Another Senator for Israel
It is ironic that the hard core supporters of Israel among the neoconservatives are hoping for a Republican victory in the fall even though the party that has passionate Israel firsters most deeply embedded continues to be the Democrats. To be sure, Eric Cantor, Republican majority leader in the House and the only Jewish congressman from the GOP, has done some heavy lifting for Benjamin Netanyahu, including advising the Israeli Prime Minister that congress would protect him in any conflict with President Barack Obama. Republican from Florida Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is descended from Sephardic Jews, has also burnished her pro-Israel credentials as chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee while other Republicans from the Bible belt reflexively praise Israel as, one assumes, a tenet of their faith.
But the breadth and depth of outspoken advocates of Israel in the Democratic Party goes far beyond anything the Republicans can muster. Thirteen Jewish Senators are all Democrats as are 26 of the 27 Jewish members of the House. The Democratic National Committee is headed by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz while Steny Hoyer, who is not Jewish, is Minority Whip in the House of Representatives and an outspoken passionate supporter of Israel. Other frequent sponsors of resolutions favoring Israel and condemning Iran and the Palestinians include Howard Berman, Steve Israel, Steve Rothman, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Sherman, Benjamin Cardin, Carl Levin, Frank Lautenberg, Charles Schumer and Joe Lieberman. The late Tom Lantos, often referred to as Israel’s congressman, was also a Democrat. Many of Israel’s friends have characteristically sought and attained powerful positions on committees that deal with foreign and defense policies to enable them to directly influence legislation favorable to Israel.
One would think that more pro-Israel muscle wouldn’t be needed in congress, but yet another prominent Israeli firster is now being groomed for bigger things. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley is being promoted by the Democratic Party leadership to make a run for a Senate seat from the State of Nevada currently held by Republican Dean Heller. Berkley’s support of anything and everything Israel does is notable even by congressional standards. She is co-chair of the Israel Allies Caucus (part of the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation) and has been described by the Jewish media as “one of the most hawkish pro-Israel voices in the US House.” She has co-sponsored six resolutions relating to Israel including one “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” and has been blistering in her condemnation of the several Gaza relief flotillas, which she evidently sees as boatloads of terrorists.
Berkley is also not shy about supporting other special interests. She is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee (an oxymoron if there ever was one) because she allegedly used her influence to block the closure of a kidney transplant facility in Las Vegas, where her doctor husband works. Given that lack of separation between her personal interest and her responsibility as a congresswoman one might have thought that she should have recused herself from the issue, though the scandal is unfortunately probably insufficient to derail her senatorial bid.
Unlike in some other recent congressional races in Illinois and New Jersey where Israel was a focal point, Berkley will no doubt campaign on local issues in Nevada because raising the ethnic card could prove risky. Heller is a Mormon in a state that has many of his co-religionists. But it should be assumed that if Berkley is elected to the Senate her advocacy of Israel and its policies will be a hallmark of her time in office, just as it has been during her time in the House of Representatives.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.
- Congressional Crusade for Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel Lobby Always Believes More Is Better (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The Israel Lobby Never Sleeps (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Obama assures Orthodox Jewish delegation of his “fidelity” to Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)