The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - Jonathan Ryn­hold

Given that lib­eral-lean­ing Democrats are the largest and fastest grow­ing group in the party, this rep­re­sents a se­ri­ous chal­lenge.

Sure, sup­port for Is­rael among Repub­li­cans has never been stronger, but no party wins ev­ery elec­tion from here to eter­nity, Con­se­quently, Ai­pac has al­ways un­der­stood that bi­par­ti­san sup­port con­sti­tutes the “ozone layer” of the spe­cial re­la­tion­ship. This ozone layer is now de­pleted. This did not hap­pen all by it­self. Rather, it is largely self-in­flicted; a re­sult of the be­hav­iour of the cur­rent Is­raeli gov­ern­ment.

First, Ne­tanyahu broke the bi­par­ti­san rule by favour­ing the Repub­li­cans. He backed Rom­ney in 2012, and this week backed Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial pol­icy of build­ing a wall on the Mex­i­can bor­der. While his op­po­si­tion to the Iran deal was principled, the way he went about it left many Democrats with the im­pres­sion that this, too, was a par­ti­san in­ter­ven­tion in US politics.

More­over, for Democrats, a key rea­son for sup­port­ing Is­rael is that it is a democ­racy. Given that Democrats are also very sup­port­ive of the two-state so­lu­tion, Is­raeli pol­icy on this is­sue is vi­tal. The two are con­nected be­cause if Is­rael does not ul­ti­mately with­draw from the vast ma­jor­ity of the West Bank, de­mo­graphic real­ity means it can­not re­tain its iden­tity as a Jewish and demo­cratic state.

Al­most im­me­di­ately on en­ter­ing office in 2009, Ne­tanyahu en­dorsed the two-state so­lu­tion and agreed to a set­tle­ment freeze. Later, he ne­go­ti­ated on the ba­sis of the 1967 bor­ders. Con­se­quently, de­spite ten­sions a over pol­icy, Demo­crat sym­pa­thy with Is­rael re­mained strong.

Since 2015, how­ever, Is­rael has been gov- erned by a more right-wing coali­tion. Ne­tanyahu has pro­claimed that this gov­ern­ment is more com­mit­ted to set­tle­ments than any other. His gov­ern­ment is cur­rently seek­ing to pass a law which will le­galise set­tle­ment out­posts and al­low the con­fis­ca­tion of pri­vately owned Pales­tinian land. Mean­while, Ne­tanyahu’s se­nior coali­tion part­ner Naf­tali Ben­nett calls for the an­nex­a­tion of over half the West Bank.

This may be empty rhetoric. Nev­er­the­less, to Democrats it signals a clear lack of com­mit­ment to the two-state so­lu­tion, which chal­lenges Is­rael’s iden­tity as a Jewish democ­racy go­ing for­ward. If that is the case, many Democrats ask why they should con­tinue to sup­port Is­rael. Why grant Is­rael $38 bil­lion of aid over 10 years? Why pro­tect it from hos­tile UN res­o­lu­tions? Why con­tinue with the spe­cial re­la­tion­ship? Why not treat Is­rael as just an­other coun­try?

This was the point Kerry was try­ing to make. His speech was not about US strat­egy to­wards the Mid­dle East but a heart­felt plea to Is­rael to re­main true to the val­ues that have in­spired him and many other Democrats to sup­port the spe­cial re­la­tion­ship.

But all this is missed by most Is­raelis. They are un­aware of Kerry’s long­stand­ing friend­ship or that he was Ne­tanyahu’s num­ber one de­fender in the ad­min­is­tra­tion. In a poll I com­mis­sioned a cou­ple of years ago, only five per cent of Is­raelis thought “shared demo­cratic val­ues” was a ma­jor rea­son why Amer­i­cans sup­port Is­rael. In real­ity, it is im­por­tant for about a third of Amer­i­cans, es­pe­cially Democrats. Democ­racy is not only a nor­ma­tive foun­da­tion of Is­raeli politics; it is also a crit­i­cal strate­gic asset which sus­tains Is­rael’s most im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ship.

time, lib­eral Democrats pre­fer the Pales­tini­ans

Jonathan Ryn­hold is a Pro­fes­sor of Po­lit­i­cal Stud­ies at Bar-Ilan Univer­sity

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