Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Israel’s supporters were hoping Hillary Clinton could forestall the Democratic Party’s seemingly inevitable turn against the Jewish state. Clinton’s loss last week means we’re officially après Hillary — and must prepare for the flood.
This could be the last US presidential election that Israelis don’t have to watch with existential dread.
At least, the first signs of a post-Clinton Democratic Party aren’t good. Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, a fiery critic of Israel, is the front-runner to be the next Democratic National Committee chairman.
As Scott Johnson detailed in The Weekly Standard when Ellison was on the verge of winning his House seat in 2006, before his congressional career Ellison had worked with Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and even defended Farrakhan against accusations of anti-Semitism.
Ellison has left Farrakhan far behind, but his Israel criticism remains scathing. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported, Ellison “has organized letters urging pressure on Israel, and was an advocate of drawing lessons from the UN Goldstone Report following the 2009 Gaza War.” Even Richard Goldstone, the author of the infamously anti-Israel report, wound up essentially disowning it.
On a trip to Israel last summer, Ellison posted a photo of a sign in Hebron declaring Israel to be an apartheid state and land thief. He has also called for Israel to end the blockade on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip — despite the fact that Gaza-based terrorists have launched over 11,000 rocket attacks on Israeli civilians since Israel withdrew from the strip in 2005. Amid the 2014 war to stop those attacks, Israel discovered that Hamas had built a vast system of underground tunnels from Gaza to Israel in preparation for mass terror attacks.
Yet Ellison is far from a lone voice among Democrats; indeed, he’s co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In his quest for the party chairmanship, Ellison has the backing of soon-to-be Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer — who prides himself on his pro-Israel bona fides and is now using his credibility on the issue to elevate Ellison. (Retiring Sen. Harry Reid offered his own endorsement over the weekend.)
Schumer might just be bowing to the new reality. According to the Pew Research Center, Democrats sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians by a 43-29 margin — but that’s far closer than just a few years ago.
And among liberal Democrats, it flips: Liberals prefer the Palestinians by a 40-33 margin.
We saw this play out over the summer, as Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Sanders had massive support among young liberals, who are increasingly hostile to Israel. Hillary won the nomination, but the message was clear: The future of the Democratic Party clearly belongs to those backing Sanders.
Diving into the numbers only paints a bleaker picture. In their book “Our Separate Ways: The Struggle for the Future of the US-Israel Alliance,” Dana Allin and Steven Simon (the latter a former Mideast adviser to President Obama) argue demographics will pull the two countries apart.
Hispanics, who accounted for more than 50 percent of US population growth between 2000 and 2014, according to Pew, vote overwhelmingly Democratic, as do African-Americans. Allin and Simon predict that minorities will see more in common with the Palestinians than with Israel (the daft comparisons between Jim Crow and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians get ever more common), and Democratic priorities will reflect that.
“And,” the authors write, touching on what really worries the pro-Israel community, “it will inflame the left-right divide in America.”
Democrats are in the minority now, but won’t be forever, and will obviously field a presidential candidate in 2020. What happens then?
“In the absence of active demonization by” Obama, says one official at a pro-Israel organization, “I think we’re still a cycle or two away from Democrats turning on Israel” full force. But, he notes, the future isn’t bright — and “progressives are lost, of course.”
Israeli officials are used to being able to count on bipartisan support in Congress, and they didn’t seem too worried no matter which way the US presidential election went this year. It might be the last time they have that luxury.