Final week, over 40 freshmen Democratic members of Congress visited Israel. It was the largest-ever group of freshman Democrats to return to Israel, and so they got here underneath the auspices of the pro-Israel foyer in Washington, AIPAC. By organizing the most important Democratic Get together mission to Israel at a time of rising Jewish concern over anti-Israel voices inside the celebration, the Democratic management was making a press release: Don’t let the fringes mislead you; we stay passionately dedicated to the Israeli-American relationship.
However with the Israeli authorities’s choice to disclaim entry into Israel to 2 anti-Israel Democratic members of Congress, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib (the latter ban partially walked again, to permit the Palestinian American congresswoman to go to her grandmother), one wonders what number of of these members of Congress who got here right here final week would have come if the journey had been scheduled for subsequent week.
I met with the group on its first night time in Israel. Individuals had been exhausted however alert — politicians, in spite of everything, are used to being sleep disadvantaged. For many, it was their first time in Israel, and so they spoke of their pleasure in being right here, a spot by some means central to their identification as Individuals. One younger member of Congress instructed me that two of his associates from school had “made aliyah” — he used the Hebrew expression — and he hoped to reconnect with them. There have been African Individuals and Jewish Individuals and one Native American. Many had been younger. After they went across the room introducing themselves, there was heat applause over the group’s range. They had been proud to be representing that America — an America the place assist for Israel is an expression not solely of shared pursuits however of shared values.
Home Majority chief Steny Hoyer, who led the delegation, opened the night by sharing his love for Israel and for the Israeli folks — their braveness and resilience and creativity within the face of relentless risk. He spoke with the fervour one expects on a Jewish Federation mission to Israel — not from a pacesetter of a celebration many Israelis and Jews consider is more and more inimical to the Jewish state. I felt privileged to snoop on that intimate dialog of a Democratic Get together chief with members of his faction.
I spoke to the group about how the world appears to be like from Jerusalem — in regards to the penalties on the Israeli psyche of the infinite wars and siege, in regards to the Israeli feeling of pathological claustrophobia once we see terror entities embedded on our borders. And I requested the members of Congress to know that many Israelis like me are torn between two nightmares: sustaining the occupation of the Palestinians and withdrawing from the West Financial institution, risking a Hamas or Iranian takeover of our most delicate border.
It was the type of candid dialog one can solely have amongst associates. I sensed amongst them a deep empathy for Israelis caught in an not possible dilemma. What can we do to assist Individuals perceive Israel’s predicament? a number of requested.
There have been additionally pointed questions — about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s alliance with far-right leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban, about our ties with Saudi Arabia. I agreed with their considerations about Orban, however disagreed in regards to the Saudis. Does anybody actually consider that the Jewish state can afford to spurn overtures from the custodian of Islam’s holy locations? The world appears to be like very totally different from Jerusalem than it does from Washington, I stated. We’ve had our disagreements earlier than — and everybody understood the reference to the Iran deal — and we are going to proceed to disagree. However as associates.
I got here away from that night deeply reassured. The fears of the “Corbynization” of the Democratic Get together — that what occurred to the British Labour Get together underneath Jeremy Corbyn may occur in America — appeared to me extremely exaggerated. True, the anti-Israel voices inside the Democratic Get together are rising; however these voices stay marginal.
But now the federal government of Israel has empowered these voices.
By encouraging the notion that the Israeli authorities is managed by President Trump, Netanyahu has boosted the identification of the Jewish state with probably the most divisive American president in trendy reminiscence — emboldening these attempting to Corbynize the Democratic Get together. And by ignoring the non-public pleas of a livid Steny Hoyer, Netanyahu weakened those that are working to protect Democratic Get together assist for Israel.
Lastly, Netanyahu’s repeated reversals — from initially agreeing to confess the 2 Congresswomen, to banning each, to partially admitting Tlaib — have weakened Israeli credibility.
No prime minister has performed better harm to bi-partisan assist for Israel, a precondition for a thriving American-Israeli relationship. In barring a minor politician from getting into Israel, Netanyahu didn’t weaken our enemies; he humiliated our associates. Subsequent time, what number of freshman Democrats will threat the political fallout of coming to Israel?
Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow on the Shalom Hartman Institute, the place he’s co-director, collectively Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke College, of the Muslim Management Initiative (MLI), and a member of the Institute’s iEngage Challenge.
His newest e-book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, is a New York Instances bestseller. His earlier e-book, Like Dreamers, was named the 2013 Nationwide Jewish E book Council E book of the 12 months.