When reviewing failed conceptions, it is worth remembering why the U.S. supports Israel

Opinion: As part of the soul-searching that must be undertaken following October 7, we should review the systematic neglect of bipartisanship and our attitude toward Democrats and their Jewish supporters
Why does Israel enjoy the long-term support of the United States? The standard answer includes American interests in the Middle-East and shared values. I will focus on another aspect – the ability of citizens to influence policy directly, via their elected representatives - and point to Israeli conduct which could undermine future support. (I thank readers who are familiar with the American system for their patience with some explanation interspersed in the article).
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In his book, In Praise of Public Life, then-Senator Joe Lieberman explained frankly how he votes. When he has a firm opinion, he votes accordingly. If he has none, he will try to help groups that support him, with one exception – a clear position held by most of his voters will sway him. In other words, barring a good reason not to, meaning his own opinion or that of his voters, his supporters (read - donors and fundraisers) will determine how he votes.
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The symbols of the Democrats and Republicans
The symbols of the Democrats and Republicans
The symbols of the Democrats and Republicans
(Photo: Shutterstock)
Except for a handful of independents, American legislators are either Republicans or Democrats. Coalition discipline or an obligatory party line, which are common in Israel, do not exist in the American system. The factions have leadership and general guidelines, but legislators draw their power from voters, essential for election and re-election. Senators are chosen every six years. Representatives stand every two years. This means that almost immediately after an election, support for the next one must be garnered. Unlike in Israel, this is not the favor of a party mechanism or the goodwill of its leader, but money and influence.
It is therefore natural that a legislator from an agricultural state will use his legislative power to help farmers. But beyond what matters to voters and as long as they do not object, he will vote as he believes, or in line with his supporters. These can be an education lobby, a defense industry, or supporters of Israel. Such organizations systematically cultivate candidates and legislators, including in regions with few Jews, and turn to them regarding laws that affect Israel.
Each law undergoes a separate process in the Senate and the House of Representatives. These are reconciled and a joint version is presented to the President, to sign (or veto, rarely). Thus, the legislative vehicle has three wheels – House, Senate, and President. The balance of power between them often changes with election cycles - the balance shifted in 9 of the past 10 congresses and 16 of the past 25. Whoever enjoys the ride (and benefits from the laws) must realize that given such frequent changes, all wheels must be constantly oiled, lest the machine creaks. Hence the need to maintain steady bipartisan support of Israel, a principle which guided Israel's politicians and diplomats for many years.
But there is another reason. Support for Israel is currently stronger among Republicans, but most Jews vote for Democrats, and only three of 37 elected officials in this Congress are Republican. It is true that ideology, and also care - as we know from our families - elicit criticism of recent Israeli governments. But given the importance of bi-partisan support, and their being flesh of our flesh, we should not give up on them. On November 14, some 300,00 Jews representing every sector and opinion came to Washington to stand with Israel in its distress, which bears directly upon them. Again, we witnessed that in times of need, they are with us.
טובה הרצלTova Herzl
This happened a month after President Biden's heartwarming visit to Israel. He ignored years of Israeli focus on Republicans and of disrespect towards him, towards Democrats in general, and towards the previous Democratic president, Barack Obama, who was responsible for a major increase in assistance to Israel when Biden was his deputy. The foremost example is keeping the administration in the dark regarding the Prime Minister's invitation to address a joint session of Congress in 2015. Let us also remember Ron Dermer, current Minister of Strategic Affairs. After completing his term as Israel’s ambassador to America in 2021, he stated that it is wiser to invest in evangelists than in Jews, as they are more numerous and less critical.
Deliberately focusing on Republicans and evangelicals, at the expense of Democrats and their Jewish supporters, counters wise political conduct while rejecting traditional and natural allies. Let us hope that the soul-searching which was forced upon Israel on October 7th will also include turning our backs on Democrats, and our Jewish brethren.
  • Tova Herzl served as ambassador to South Africa, was the first ambassador to the Baltic countries after the breakup of the USSR, and was responsible for relations with Congress at the Israeli Embassy in Washington
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