(JTA) — A Michigan Democrat who is all but certain to become a congresswoman said she would “absolutely” vote against military aid to Israel, sparking criticism from a Jewish Democratic group.
The candidate, Rashida Tlaib, also said in an interview that she favors a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as opposed to a two-state solution that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, recently won the Democratic nomination in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District. The Republicans are not running a candidate in the Detroit-area district.
She is one of two Muslim women likely to be the first to be elected to Congress. The other is Ilhan Omar, who handily won her Democratic primary Tuesday in a Minneapolis-area district.
Asked whether she would consider slashing military aid to Israel in a Monday interview with Britain’s Channel 4, Tlaib responded, “Absolutely, if it has something to do with inequality and not access to people having justice. For me, U.S. aid should be leverage. I will be using my position in Congress so that no country, not one, should be able to get aid from the U.S. when they still promote that kind of injustice.
“So much is about ‘let’s choose a side,’” she continued, opining on the Israeli-Arab conflict. “I am for making sure that every single person there has every right to thrive.”
In a subsequent interview Tuesday with In These Times magazine, Tlaib endorsed a one-state solution and supported the free speech rights of BDS activists, who push for Boycotts, Divstment and Sanctions against Israel.
“One state,” she said in response to a question about whether she supports a one- or two-state solution. “It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work. I’m only 42 years old but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King. This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work.”
That position runs counter to the stance of JStreetPac, a group affiliated with the liberal Middle East policy organization, which has endorsed her. According to her candidate page on JStreetPac’s website, Tlaib “believes that the US should be directly involved with negotiations to reach a two-state solution.”
J Street told JTA on Wednesday that it is seeking clarification from Tlaib’s campaign regarding her recent statements.
“JStreetPAC was created to demonstrate the wellspring of political support that exists for candidates who take pro-Israel, pro-peace positions, chief among them, support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” read the statement to JTA from Jessica Rosenblum, J Street’s senior vice president of public engagement. “We are clear and unequivocal with all the candidates who we consider for endorsement what our core principles and commitments are. We only endorse candidates who have affirmed support for them.”
In response to Tlaib’s Monday statement on military aid on Britain’s Channel 4, the Jewish Democratic Council of America cited joint military and missile programs the following day in describing the U.S.-Israel relationship as “mutually beneficial.” It said that “threatening to cut military assistance to Israel is inconsistent with the values of the Democratic Party and the American people.”
The group pledged to engage with Tlaib and explain why “U.S. military aid to Israel is a national security priority.” The statement came out at approximately the same time as Tlaib’s In These Times interview and does not reference it.
Speaking to the Huffington Post last week, Tlaib said she was “going to be a voice” for her family in the West Bank, with whom she maintains close ties, saying that she wanted to break down barriers between Israelis and Palestinians, “two people who have so much more in common.”
“I look forward to being able to humanize so many of them that have felt ‘less than’ for so long,” she said.
Like Tlaib, Omar has been critical of Israel and once called it an “apartheid regime.” More recently she came out against the boycott Israel movement,
Omar, a Somalia-born community activist and representative in the State House, is favored to win in November in the 5th District now held by Keith Ellison, who won the DFL primary for state attorney general. DFL is the state’s Democratic Party. Ellison was the first Muslim elected to Congress, in 2006.