Just weeks after calling for the United States to acknowledge Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has asserted the need for establishing a mutual defense pact that would declare an attack against Israel to be an attack against America. Addressing an assembly of Jewish Republicans, Graham, who has emerged as Israel’s most prolific supporter on Capitol Hill, dramatically declared to Israel’s enemies that “to destroy the one and only Jewish state, you have to come through us to get them.” Sen. Graham recently traveled to Israel apparently laying the groundwork for the announcement of American acknowledgement of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. The strategic plateau was conquered from Syria in the 1967 war. It has frequently been discussed in the context of being returned as part of a comprehensive peace plan, but the national feeling that it could be done dissipated when former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began his frequent threats to “wipe Israel off the map” and Israelis began to view the Golan as Iran’s front porch. The proximity of the Syrian civil war to Israel underscored the strategic value of the Heights as a necessary buffer brought the issue full circle. Sen. Graham is sponsoring a resolution in the Senate that will reiterate Israeli sovereignty but also create an opportunity to force Senate Democrats to vote “yea” or “nay” on an Israel issue while the Republicans seek to hammer home that, in President Trump’s words, “Democrats hates Jewish people.” Two Democratic candidates for the presidency have ratcheted up the debate. Beto O’Rourke labeled Prime Minister Netanyahu a “racist” while Pete Buttigieg called Netanyahu’s remarks a “provocation” and rejected “Netanyahu’s politics.” US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is accompanied by Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman as they visit the border line between Syria and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on March 11, 2019. (Photo: RONEN ZVULUN/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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