Dems accuse Trump admin of ‘effort to politicize’ support for Israel
In a letter sent to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Monday, and obtained by Jewish Insider, Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee criticized the White House for not inviting any Democratic members to the opening ceremony of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem earlier this month and cited “a dangerous effort to politicize the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
The letter, signed by Reps. Eliot Engel, Ted Deutch, Brad Sherman, Albio Sires, Brad Schneider and Tom Suozzi, requests that Friedman provide the committee with any communications he received prior to the event regarding the participation of American dignitaries. “This episode raises serious concerns about how information is being relayed to our ambassadors at post, and whether our diplomats are receiving communications tainted by partisan political considerations,” the letter states.
Four Republican Senators and 10 GOP House members attended the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem on May 14. Former Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who attended the Jerusalem gathering, said he was disappointed that no Democratic members made the trip.
At the time, Congressman Deutch said in a statement, “Despite reaching out to the Administration, I was not invited to be a part of the official American delegation.”
During a recent interview with News 10’s Barak Ravid, and published by Axios last week, Friedman insisted that the snub was not intended. “We didn’t specifically invite anyone,” Friedman claimed. “I would have been more than happy to host Democratic leaders and I hope they come in the future. From my perspective, American support for Israel needs to be bipartisan and I am going to do everything I can to support visits from legislators — blue or red.”
However, according to these Democratic House members, “on many previous occasions of importance to the U.S. and Israel such as funerals or other national ceremonies, the White House has organized bipartisan participation of members of Congress. Unfortunately, this was the not the path taken by the Administration for the embassy dedication in Jerusalem.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel in the Obama administration, Daniel Shapiro told Jewish Insider that the Trump administration “could certainly have invited a broad bipartisan delegation and set that tone. I’m not sure that they did so.” Shapiro himself was in Israel on May 14 but was also not invited to attend the ceremony.
In 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a bipartisan congressional delegation to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary, a few days after President Bush visited the Jewish State. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama included Republicans in their delegations to the state funerals of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former President Shimon Peres. House Speaker Newt Gingrich joined Clinton on his short trip to attend Rabin’s funeral in 1995, and Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Kay Granger (R-TX) were part of Obama’s delegation to the Peres funeral in 2016.