Cardin: ‘One of my missions’ is to help young lawmakers understand the U.S.-Israel relationship

Cardin: ‘One of my missions’ is to help young lawmakers understand the U.S.-Israel relationship

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Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) reflected on Wednesday night on his career and his work supporting Israel and combating antisemitism in remarks to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

The longtime senator, who has been in public office for nearly 60 years and will retire at the end of the current Congress, spoke to JCRC members who gathered at a synagogue in suburban Maryland to honor his career. Cardin’s upcoming retirement is set to deprive the Senate of one of its most prominent pro-Israel stalwarts, as well as a leading figure in efforts to fight antisemitism.

“One of my missions in the United States Senate is to make sure that young legislators understand why that special relationship exists, and the importance of Israel to the United States, and to make it clear that we will never tolerate the use of Israel as a partisan wedge issue,” Cardin said.

In a question-and-answer session later in the evening, Cardin noted that there are many new lawmakers who are not familiar with the intricacies of the U.S.-Israel relationship, whom, he said, “we have to educate.” He also emphasized that using Israel as a wedge issue “will only hurt… U.S.-Israel relations.”

The 79-year-old senator said that the vast majority of his colleagues are “basically pro-Israel” and want to find ways to work together.

“What gets confused is that because we disagree with a governmental policy does not mean that we don’t love and support our country,” Cardin said. “I disagreed with a lot of Donald Trump’s policies. During the years he was president, I loved America. I disagree with a lot of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu’s policies. I love Israel and the importance of the relationship between the United States and Israel.”

Cardin offered shoutouts in his remarks to several local lawmakers in attendance at the event, including State Delegate Joe Vogel, a young progressive Jew running for Congress in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Cardin lamented a rise in antisemitism “that I never thought I would ever see in my lifetime,” which he said had been fueled by “leaders that are giving oxygen” to hate and the disinformation and conspiracy theories that drive people to commit antisemitic acts.

He emphasized the importance of a range of steps to combat such hate, including Holocaust education, greater enforcement and alliances with “like-minded groups.”

“And then lastly, we have to have accountability,” Cardin continued. “We have to make sure that we end the scourge of what we see in our community. Leaders must speak out, we can never normalize or trivialize antisemitism. We must speak out.”

Cardin, who said he is “optimistic” about the future, also pledged to remain engaged after he leaves office in January 2025, including in supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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