This coming Tuesday, December 6, 2022, the State of Georgia will see its second senatorial runoff election in as many years. While the stakes of this election are not as dramatic as they were in 2020, they are still quite significant.
As is well known, Senator Raphael Warnock, the incumbent, is seeking a full 6-year term. As is equally well known, his challenger is former professional football player Hershel Walker. Why the GOP chose to nominate Mr. Walker and the implications of that choice, both short and long term, have been the subject of many articles and is not the focus of this piece. Instead, I would like to address something more important, the fact that this race is as close as it is.
Since taking office in 2021, Senator Warnock has distinguished himself as first-rate statesman. He is well-spoken, educated, articulate, and engaged. In contrast, the challenger has demonstrated that he lacks the communication skills, the acumen to handle the complex issues and decisions, the ability to act diplomatically, that is needed to be a US senator. When comparing these two candidates, how is it possible that the race is this close?
One explanation can be found in recent polling data. According to a poll released by the AARP, respondents aged 65 or older favor Mr. Walker over Senator Warnock by 13 points, while that lead shrinks to 4 percentage points among those aged 50-64. However, African-American voters aged 50 and up differ in preference from their age group overall, with Senator Warnock holding an 83-point lead over Walker among such respondents. The margin of error for that group was 4.9 percentage points.
Within the Pro-Israel and Orthodox community, there also seems to be a significant percentage of people who are supporting Mr. Walker in this race rather than Senator Warnock.
Among reasons cited in explaining this phenomenon, is an often-raised claim that Senator Warnock is not a supporter of Israel and/or is antisemitic. This ludicrous charge is easily seen to be false when one examines Senator Warnock’s record and yet it still persists and is repeated over and over.
Since taking office, Senator Warnock has clearly demonstrated his support of Israel in word and deed. Senator Warnock joined a bipartisan push to fully fund US-Israel missile defense cooperation. He co-signed a letter urging Secretary of State Blinken to prioritize ending the UN Human Rights Council’s inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He issued a letter condemning Hamas rocket attacks against Israel. He has stated unequivocally that “Israel’s right to exist as a state in security is incontestable” and he is strongly opposed the BDS movement and its antisemitic underpinnings. He has stated that he understands the threats against Israel and will do all that he can to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon. Additionally, Senator Warnock was an original cosponsor of the Israel Relations Normalization Act, which seeks to bolster the Abraham Accords and a co-sponsor of legislation to prevent Iran from acquiring combat drones.
Alon Liel, who served as Israel’s consul general to the Southeast in Atlanta from 1990 to 1992 and later as ambassador to several countries and as director general of Israel’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, wrote in 2020 that he had been briefed “in great detail” by Israeli diplomats who served in Georgia more recently and has followed Warnock’s career closely. His conclusion: “I have no doubt that when it comes to Israel, Reverend Warnock’s support is rock solid.”
It is clear that the accusations made against Senator Warnock are not based in reality. So, why do people continue to spread such slanderous charges?
Many are simply repeating what they have heard from others without having done any verification of their own. Others are of the grievously mistaken notion that only the GOP “really” cares about Israel. This is blatantly untrue and is the work of GOP-affiliated operatives seeking only to empower their own party without any thought as to Israel’s actual interests. Israel is best served when its support from the US is non-partisan. Not simply bipartisan, but completely non-partisan.
Israel’s interests, as well as the United States’ interests, are best served when we elect intelligent, well-spoken, thoughtful people to office. Electing those who do not have those traits because one hopes the individual will “just do what they are told” by party leaders is not wise. Electing someone because they were endorsed by those who have once again shown themselves not to be really concerned with Israel, our community, or even basic human decency is a betrayal of those same entities and concepts.