Jeff Mendelsohn

The pro-Israel community should be proud of what we accomplished in MN-5

One takeaway from the recent Democratic primary in Minnesota: the pro-Israel community won’t stand by idly when a member of Congress actively seeks to undermine America’s close relationship with its democratic ally, Israel.  Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the most vocal detractors of the US-Israel relationship, faced the stiffest challenge of her career.  Pro-Israel groups and grassroots donors brought nearly $6 million in total to the effort to unseat Rep. Ilhan Omar, sending a clear message that support for America’s alliance with Israel runs deep and broad.

Antone Melton-Meaux, a previously unknown candidate, took on a very well-known incumbent congresswoman, ran an impressive campaign, and made inroads no one expected. Melton-Meaux’s campaign was rooted in building alliances and delivering results. While not at the core of his platform, he made clear that he believed in the value of America’s alliance with Israel. His decision to challenge Rep. Omar, who has been so divisive in her repeated antisemitic tropes and her support for anti-Israel positions, and his message of unity, attracted support from the pro-Israel community.

While he came up short on Tuesday, he received more votes than Rep. Omar did in her 2018 primary and nearly as many votes as Sen. Bernie Sanders received in the district during the 2020 presidential primary, which he won.  Melton-Meaux kept Rep. Omar below 60% of the vote, a particularly impressive feat contrasted with the vote shares received by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (66%) or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (72%).

The pro-Israel community saw this race as a critical moment to fight back against Rep. Omar’s dangerous foreign policy positions and the antisemitism she has repeatedly displayed. In the first year of her first term, Representative Omar made comments that invoked antisemitic tropes, prompting strong rebukes from her congressional colleagues.  She promoted foreign policy positions that would threaten America’s national security and our alliance with Israel.  She advocated cutting military assistance funding for Israel, even while it was being attacked by neighboring terrorist groups. She called for lifting sanctions on Iran, while championing legislation to embolden activists to place sanctions on Israel. She’s endorsed the harmful Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement whose goal, according to its founders and leaders, is the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel.

These negative policies affect the safety and security of all Americans and undermine our country’s global leadership, which is particularly troubling given her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Thousands of grassroots donors in the district and across the country activated to support Melton-Meaux.  The Melton-Meaux campaign raised more than $4 million, with over $500,000 from Pro-Israel America’s members and grassroots donors. The grassroots enthusiasm was clearly demonstrated in local fundraising totals as well: Melton-Meaux’s campaign raised $237,000 from inside Minnesota’s fifth district during the second quarter of 2020 – nearly 30 times the amount that Rep. Omar raised in her home district during the same time period.

These resources helped Melton-Meaux build critical momentum, ultimately putting Rep. Omar on the defensive.  In the final month of the campaign Omar was forced to go negative on her challenger and spent nearly her entire $4 million war chest.

Melton-Meaux may not have won a seat in Congress last Tuesday, but the pro-Israel community that supported him sent a very clear message that being an outspoken anti-Israel legislator will NOT be cost-free politically. Thousands of grassroots donors and activists across the country showed their conviction and willingness to fight back.  Their efforts are not just about one race – they are fighting for the future of the US-Israel relationship.  As we head into November, they will continue to be a serious force in important elections.

About the Author
Jeff Mendelsohn is a seasoned political and policy influencer based in Washington, D.C. with more than 20 years of experience in legislation, political activism and community engagement. The founder and CEO of Coalition Strategy Group, Jeff works with diverse organizations to turn ideas into success through strategic planning, program development, government relations and coalition building. An expert on U.S.-Israel relations, Jeff has devoted much of his career working beyond the Jewish community, on Capitol Hill as chief of staff for two Texas Hispanic members of Congress and as National Outreach Director at AIPAC, where he launched and grew a program to engage non-Jewish constituencies in pro-Israel advocacy. Jeff also co-founded and ran Pro-Israel America and Pro-Israel America United, their associated PAC and Super PACs to help elect pro-Israel candidates to Congress and advance pro-Israel policies.
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