(November 7, 2018 / JNS) The Democratic Party retook the majority in the House of Representatives on Tuesday night after a seven-year absence.
Despite the election of certain pro-BDS candidates, such as New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, the heads of committees significant for furthering policy related to Israel are mainstream Democrats: New York’s Eliot Engel for Foreign Affairs, and Nita Lowey, also from New York, for Appropriations.
“The House looks likely to be headed by leadership, including [Nancy] Pelosi and [Steny] Hoyer, who are strongly pro-Israel and revered by many in the Jewish community,” Norm Eisen, an attorney and former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic under President Barack Obama, told JNS. “So the baseline of support for Israel’s security and for the Jewish people globally will remain strong.”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Zionist Organization of America expressed optimism over what will be a split Congress, with the Senate remaining in Republican hands, even gaining a few seats.
“At a time of intense partisan polarization, candidates from both parties overwhelmingly expressed their support for Israel’s security and her efforts to reach peace with all of her neighbors,” AIPAC said in a statement.
“The 116th Congress will include many new members, as the American people elected over 90 new members of the House and Senate,” continued the organization. “Virtually all of the victors in this year’s election have issued position papers and statements reflecting their strong commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
ZOA national president Morton Klein told JNS, “I’m thrilled that my friend, Congressman Eliot Engel, one of Israel’s strongest supporters, will be chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”
“He is one of Congress’s most principled and courageous leaders, who fully understands the truth of the Arab-Islamic war against Israel and the West,” said Klein. “He spoke out about the dangers of the Oslo Accords and [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat’s violations of it from the very beginning in 1993.”
However, Klein expressed concern over the three pro-BDS candidates.
“I am very worried that several extremely anti-Israel people have won House seats in Minnesota, Michigan and New York—the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” he said. “They have condemned U.S. aid to Israel and have promoted the ugliest Palestinian propaganda lies against Israel, including Israel committing ‘massacres in Gaza.’ ”
National Council of Young Israel president Farley Weiss echoed Klein’s sentiment.
“I think support for Israel will remain strong,” he told JNS. “The concern we have is that some new Democrats are not favorable for Israel, and the hope is that they will be marginalized. The House Democratic leadership and heads of most committees should be supporters of Israel if they remain as expected.”
“A divided Congress should have no impact on the pro-Israel policies of the administration,” he added.
Here are the races previously noted as key to the Jewish and pro-Israel community.
Note: Jewish population figures are from 2012, and according to the North American Jewish Data Bank by the Jewish Federations of North America. All results are projections from the Associated Press.
NEW JERSEY 7
Jewish population: 46,000 (6.28 percent of district population)
Geography: This district covers a large part of northern and western New Jersey, including wealthy New York City suburbs.
Result: With 50.3 percent of the vote, Tom Malinowski is projected to unseat five-term Republican Rep. Leonard Lance. The former served under Obama as the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Malinowski is a proponent of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
As a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch, Malinowski advocated against American support of the Israeli military and opposed the United States for giving the Israeli Defense Forces cluster munitions. He also asked then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton to not back Israel’s construction of an “illegal” wall along the West Bank.
NEW JERSEY 3
Jewish population: 38,000 (5.19 percent of district population)
Geography: This district covers part of central New Jersey.
Result: While the race is too close to call, incumbent Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur leads Democrat Andy Kim, 49.8 percent to 48.9 percent, respectively.
Quote: “There are voters where Israel is a top priority for them and would swing their vote regardless of party,” MacArthur’s campaign consultant, Chris Russell, told NJ.com. “People do vote on issues. This is one that is important to a significant group.”
Jewish population: 46,000 (4.98 percent of district population)
Geography: This district covers both part of northern Los Angeles County and Ventura County.
Result: Although the race is too close to call, Democrat Katie Hill leads incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Knight with 51.3 percent of the vote.
Hill, a nonprofit director whose organization is the state’s “largest nonprofit provider of homes for the homeless,” according to her campaign website, was endorsed by J Street, and condemned the overall violence in Gaza during the U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem in May and opposed America withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.
Jewish population: 31,000 (4.41 percent of district population)
Geography: This district covers Orange County, including Irvine and Laguna Hills.
