Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in front of Congress in 2015

If Israel wants U.S. aid, it must talk to Democrats' new generation

Opinion: Netanyahu government's decisions have turned Israel into another Republican state while America's young generation is becoming more and more 'progressive', and Israel must find a way to reach out to them

Tzippy Shmilovitz |
Published: 09.25.21, 00:06
If we were to pinpoint the exact date when the first crack in the relations between the young generation of the Democratic Party and Israel appeared, we would have to go back to May 3, 2015.
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  • On that day, in an unprecedented event in modern U.S. political history, a foreign country leader — and not just any foreign country, but an ally that receives a lot of aid from Washington — stood in front of Congress, and harshly criticized the policy of then-President Barack Obama on the Iran nuclear deal.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in front of Congress in 2015
    Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in front of Congress in 2015
    Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in front of Congress in 2015
    (Photo: AFP)
    As a result, a generation of young Democratic voters and activists, for whom Barack Obama was much more than just another American president, took the insult personally.
    The relations between former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama were strained from the get-go. Netanyahu's speech, however, only further widened the fissure in their relations.
    That speech also shook at the foundations of the bipartisan understanding between Republicans and Democrats that support for Israel is not up for debate. After that, Donald Trump became president and Netanyahu's close ties with his administration only made Israel look like another Republican state.
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    Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon,
    Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon,
    Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon
    (Photo: Reuters)
    When Foreign Minister Yair Lapid first took office, he recognized the great damage caused by the decisions of Netanyahu's government. And while Lapid may not have given speeches in front of the United Nations yet, it turns out he understands U.S. politics pretty well.
    He also knows that America's younger generation is becoming more and more liberal, racially diverse, socially engaged and that at least at the moment, most young people belong to the Democratic Party.
    Ultimately, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is still very small, mostly making noise that doesn't really achieve more than viral Twitter posts. It's also made up of young people who know very little about politics. Otherwise, they would choose their battles, and wouldn't try to block funds meant for Israel's Iron Dome, which is designed to save civilians from indiscriminate rocket attacks.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    'The Squad': Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley
    'The Squad': Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley
    'The Squad': Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    If we put the progressives aside, the Democratic Party, including President Joe Biden, still overwhelmingly belongs to the older generation that supports Israel unconditionally. But the future of the Democratic Party isn't Biden, who will soon turn 79. The future is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush and even young Jews who support Bernie Sanders.
    So, in order to turn back the clock and return to the days when the U.S.'s policy vis-à-vis the Jewish state was not a wedge issue, Israel must find a way to reach out to them.
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