Congressman Steve Israel on Tuesday defended the Democratic Party’s support for Israel, despite the recent controversy over some appointees to the policy platform committee, by drawing attention to Donald Trump’s unconventional comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The platform committee consists of several people, there’s only one Republican candidate for president, who is an expression of his political party,” Israel said during a debate with Republican strategist Dan Senor over which political party is better for American Jews at the AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
Israel pointed to Trump’s questioning Israel’s commitment to peace, his comments about remaining “neutral” on the conflict, and implying Jewish stereotypes in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition. “That is the Republican candidate for president,” he said. “And when Dan (Senor) says he disagrees with those positions – his party’s presumptive nominee for president – I will agree and say I disagree with those three or five people on the platform committee who have views that I don’t share.”
He then turned to Senor and said, “Let’s stipulate: you disavow yourself from Trump’s comments, I disavow myself from the comments of several members on the platform committee.”
In turn, Senor contended that recent polls show that Democrats are distancing themselves from Israel “in large numbers.”
“It’s not just their leaders. It’s not just the people that are being appointed to the platform. It’s the rank and file, members and activists of the party, who are saying, explicitly, that they don’t sympathize with Israel,” he asserted. “You and I can criticize the things that Donald Trump said all day long. And I think once Trump is gone – defeated in November – Trumpism will not live in the Republican Party afterwards, and the strong pro-Israel trans within the Republican Party will continue to grow. If you look at the data, it’s simply not the same in the Democratic Party.”
Senor suggested that the appointment of Dr. Cornel West and James Zogby to the Democratic platform committee is proof that the future of the Democratic Party is being shaped by the progressive energy that believes in standing against Israel and that party leaders are being intimidated by them. “The issue of Israel is the one issue where the Jewish community historically stood shoulder to shoulder with one another and with Israel across party lines,” he said. “The platform committee — that is the most anti-Semitic committee put forward by a national party in the history of this country, and not a single elected Democrat has spoken out against it. Not a single elected official has said these officials who’ve been appointed should step down.”
Rep. Israel, for his part, insisted that the anti-Israel and pro-BDS voices within his party are “nuts” and are not the face of the Democratic Party. “If you have some nuts, some crazies, to suggest that the Democratic Party’s energy is behind them is tantamount to suggesting that Republican Party energy is behind the use of concentration camps symbols to vilify American-Jewish journalists.”
“You got your nuts, we have our nuts; but the mainstream is holding steady on Israel and on the broad range of other critical Jewish values,” Israel summed up the debate. “On things that matter to Israel’s survival as a Jewish State, there’s no weakening in support among Democrats.”
Israel also drew equivalence between Senor bucking his party’s presumptive nominee and his vote against the Iran deal last year. “Here I feel Dan’s pain as being someone who bucks his presidential nominee because I bucked my president – I voted against the Iran deal,” the Long Island Congressman said. “I voted against the Iran deal, not out of politics but out of my DNA. And I said that to the president during a 25-minute phone conversation.”
However, according to Senor, “Over the next ten years, the face of the Democratic party and the grassroots of the Democratic party, will not be the seven percent of House Democrats that had the courage to vote against the Iran deal. It will be the majority that voted with the president on the Iran deal.”