Jeff Mendelsohn
Jeff Mendelsohn

To 2022 Candidates: Pro-Israel Stances are Good Policy and Good Politics

Podium speaker tribune with USA flags. Briefing of president of United states in White House. Politics concept. 3d illustration
Image via iStock

We are less than three months away from the first primary elections for the 2022 cycle, including races for some of the strongest supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship who are facing anti-Israel primary opponents. That’s why Pro-Israel America has already endorsed over 70 candidates for 2022 – with more to come. But results from this year’s special elections should already make clear to next year’s congressional hopefuls that staking anti-Israel positions is not only bad policy – it’s bad politics.

Take, for example, last month’s special primary election in Florida’s 20th congressional district to choose a Democratic candidate for the vacancy left by the death of former Congressman Alcee Hastings – a longstanding, strong advocate of Israel. The race was fascinating for many reasons. For one, 11-candidates ran in the Democratic primary for the deep-blue seat, including six current or former elected officials. In the end, after the recounts, health care executive Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick bested Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness by just five votes, essentially guaranteeing her victory in the upcoming January 11 general election. Holness, however, has filed a second lawsuit, challenging Cherfilus-McCormick’s win. (Public Service Announcement: your vote really does matter!)

But a very interesting and instructive part of the race comes from a different candidate: State Representative Omari Hardy. Hardy tried to separate himself from the field of Democrats by loudly staking an anti-Israel position. In public interviews, Hardy repeatedly expressed his firm opposition to critical and lifesaving supplementary funding for Iron Dome missile-defense systems. As a quick reminder: even in this politically polarized environment, ten Democrats and one Republicans refused to approve legislation to grant $1 billion in supplemental aid for the Iron Dome back in September. It gets even worse though. Apart from supporting adding unnecessary political conditions to security assistance to the Jewish state, Hardy vocally supported the pernicious Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The result? Hardy – who must have mistakenly thought that taking an anti-Israel stance would garner support in the district – was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in FL-20. In fact, he didn’t even place in the top five vote-getters, ultimately coming just short of receiving 3,000 votes.

Another example of anti-Israel positions backfiring on a candidate is clearly visible in the special election in Ohio’s 11th congressional district to replace former Congresswoman and now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge. Frontrunners Shontel Brown and Nina Turner had starkly different positions on Israel. While Brown valued America’s close alliance with Israel and understood that a strong U.S.-Israel relationship benefits the entire world, Turner supported efforts to limit and condition security aid to Israel, and repeatedly refused to denounce BDS. Turner came into the race with a huge lead in financial resources and name-recognition, but her divisive politics turned voters off.  As voters learned more about Brown and her policy positions, they increasingly supported her campaign. Voters rejected Turner in the Democratic primary, delivering Brown a come-from-behind victory of over five percentage points.

Many Democratic candidates are increasingly being pressured by anti-Israel and far-left organizations to take hard, dangerous anti-Israel stances. The Democratic Socialists of America, for example, demand that the candidates they endorse support their hardline, anti-Israel positions without exception, including their support for BDS and their opposition to normalization between Israel and her neighbors. Jamaal Bowman, who was elected with support from DSA, is no friend to Israel – he vocally criticizes Israel and has pushed for additional unnecessary political conditions to security aid. Yet recently he has come under fire from DSA members and chapters because he traveled to Israel, an act of recognition and normalization that DSA members oppose, and because he voted in favor of Iron Dome funding, while DSA expects candidates to vote against all funding for Israel. The DSA ultimately decided not to kick Bowman out but they withheld their endorsement until he agrees to get more “in alignment” with their anti-Israel expectations.

While there certainly have been a few vocally anti-Israel candidates who have won elections in recent years, many have won in spite of – not because of – their anti-Israel positions. When she first ran for office, now Rep. Rashida Tlaib expressed support for a two-state solution during her campaign and, by inference, Israel’s right to exist.  But after being elected, she revealed that she in fact sought a one-state solution that would put an end to the only Jewish state and that she would oppose aid to Israel.

The majority of voters around the country understand the importance of advancing the U.S.-Israel relationship in Congress and have time-and-time again demonstrated not only their conviction and willingness to stand up for pro-Israel candidates, but to effectively help them cross the victory line.

While the ultimate winners of the 2022 congressional elections on both sides of the aisle may hold different views on various policy matters, we are sure that the overwhelming majority will agree on the importance of robust economic, scientific, and military cooperation between the United States and Israel.

About the Author
Jeff Mendelsohn is the founding Executive Director of Pro-Israel America. Jeff brings years of legislative, political and organizational experience, having served as chief of staff for two Texas members of Congress for a dozen years. During his ten-plus years at AIPAC, Jeff launched and managed the AIPAC Outreach Program which successfully engaged non-Jewish constituencies, including Hispanics, African Americans, progressives, veterans and evangelical Christians in pro-Israel activism.
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