Candidates in the 4th Congressional District Offer Perspectives on Israel

With the primaries next week, candidates are crisscrossing the 18 newly drawn congressional districts in Pennsylvania, talking to voters about a host of issues, ranging from gun violence to education to healthcare to the environment. However, the issue of Israel is rarely discussed during candidate forums and speaking engagements. Since this issue is profoundly important to many of our readers, we have decided to ask some of the candidates about their views on Israel, starting with those in the 4th Congressional District, which now consists primarily of Montgomery County.

Running in the 4th on the Democratic side are state Rep. Madeleine Dean, Executive Director of CeaseFirePA Shira Goodman and former congressman Joe Hoeffel. On the Republican side, businessman Dan David is running unopposed.

We sent emails to all four candidates explaining our intention to do a story on their postions on Israel. We received no response from the Dean or Hoeffel campaigns. From Goodman, we asked for and received a policy paper that she had previously submitted to AIPAC, and we also had the opportunity to interview her. The David campaign sent us an email outlining the candidate’s positions on Israel, and we spoke with the campaign’s legislative director, Andrew Ferraro.

Shira Goodman.

In the introduction to her policy paper, Goodman explained, “Support for Israel, Israel’s security and a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is as central to my world view as my support for progressive values ….” She said that a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is in the best interest of both countries and that the U.S. must ensure that Israel has “the tools and technology” to protect itself against threats in the region.

Referring to himself as “a staunch defender of the state of Israel,” David expressed similar views:

The United States should provide Israel with the tools it needs to defend itself. Israel is an important ally in the war on terrorism and the most democratic country in the Middle East.

The issue of Iran was also discussed — an issue that looms particularly large given President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and the recent exchange of fire between Israel and Iranian forces in Syria. In her position paper, Goodman identified Iran as “a major threat to Israel and U.S. security,” adding that Iran’s “ongoing efforts to build a nuclear program, promote terrorism and foster instability must be thwarted.”

Acknowledging the weaknesses of the Iran deal, Goodman has supported working with our allies to determine whether the deal could be strengthened and its limitations addressed. Even after Trump’s announcement to pull out of the deal, she said:

I hope the ensuing days and weeks will provide an opportunity to work with our allies around the world to negotiate an addendum or amendment that will fix the deal’s shortcomings and ensure Iran cannot attain a nuclear weapons capability.

In response to the tension between Israel and Iran heightened by the airstrikes along the Israeli-Syrian border, Goodman commented, “Israel has a responsibility to defend itself against the threats from all of its borders. Iran’s presence in Syria is a huge danger. Fortunately, Iron Dome is proving effective in that defense.”

Dan David.

The David campaign responded to the violence by simply stating, “We stand with Israel and their right to defend their sovereignty.” Regarding the Iran nuclear deal, the campaign summarized its position in the following statement:

The United States should work with Israel and our allies to halt Iran’s dangerous nuclear ambitions. The Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran has failed to stop Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and gave money to a country that is a threat to its neighbors and the United States. I will work to repair the failings of the Iran nuclear deal.

Another issue considered was the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is particularly relevant as we mark the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. Goodman believes that for there to be peace, the Palestinian Authority and the other Arab governments must recognize Israel as an independent nation with the right to security. During our discussion, she said that “the two-state solution is best for Israel as a Jewish democracy.” To achieve this end, she believes that we must have “willing partners on both sides” and leadership from the United States. “We need real partners. We need real leadership. Israel and the Palestinians aren’t going to do it alone. I don’t think at this moment we have that. I hope that will change,” said Goodman.

According to the statement from the David campaign, the Republican candidate “will oppose attempts by Palestinians to unilaterally declare statehood or to circumvent the peace process.” The statement continued, “Israel should not be pressured into making concessions that jeopardize its security. Progress will be best achieved through bilateral negotiations.”

On the question of Jerusalem, Goodman believes that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. However, she considers suspect Trump’s abrupt decision to relocate the American embassy to Jerusalem. “I have grave distrust of this president that leads me to be hesitant to applaud an action that could have unknowable implications for an issue I care deeply about,” she said.

In the statements provided by his campaign, David said, “I recognize that the people of Israel should determine where their capital is located. Appeasement has not worked with a Palestinian government that refuses to accept Israel’s legitimacy.”

Finally, both campaigns decried the partisanship that has emerged around the issue of Israel in recent years. Goodman said that she intends to be “a strong voice” on Israel in her caucus, and that through education and dialogue, she will work hard to chip away at the distrust and false narratives surrounding Israel that exists in some progressive circles. Summarizing her position, she said, “Israel’s security, the strength of U.S.-Israel relations and peace in the region are good for Israel, the U.S. and the world — and that’s the perspective I’m willing to work to spread.”

In his campaign statement, David said, “Historically, support for Israel has largely been bi-partisan, and it is my sincere hope that will return.” Ferraro, the campaign’s legislative director, explained that when he worked on Capitol Hill in the 1990’s, “there wasn’t a whole lot of daylight between Democrats and Republicans on Israel,” adding that “whoever is in office needs to back the state of Israel; it shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

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