Israel Again Drawn into Midst of U.S. Domestic Politics
In a situation many Israeli leaders insist they would gladly forgo, the state of Israel is being increasingly drawn into partisan domestic politics. The latest, and potentially most damaging, indication is the war of words among Democratic presidential candidates over an idea first introduced by Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) that the U.S. “leverage” its financial aid to the Jewish state, in effect demanding acceptance of the idea of re-directing some of Israel’s annual aid package to humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip. The new paradigm was on display at a rally for former vice president Joe Biden in Iowa on Sunday night, where the candidate was comfortable unleashing a tirade against Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – describing him as “counterproductive” and of the “extreme right,” attacks Middle East experts suggest would not have been allowed to be part of the campaign rhetoric not long ago. After earning his partisan bona fides with the ad hominem attack on Netanyahu, Biden forcefully rejected Sander’s quid-pro-quo formula for divvying up Jerusalem’s aid package. The former veep then turned to the Palestinians, criticizing its leadership from his time in the Obama administration. Biden accused the Palestinian leaders of “baiting everyone who is Jewish saying they would never sign a deal with a Jewish state.” He added the observation that beneath the surface, “it’s not as if [the Palestinian Authority] is not continuing to foment” the conflict. Another sensitive issue, President Trump’s move of the American Embassy back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem, is showing little support among the Democratic candidates. Julian Castro has become the seventh candidate to promise to leave the move where it is. He is joined by Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennett, Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Cory Booker and Marianne Williamson.