Why Biden might be the Dems’ last pro-Israel president

Long-range planners in Israel worry Joe Biden may be the last pro-Israel Democratic president.

More fundamentally, they fear Israel is quickly becoming a wedge issue separating Democrats from Republicans.

Backing for the nation-state of the Jewish people has historically been bipartisan, with Democrats being slightly more supportive.

But this has changed recently for several reasons.

First, Israel has moved more to the right as the result of demographic changes: increased immigration from former Communist countries and higher birth rates among ultra-Orthodox and Sephardic Jews.

And the refusal of Palestinian leaders to accept peace proposals has weakened the left.

Second, the Republican Party, especially its influential evangelical base, has become more supportive of Israel than old-line business-oriented Republicans used to be.

Finally, and most important, younger Democrats are moving to the left (and away from the increasingly conservative Israeli government).

Benjamin Netanyahu
Many liberals are turned off by Israel’s conservative government.

And their decreasing support for Israel is not necessarily limited to the current regime.

It may represent a fundamental turn toward the Palestinian narrative, which emphasizes “anti-colonialism” and other mantras of the left.

This shift away from bipartisan backing has not yet been felt on the ground.

Military and intelligence cooperation between the two nations is as strong as it has ever been. With a few exceptions, so is diplomatic cooperation.

But domestic political support among elected Democratic officials has wavered of late.

This reflects the ambivalence among many Democratic voters about Israel, with recent polls showing increasingly favorable attitudes toward the Palestinian side by younger Democrats, including young Jews.

The growing influence of the rabidly anti-Israel radical wing of the Democratic Party may portend the future.

It will certainly have an effect on the primary, where a relatively small but energized group can determine the outcome — as evidenced by the 2018 primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a heavily Democratic New York district.

We will likely see more such victories by radical anti-Israel Democrats in years to come.

The diminishing support for Israel among the Democratic Party’s left wing coupled with the expanding support among Republicans has not yet had a discernable impact on American Jews, who still vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been vocal about her criticism of Israel.

That’s because Israel is less central to Jewish voters’ identity than it used to be.

Other issues — such as choice, the environment, gay and transgender rights, gun control, separation of church from state — are at least equally important.

Indeed, Israel is more important to many Christian evangelicals than to some Reform and Conservative Jews.

Candidates reflect the views of voters, so our fear that Biden ends up the last Democratic candidate for president who strongly supports Israel may well prove accurate.

If so, Israel will become even more of a wedge issue, especially since all likely Republican candidates in 2024 and beyond are certain to continue Donald Trump’s vigorous advocacy.

That wedge is evident already in several European countries, where the government’s support for Israel depends on whether the right or left wins.

Israel must prepare itself for that eventuality here as well. It cannot count on pressure by American Jewish voters, most of whom are likely to continue to vote Democrat even if that party turns away from Israel.

Things may change, of course. If Israel were to become involved in a hot war with Iran that posed an existential threat, many more Jewish voters might prioritize their support.

If the Israeli government were to move more toward the center, some voters could view it more favorably.

The same might be true if a deal were made with the Palestinians.

The Gaza Strip
Recent polls show increasingly favorable attitudes toward the Palestinian side by younger Democrats, including young Jews.

But no one can count on any such changes. The likely future is a growing wedge between the Democrats and Republicans over Israel.

This poses a dilemma for longtime Democrats like us who do prioritize backing for Israel.

Should we remain within the Democratic Party and try to influence it away from its shift against Israel?

Or should we give up on the party we have supported for so long and help the party now on the Israel side of the wedge?

One of us (Alan) is planning to remain a Democrat and vote for Biden while seeking to marginalize the radical anti-Israel elements in that party.

The other (Andrew) has decided to vote for a Republican.

Others like us are making similarly painful choices.

Alan Dershowitz is professor emeritus at Harvard Law School and the author of Get Trump, “Guilt by Accusation” and “The Price of Principle.” Andrew Stein, a Democrat, served as New York City Council president, 1986-94.

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