The Democratic Party leadership is willing to compromise with Bernie Sanders on climate change, the green new deal, medicare for all, immigration, criminal justice. But not on Israel.
Mark Mellman, president of the Israel lobby group Democratic Majority for Israel and a longtime Democratic Party insider, indicated that the Biden forces refused to set up a joint task force with Sanders on foreign policy/Israel this spring, even as they were willing to negotiate other policy differences, because the leadership won’t budge on that question.
“As our friends in the former Soviet Union used to say, It is not a coincidence that there was not a task force on foreign affairs,” Mellman told the American Jewish Committee in a webinar today. “There was a decision to do joint task forces on domestic issues, on global warming, health care and other issues… I think it’s fair to say that it was felt that that would not be productive with respect to foreign policy and so it was not done, with reason.”
Mellman said Biden’s resulting shifts to the left “have gone a long way in terms of cementing party unity,” and for the “larger goal of defeating Donald Trump, that party unity is necessary.” But not on Israel.
There were compromises made on a range of issues, in health care and climate change etc. It’s good that those compromises were made. I don’t think we’re going to see that level of compromise with respect to the Israel issue.
Bernie Sanders bragged about the Party’s movement last week:
“On issue after issue, whether it was education, the economy, health care, climate, immigration, criminal justice, I think there was significant movement on the part of the Biden campaign.”
Mellman said that in the next day or so the Biden team will put forward its platform language on Israel and it will be very pro-Israel in “emotional” terms, as Joe Biden is.
“It will sound like Joe Biden sounds reflecting both deep personal commitment and ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.”
Democratic Majority for Israel, which is aligned with the lobby group AIPAC, has been in on the drafting, Mellman said.
We’ve had a number of ongoing conversations with the platform drafters and the Biden campaign, and I’m very pleased I think we’re going to see a text… that continues the tradition of strong support for Israel that the Democratic Party has had in the past and that Joe Biden has displayed personally.
There will be opposition but the Party leaders will put it down.
It is possible that people will try and amend that platform both at the drafting committee level and then down the road in a couple of weeks at the platform committee and potentially even at the convention… I think those attempts are not likely to succeed. But we are certainly alert to those attempts and we’ll be fighting back against any attempt to amend the platform in an anti-Israel way.
Mellman said only a very small minority of the Democratic Party is critical of Israel. Only 13 have signed on to legislation that would cut aid to Israel over annexation. The number includes Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib. “They are not very influential in this respect in the Democratic Party on these issues,” Mellman said. “[Though] Trump will try and make them seem that way in order to attempt to further his own ambitions.”
He likened the Israel-critical bloc in the Democratic Party to “white supremacists and anti-Israel people” in the Republican Party. “Both parties have elements in them that are less than congenial as far as the Amerian Jewish community is concerned…”
Though Democratic Majority for Israel’s job is bringing a pro-Israel message from the center-left. Because the Israel message has only come from the right in recent years, Mellman said.
He also said that “Israel is a threshold issue for American Jews.” Once a politician is seen as “fundamentally pro-Israel,” Jewish voters move on to other issues. Joe Biden meets that standard and more so. And today Jewish voters see both parties as both pro-Israel, so “it’s not a voting issue.”
Mellman was caustic on the subject of liberal Zionist Peter Beinart’s bombshell writings of last week in Jewish Currents and the New York Times calling for one state in Israel and Palestine, thereby ending the Jewish state.
Look the main thing Peter Beinart wants is for this to be discussed. I hesitate to discuss it too much… I think it’s wrong on the facts, wrong on the history, wrong on the politics, wrong on the morality, wrong in almost every conceivable way.
Mellman said in publishing Beinart’s piece, The New York Times was “perhaps equally irresponsible” as it had been in publishing Sen. Tom Cotton’s op-ed calling for a military response to racial-justice demonstrators in June. That op-ed resulted in two editors losing their jobs, and the Times apologizing for the piece.
Mellman said that Beinart’s recommendation won’t get traction. In the Congress, only Rep. Rashida Tlaib is a one stater. “J Street was forced to withdraw their endorsement of her because she’s a one stater,” he said. “But she’s the only one. Even Ilhan Omar has supported two states.”