After praising Netanyahu, Porter ‘concerned’ about ‘far-right voices’ in his coalition
“The potential erosion of democratic principles, including an independent judiciary, should be of concern to Americans,” Rep. Katie Porter said at a Democrats for Israel California event
Apu Gomes/Getty Images
Before she took questions from Jewish voters during a virtual candidate forum on Tuesday evening, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), who is running for U.S. Senate in California, took a few minutes to express concern over Israel’s right-wing governing coalition and its now-suspended judicial overhaul, which has spurred mass protests in recent weeks.
“I am concerned about the inclusion of some of the far-right voices in Israel’s coalition government, and I think it is up to the prime minister to provide leadership that lifts up voices that are consistent with Israel’s values, rather than voices who are tarnishing Israel’s democracy and its commitment to its values,” Porter said. “The potential erosion of democratic principles, including an independent judiciary, should be of concern to Americans.”
“We have to hold Israel, and we want Israel to hold us, to our shared values of democracy and human rights,” she added.
Porter’s remarks followed recent comments to Jewish Insider in which the Irvine Democrat mostly shied away from explicit criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom she met in February during a House delegation visit to Israel sponsored by J Street. “I was extremely impressed with his willingness to kind of grapple with us at some of the toughest issues that Israel’s facing,” Porter said in an interview with JI after her first trip to the Jewish state.
Speaking at the event on Tuesday, which was hosted by the advocacy group Democrats for Israel California, Porter explained that she had “pressed very hard” for the delegation to sit down with Netanyahu in Jerusalem because, she said, “I think he needs to hear directly from U.S. lawmakers that we expect our ally Israel to live up to the hallmark of our special relationship, which is protecting democracy, protecting human rights” and “protecting fundamental freedoms.”
Meanwhile, the congresswoman said she was “pleased” that Netanyahu had “delayed the judicial changes” on Monday. “The best path forward for Israel and all of its citizens is going to be compromise,” she noted.
“As the protests over the last several weeks, and especially this weekend, have shown, Israeli leaders need to find a different path forward with regard to the judiciary and with regard to strengthening its democracy,” Porter told participants, adding: “We need to continue to stand with the people of Israel, and to hope that they can move toward a better resolution than the one that has been proposed.”
Porter, a leading progressive lawmaker who represents a swing district covering Orange County, met virtually with pro-Israel activists a week after her opponent in the Senate race, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), had addressed such issues in a similar event hosted by Democrats for Israel California as part of a candidate series. Before that event, Schiff, a Jewish Democrat from the Los Angeles area, told JI in an interview that he was “deeply concerned about” Israel’s governing coalition and “the participation of some of the more extreme voices within Israeli politics.”
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who is also running to succeed outgoing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in 2024, has yet to speak with Democrats for Israel California.
In explaining her own approach to the Middle East on Tuesday, Porter clarified that she has “really tried, very consciously, through my social media and other statements, to make clear to the American people that Israel is an ally, that the vision of a democratic Jewish Israel is important, particularly in a time of increasing antisemitism.”
But, she added, “we cannot have this attitude that we cannot criticize Israel policy. Israel is a democracy, and criticism, challenges, questions, come with being a democratic state.”
“I think one of the things I’m proudest of is my continued insistence that we need to hold all of our allies, and most especially our most important allies, like Israel, to following and obeying international laws and American laws,” Porter said later in the discussion. “I’ve been proud to support military assistance, Iron Dome and other kinds of assistance to Israel.”
“It is important that we’re in conversation with Israel about our expectations for how they use that assistance,” she said. “I think that makes us a better partner to Israel.”