— National Jewish Democratic Council Chairman Marc R. Stanley and President David A. Harris
Last night was a tough night for many Democrats, but there were key wins as well.
We’re heartened to welcome new Democrats to Congress, among them new Jewish Democrats – including Senator-elect Blumenthal in Connecticut and Representative-elect Cicilline in Rhode Island. But clearly we’re deeply saddened that so many staunchly pro-Israel Democrats lost seats in this election, and that Democrats will cede control of the House of Representatives come January.
The House Democratic leadership has been powerfully supportive of Israel, and Speaker Pelosi has been nothing short of passionate in her successful pursuit of a number of key agenda items for the pro-Israel community – including biting sanctions against Iran. For this and so much more, the entire Jewish community owes the Democratic leadership our thanks. Pelosi was and is a tireless advocate of causes supported by the mainstream Jewish community.
We’re glad to see the Senate remain in Democratic hands, bucking the trend of congressional power shifts in 1994 and 2006 when Congress shifted against a president — when both houses of Congress changed hands simultaneously. We congratulate Senate Majority Leader Reid on his key victory; the Majority Leader has led the charge on an array of issues important to the Jewish community, including support for Israel and Iran sanctions. Indeed the entire Senate Democratic leadership team has been powerfully supportive of Israel, and supportive of a wide range of issues that American Jews care deeply about, like their House counterparts.
We would be remiss not to express our serious concern and fear about the strong showing of Tea Party candidates in this election, and their central presence in the GOP congressional delegation. If this does in fact indicate the shift to the right that it appears to within the Republican Party and within Congress, this poses a very significant threat to the separation of church and state, reproductive rights, healthcare reform, social security and more. Indeed this portends dangerous times for the domestic issue agenda of the vast majority of the American Jewish community.
Broadly speaking, Congress has long been bipartisan when it comes to support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, and that’s a success story of the American Jewish community. That being said, we have serious concerns about the future of foreign aid and House GOP Whip Eric Cantor’s suggestion that aid to Israel be removed from the larger package. Like the vast majority of the rest of the organized pro-Israel community, we believe this proposal to be truly detrimental and one we sincerely hope does not proceed forward under Republican leadership.
One more thing that must not proceed forward is the use of the U.S.-Israel relationship as a partisan political football. NJDC refused to engage in such behavior during this election season, and frankly it cost us politically. Those on the other side of the aisle took a different road, however, and they lied and did whatever they felt necessary to malign the excellent pro-Israel records of Democratic incumbents. Such tactics may work around the margins for Republicans, but they do so at the long-term cost of the U.S.-Israel relationship – politicizing it in a profoundly dangerous way. We will continue to strive to prevent Israel from becoming an American political issue, and we can only hope that our Republican colleagues will heed the words of Ambassador Michael Oren and others on this crucial point.