Result: While the race is too close to call, incumbent Republican Rep. Mimi Walters leads Democrat Katie Porter with 51.7 percent of the vote.
Jewish population: 29,000 (4.13 percent of district population)
Geography: This district in Southern California covers Orange County, including Huntington Beach.
Result: With 50.7 percent of the vote, Democrat Harley Rouda is projected to unseat Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
Jewish population: 10,000 (1.42 percent of district population)
Geography: This district covers parts of San Diego County and Riverside County.
Result: Despite being indicted on campaign finance violations in August, incumbent Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter leads Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar by 54.2 percent (NBC News and CNN have already projected a Hunter victory).
Hunter supported the president for withdrawing from the Iran deal, which the congressman said “should never have been entered into,” and that leaving the agreement “presents the opportunity to better hold the Iranian regime accountable for its decisions.”
Campa-Najjar served in the Obama administration and is a grandson of Muhammad Yousef al-Najjar, who was a member of the Black September terrorist group that killed 11 members of the Israeli athletic team at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics and was assassinated by Israeli commandos in Beirut in 1973.
“As an American citizen living in the 21st century, I will never be able to understand or condone the actions and motivations of my grandfather,” he told Haaretz in February before telling local outlets that these remarks would not be utilized for political gain.
Jewish population: 17,500 (2.48 percent of district population)
Geography: This district is northwest of Detroit.
Result: In the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Dave Tortt, Democrat Haley Stevens is projected to win over Republican Lena Epstein, 52.1 percent to 44.9 percent, respectively.
Stevens, who served in the Obama administration as chief of staff of the auto-rescue task force, gave a general overview of her stance on the U.S.-Israel relationship: “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,” she states on her campaign website, without giving a stance on the Iran deal other than to state “we must chart a way forward” by preventing Iran “from getting a nuclear weapon and also deal with terrorism, rockets and regional destabilization. Diplomacy must be the first option and is the best solution, but all options must remain on the table.”
Epstein, a businesswoman who was the Michigan chair for the Trump campaign, was lambasted for inviting a Messianic rabbi to say a prayer for the 11 killed during the Oct. 27 shooting at Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Synagogue in Pittsburgh. She defended the move by saying that the rabbi came “because we must unite as a nation—while embracing our religious differences—in the aftermath of Pennsylvania.”
NEW YORK 19
Jewish population: 20,000 (2.79 percent of district population)
Geography: This district is located in Hudson Valley and the Catskills.
Result: Democrat Antonio Delgado is projected to unseat Republican Rep. John Faso, 49.8 percent to 47.6 percent, respectively.
Delgado recently came under fire for saying that “Israel is not a democracy.”
“Being pro-Israel and being pro-peace is critical, but I’m also pro-democracy, and as currently constructed, Israel is not a Jewish democracy,” he said. “Those settlements make it so that it can’t be.”
Faso rebuked his opponent: “Israel is not a democracy? Israel is a strong democracy. It is a vibrant democracy. It has got a vibrant free enterprise system. It has got a vibrant agricultural system and culture. Israel is a democracy. They are our main democratic ally in that region, and in fact, moving the embassy to Jerusalem was the right decision.”
Jewish population: 21,000 (3.01 percent of district population)
Geography: This district is just west of Houston.
Result: With 52.3 percent of the vote, Democrat Lizzie Fletcher is projected to unseat Republican Rep. John Culberson.
Fletcher has not said anything publicly about issues related to the Jewish and pro-Israel community.
Jewish population: 2,000 (0.27 percent of district population)
Geography: This district includes Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia.
Result: In the race to replace the retiring Tom Garrett, Republican small business owner Denver Riggleman is projected to win against Leslie Cockburn with 56.3 percent of the vote. The latter has come under fire from the pro-Israel community.
She and her husband Andrew Cockburn’s book, Dangerous Liaisons: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship, “is largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake. Its first message is that, win or lose, smart or dumb, right or wrong, suave or boorish, Israelis are a menace. The second is that the Israeli-American connection is somewhere behind just about everything that ails us,” according to a New York Times book review.