WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League responded to criticism of its joint unity pledge on Israel with the American Jewish Committee on how to treat Israel in political debate.
In its response Tuesday, the ADL said the National Pledge for Unity on Israel was “not intended to discourage raising questions about a candidate’s support for Israel,” as some groups have charged.
"In the best tradition of American political debate, we strongly encourage measured and thoughtful expressions of different points of view regarding U.S. policy toward Israel," the ADL said. "What prompted ADL and AJC to launch this initiative was a desire to ask participants in the political discourse to avoid harsh and personal rhetoric or tactics in the form of attacks on political opponents’ positions on Israel.
"Our principal concern in calling for the pledge is to put Israel ahead of politics to reinforce the broad-based support of the American people for Israel and to project it as bipartisan whenever possible."
Two conservative groups earlier this week had rejected the ADL-AJC unity initiative, which aims to rally bipartisan support for Israel while preventing Israel from becoming a wedge issue during the next election season. The pledge is aimed at national organizations, elected officials, religious leaders, community groups and individuals.
"An open and vigorous debate on the questions confronting our country is the cornerstone of the American electoral process," the Republican Jewish Coalition said in a statement. "Allowing the American people to see where candidates stand, pro and con on critical issues, is the hallmark of our free and democratic political system."
The Emergency Coalition for Israel said in a statement, "This attempt to silence those of us who have ‘questioned the current administration’s foreign policy approach vis-a-vis Israel’ will re-energize us. Nor, incidentally, should those who support the administration’s approach to Israel be bashful about making their case."
The unity pledge reads in part that "America’s friendship with Israel is an emotional, moral and strategic bond that has always transcended politics. Support for Israel has never been merely a plank in a Republican or Democratic Party or candidate’s platform. It is a core American policy that serves our nation’s most fundamental national interests."