Last month Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, assured a pro-Israel Jewish audience that the arrival of Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar (and maybe also Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) as critics of Israel would not affect the U.S. relationship with Israel.
Remove all doubt in your mind. It’s just a question of not paying attention to a few people who may want to go their own way, but as far as our Congress is concerned we try very hard to unify, to have bipartisanship in all of this… If you hear of one person or another– it’s not about anything other than perhaps their individual vote.
But Pelosi also acknowledged the pressure from the left, when she called for a two state solution, and there were jeers from the right wing crowd.
The principles we would hope to see there are a two state solution– [jeers]. I know there’s controversy but the extreme left on this is asking for a one-state solution– so understand we have to strike the balance….
That was surely an allusion to the progressive Democratic base that supports democracy over occupation; and to Omar and Tlaib’s support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
Pelosi’s political calculation demolishes that standby of the Israel lobby: that Israel will only respond to hugs, not pressure. In fact, only pressure will change the political calculus of this stalemated conflict.
Pelosi appeared on the same Florida stage that Trump’s biggest donors, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, also appeared on, and she assured Haim Saban, a megadonor to the Democratic Party, who had asked about the new House and the progressive Democratic base, that the Capitol could crumble to the ground and still the Democrats would be for Israel.
I’m very pleased…according to one study that I have seen, that 70 percent of Jewish people in our country voted Democratic in this election. That’s very important point in terms of our connection. I have said to people when they ask me, If this Capitol crumbled to the ground, the one thing that would remain would be our commitment to our aid, I don’t even call it our aid, our cooperation with Israel. That’s fundamental to who we are.
The event was the Israeli American Council conference (which I’m catching up to a month later). Pelosi went down a list of supporters of Israel, many of them Jewish, in positions of House leadership in the new Congress:
I want you to take great pride in the fact that Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was here in a bipartisan situation is a what we call a cardinal, a Jewish cardinal in the Appropriations Committee. The cardinals are the chairs of the committees. She has a very important position on Appropriations, which is where this bill of funding for Israel takes place.
Two people who were going to be here. Lois Frankel is on the Foreign Affairs committee. Alcee Hastings on rules, but he’s our top person, our chairman of the Helsinki [Commission]. That’s important in terms of antisemitism as well as pro Israel initiatives.
Ted Deutch from this area is the chair of the middle east subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The list goes on. Nita Lowey is the chair of the Appropriations Committee, the first woman, and a big supporter of Israel as you know, strong Israel US relationship. Eliot Engel is the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Adam Schiff is the chair of the Intelligence Committee. So we have people very well placed who share our values in terms of the heart, Israel in heart and Israeliness in spirit. Shared values. Remove all doubt in your mind. It’s just a question of not paying attention to a few people who may want to go their own way but as far as our Congress is concerned we try very hard to unify, to have bipartisanship in all of this.
She offered her standard line on Israel being the greatest thing that happened in the 20th century.
I believe that the establishment of the state of Israel was the greatest political accomplishment of the Twentieth Century… Here was this beacon of hope, of values….
She shamed the Palestinians:
We have to I think in Congress make it really clear to Palestinians that we expect them to be responsible negotiators and we haven’t seen a lot of that thus far. And we have to say in our friends in the Arab world, you can weigh in on this in a way that makes them responsible negotiators. Because we really want again to see Israel prevails as a Jewish, democratic state. But we have to see that there is security.
She said it had to be communicated to young Americans that support for Israel is not an “issue”:
This is a glorious undertaking that we are in… Let us make this a joyous reach to young people, that they will be part of sharing values that are fundamental to our country, fundamental to us in our relationship with Israel… Let’s make this something that takes them to a place where they will be leaders and they will be proud.
It’s part of who we are as Americans…. This is not an issue, this is a value, this is an ethic, this is part of who we are…