(May 10, 2019 / JNS) Jewish and pro-Israel leaders decry the lack of support for Israel across the board by Democratic candidates running for president in 2020 after the barrage of rocket fire launched last weekend on civilians by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
“It is disappointing and troubling that only a few of the candidates spoke out in response to [the nearly] 700 rockets launched by terrorists against the civilian population of our close ally,” Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told JNS. “It is difficult to understand why the facts are so clear as reflected by the comments of many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.”
“This is not an ‘even-handed’ situation, but Palestinian terrorism and violence across an international border that every candidate and elected official should be able to condemn unequivocally,” he added.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, urged presidential candidates to speak out about the rocket attacks.
“We deeply appreciate the long-time support for Israel of both the Republican and Democratic parties,” he wrote on Twitter. “We continue to urge all leaders of those parties, including those Democratic and Republican presidential candidates who haven’t yet spoken to the recent rocket attacks from Gaza, to stand by Israel at this time of need.”
Democratic Majority for Israel president Mark Mellman echoed Jacobs’ sentiment.
“Our public statement called upon all the candidates to publicly condemn Hamas’s attack and support Israel’s right to self-defense,” he told JNS. “We are very pleased some did so, and sorry others did not, though I feel confident they all share that view.”
In its statement on Sunday, Democratic Majority for Israel said, “This is the time for political leaders in both parties to express solidarity with Israel, and their commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship. We urge all of the Democratic presidential candidates to condemn these terror attacks and reaffirm their support of Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Israel faced a massive barrage of more than 600 rockets fired by the Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip over a two-day period last weekend.
While U.S. President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and several leading House Democrats condemned the rocket attack and supported Israel’s right to self-defense, Democratic front-runners such as former Vice President Joseph Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg remained silent on the attacks.
‘We stand behind Israel’s right to self-defense’
Nevertheless, a handful of Democratic candidates did speak out and condemn the rocket fire.
“Of course, Israel has the right to defend itself. This is a very complicated situation. I think when we look at the loss of life due to military strikes, it’s just not being condoned or supported,” Wayne Messam, the mayor of Miramar, Fla., told JNS. “And it does not work towards working to come to a two-state solution. I would support any action that brings peace. I support any action that brings the two parties together so we can ultimately find peace.”
“The random rocket fire by Hamas into Israel must stop,” said former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “My heart goes out to the families of the Israelis killed and those wounded in these grievous attacks. I call on all parties to show restraint and de-escalate this situation immediately.”
“We support Israel’s right to defend itself, full stop,” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker told CBS News. “You have a terrorist organization that actually suppresses its own people, conducts acts of violence and human-rights violations against people who live in Gaza. And so Israel has a right to defend itself and it should do that.”
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet tweeted, “We stand behind Israel’s right to self-defense against rocket attacks by terror groups inside Gaza. Launching rocket attacks against innocent civilians is unacceptable, and we mourn the lives lost. A cessation in violence is a necessary step toward de-escalation and stability.”
Meanwhile, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel made scathing comments about Israel.
“The bloodshed in Palestine and Israel will not cease until the fundamentally unjust existing structure is jettisoned,” he said on Twitter. “We cannot support a right-wing racist regime committed to annexation and gradual ethnic cleansing. There must be a binational state with equal rights for all.”
The bloodshed in Palestine and Israel will not cease until the fundamentally unjust existing structure is jettisoned. We cannot support a right-wing racist regime committed to annexation and gradual ethnic cleansing. There must be a binational state with equal rights for all.
— Mike Gravel (@MikeGravel) May 6, 2019
“This is all too typical of today’s Democratic Party,” Republican Jewish Coalition spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS. “You cannot claim to support Israel if you can’t condemn the terrorists who shoot rockets at Israeli citizens that not only killed four innocent Israeli’s, but even killed a mother and child in Gaza. It should be any easy call to offer support for the only democracy in the Middle East.”