Three Takeaways from “Democrats and the US-Israel Relationship"

ALEC CAMHI: The Georgetown Israel Alliance on Tuesday hosted Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) for an event co-sponsored by GU Politics and College Democrats. A packed house turned out to the Reiss lecture hall to engage Deutch on the topic of Democratic politics and the US-Israel relationship.

As a Jewish Democrat, it was refreshing to hear a progressive voice reinforce the importance of a strong bond between Israel and the United States. Here are my three key takeaways from the event:

1.    Support for the US-Israel relationship must remain bipartisan. Deutch emphasized that many Democrats on the Hill are pro-Israel, but he agreed that Republicans have worked to brand themselves as the pro-Israel party at Democrats’ expense. This is a counterproductive way to approach the United States’ relationship with a critical strategic ally that is also the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. The United States’ bond with Israel must remain strong no matter who is in charge.

2.     Israel is a progressive issue. In light of President Trump’s emphatic support for Israel and his close relationship with Israeli President Binyamin Netanyahu, the pro-Israel stance is increasingly viewed as conservative. But support for the US-Israel relationship is a stance that progressives should take because of their ideology, not in spite of it, as they have for decades. No other country in the region shares our core values – liberty, democracy, and equality – more closely than Israel. To not support a strong US-Israel relationship is to allow those values to fall by the wayside. Instead, progressives should be holding up Israel as a model for other countries in the region.

3.     We need more dialogue around the US-Israel relationship. During the Q&A section of the event, students from a wide array of ideologies – some quite supportive of Israel, others more critical of its government – asked questions of Deutch. That exchanges of ideas – where both sides pressed each other to think critically about their positions, to be specific, and to address precise concerns about the US-Israel relationship – led to some of the most interesting conversations of the night. If we are to resolve disagreements and bridge gaps in understanding of the issue, it must come through the type of dialogue we saw Tuesday night.

Alec Camhi is a junior in the College and the political chair of Georgetown Israel Alliance. He joins On the Record as a guest contributor.

Max Magid