Israel.
• Gary Ackerman, who delivered an impassioned defense of Israel during last summer’s Lebanon war, denounced the Mecca Accords at the hearings his committee held.
• Alcee Hastings (D-FL), who chairs the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, introduced legislation urging all European nations to allow for open access to the Holocaust archives located in Bad Arolsen, Germany.
• A letter authorized by the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Europe Subcommittee Chair, Robert Wexler (D-FL), who is Jewish, along with Gary Ackerman and their Republican counterparts, says the European Union should not give aid or grant recognition to the Palestinian Authority (PA) until it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
• Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), also Jewish, removed from legislation under consideration by the House a provision that would have required President Bush to get explicit permission from Congress before taking military action against Iran. He was supported by Gary Ackerman, and Nancy Pelosi agreed to the change.
• Tom Lantos has proposed the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007 (H.R. 1400), which would target foreign companies investing in Iran’s energy sector. As Lantos pointed out, the Bush administration is crippling the Iran Sanctions Act by exercising its authority to ignore key sanctions provisions. Lantos’ legislation would also re-impose import sanctions on Iranian exports to the United States.
• Nancy Pelosi was among the first to denounce Jimmy Carter’s biased, error-ridden screed “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” speaking against the book even before she officially became Speaker. “With all due respect to former President Carter,” she said, “he does not speak for the Democratic Party on Israel.”
• Senator Reid, Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic party, Steve Israel (D-NY), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and John Conyers (D-MI), the new chair of the House Judiciary Committee, also issued statements criticizing Carter’s book early on.
The point of all this is not that the Republicans are bad on Israel. Many Republicans agree with the above Democratic stands on Israel. It would be easy to do an attack piece on Republicans, selectively listing the few Republicans in Congress who do not support Israel, similar to the piece on Democrats that appeared last fall. But that would be just as misleading. Most Congressional Republicans support Israel. The point is that in the last election, some of our Republican friends misrepresented the views of the vast majority of Democrats in Congress. Our Republican friends are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. There are major differences between the parties, but Israel is not one of them. People who truly care about a strong U.S.-Israel relationship should not try to turn bi-partisan support for Israel into a partisan issue. The Democratic Congress is already proving to be every bit, if not more, pro-Israel than its Republican predecessor. Someone who is pro-Israel and yearns for the days when Dennis Hastert ran the show absolutely should vote Republican. But don’t let anyone question the pro-Israel commitment of those of us who vote Democratic. We are in good company.
Steve Sheffey is an NJDC Activist
He submitted this post as a letter to the editor to the Highland Park News in IL