American support for Israel used to very much be a bipartisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats could credibly point to genuine concern for and backing of the Jewish state.
But in recent decades, the Democrats' pro-Israel credentials have been called into question, especially with Israel itself routinely criticizing former-US President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, as antagonists who were jeopardizing its national security.
Current-US President Donald Trump has played on this theme, big time, to use one of his favorite phrases, by positioning himself as the most pro-Israel American leader ever. And that's an assessment with which most Israelis will agree after Trump bucked decades of US foreign policy, to say nothing of regional Arab sensitivities, by moving the American embassy to Israel's chosen (and eternal) capital, Jerusalem.
The Democrats are now hoping to reverse this trend with the establishment of a new group called the Democratic Majority for Israel.
The group's leader, Democratic Party pollster Mark Mellman, told The New York Times:
"Most Democrats are strongly pro-Israel and we want to keep it that way. There are a few discordant voices, but we want to make sure that what’s a very small problem doesn’t metastasize into a bigger problem."
Many would argue that it's already too late.
The Democratic Party's old guard might be pro-Israel, or at least not anti-Israel, but it's no longer their voices that are animating a new generation of Democratic voters. Rather, it's those "few discordant voices" that Mellman spoke of that seem to be having the biggest impact today.
This was seen in the last midterm election, when young Democratic voters put the likes of Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez into Congress. Both Tlaib and Omar are brazenly anti-Israel, the former being a supporter of the BDS movement, and the latter on record as calling the Jewish state an "apartheid regime." Ocasio-Cortez accused Israel of committing a "massacre" last summer when it was battling Hamas-led mass infiltration attempts along the Gaza border.
Trump has called these newcomers and others like them "radical socialists," which is true, and they don't deny it. But it's a trait that seems to go hand-in-hand with anti-Israel sentiment. Take, for instance, socialist poster-boy Bernie Sanders, who, despite being Jewish, seems to harbor absolutely no love for the nation-state of his people. It's a bit of an irony given that Israel itself is much more socialist than America, particularly when it comes to some of the Democrats' pet agendas like healthcare.
Really, the only Democrats that the newly-formed Democratic Majority for Israel can reasonably hope to sway in any significant numbers are Jewish voters. That used to be enough. A majority of Jewish Americans are registered Democrats, and form a rather influential voting bloc. But they have long since been eclipsed in their devotion to Israel and enacting of pro-Israel legislation by Evangelical Christians and their representatives in Congress.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that, pseudo-socialist though it be, Israel is far more resistant to the progressive liberal trend sweeping America. Polls and election results routinely show that a very firm majority of Israelis fall on what would be the Republican side of US foreign policy debates vis-a-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the broader Middle East. As such, it's going to be a serious uphill battle, to say the least, to get more Democrats, and especially the ascendant progressive millennials, to suddenly start singing a pro-Israel tune.
PHOTO: Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of American lawmakers to Jerusalem last summer. But she and the rest of the party's old guard are now being openly challenged by radical Democratic newcomers who harbor little but hate for the Jewish state. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)