(December 21, 2018 / JNS) Editor’s Note: A number of incoming members of Congress, including those in the upcoming Democratic House majority, will bring new faces to the Jewish and pro-Israel community. JNS will introduce some of these elected legislators as part of its “Meet the Newbie” series.
Democrat Haley Stevens, 35, defeated Republican nominee Lena Epstein, who is Jewish, in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District in the 2018 midterm elections to replace the retiring Republican Rep. Dave Trott.
On her campaign website, Stevens extensively discusses her pro-Israel platform: “As the only democracy in the Middle East and our strongest ally in the region, Israel and her security are paramount to our interests at home and abroad.”
“In Congress, I look forward to strengthening this partnership and exploring new ways to build upon Israel’s and America’s symbiotic economies,” she continued. “Israel has created countless technologies that Americans depend upon for agriculture, energy, health care, commerce, transportation and national security, among many others.”
“Through my experience leading a national workforce development program and building the first online training program for digital manufacturing in the U.S., I have seen the importance of creating high-skilled, new economy jobs of the future,” she added. “I will make it a goal to develop strategic plans to build on these technological successes together.”
Stevens also expressed Israel’s right to defend itself.
“With Israeli civilians and members of the IDF subjected to rocket fire and terrorism, Congress must continue to support critical programs that help Israel upgrade its fleets in air, land and sea; enhance the mobility of its ground forces; and continue to strengthen its missile-defense capabilities,” she said. “The landmark Memorandum of Understanding reached under the Obama Administration provided Israel with $38 billion to accomplish these goals, and I look forward to building upon Israel’s capabilities by supporting U.S.-Israel collaborative missile defense programs, including Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow weapon systems.”
Moreover, she expressed her concerns about the Iranian threat: “With Iran’s human-rights violations, support for terror groups like Hezbollah and Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar Assad, its rhetoric towards Israel and continued testing of ballistic missiles, Iran must be held accountable.”
JNS talked with Stevens by phone. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: On your campaign website, you discuss the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Besides fundamental values, and military and technological interests, what else do you think the United States and Israel share?
A: Israel shares democratic values, in addition to the military and technological interests.
Q: What’s your reaction to some of the anti-Israel verbiage coming from fellow incoming Democrats Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?
A: I’m concerned, and I oppose BDS.
Q: Also on your website, you mention your opposition to the BDS movement and your support for legislation to combat it. What is your reaction to groups, such as the ACLU, that have come out against congressional bills such as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act?
A: I understand why the ACLU has concerns that relate to freedom of speech, and I hear that. That being said, it is very important to fight BDS.
Q: On your campaign website you state, “Whatever one thought of the Iran deal, the U.S. is no longer a part of it, and we must chart a way forward.” What is your stance on the Iran deal? Did you support the president withdrawing from it and reimposing sanctions?
A: There are parts of the deal I did not like. I have a lot of concerns with the approach [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump is taking. The president gave up some benefits when he withdrew the U.S. from it. I did not support reimposing sanctions.
Q: What is your reaction to anti-Semitism in the United States and worldwide?
A: I’m very concerned about the rise in anti-Semitism. I’m disturbed over the anti-Semitic rhetoric and anti-Semitic violence. I’m [especially] concerned over the anti-Semitism in Southeastern Michigan.
I’ve also monitored the anti-Semitism in Europe. It’s a reminder that we must be strong in standing with Israel.
Q: Do you have any specific plans in Congress regarding the U.S-Israel relationship, such as introducing legislation?
A: I look forward to going to Israel in the summer along with fellow members of Congress. I applaud the work those such as Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), who’s on the Foreign Affairs Committee, has done. I look forward to strengthening the U.S. relationship with Israel.