‘Pro-Israel’ is not just for Republicans


WASHINGTON (JTA) – This is an exciting time for pro-Israel Democrats: Our newly empowered Democratic majority in the House is reasserting the values that define us as Democrats, including support for women’s rights, LGBT rights, civil rights and voting rights. We are beginning to reverse the cruel and divisive policies of the last two years. Champions of the U.S.-Israel relationship, like Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey, have been selected to lead key congressional committees that will define American international policy for years to come.

That’s why I’m excited to begin the 2020 election cycle as co-chair of the Democratic Majority for Israel. If you haven’t heard of us, that’s understandable – we’re new. But we’re inspired by a historic idea: That the alliance between the United States and Israel, built with decades of Democratic leadership, reflects important shared values and our national interests.

We’ve launched DMFI at a critical time: With the launch of the election cycle, the American people again will soon choose their elected representatives in Congress, in statehouses and in the White House. These elections could not be more important; so much is at stake.

We’ve begun DMFI because, at this moment in American history, it is critical that we pro-Israel Democrats engage and join in the debates and decision-making that will characterize the next two years, from county fairs and caucuses in the early states to the presidential debate stage. We will speak up for the Democratic Party’s proud traditions, supporting policies that will mean a better future for all America’s children and international policies that support our allies in their hopes for security and peace.

Presidential election years often lead to a national debate about who we are, and we welcome that debate. We are committed to promoting progressive values at home, supporting American global leadership in the world, and maintaining and strengthening support for the U.S.-Israel alliance. We will promote a two-state solution and Arab-Israeli peace through diplomacy and partnership, and defend Israel’s right to exist when it comes under attack.

We will talk about the U.S.-Israel relationship and how it benefits both countries, like the Israeli technology for water desalination that is helping drought-stricken California communities and the Israeli-developed bandages that saved Rep. Gabby Giffords’ life.

The United States helped Israel develop the Iron Dome defense system that protects Israeli families from Gaza-launched rockets. Now the U.S. Army wants to buy Iron Dome systems to defend Americans against incoming cruise missiles. That’s the kind of value-based partnership that Americans believe in.

Because DMFI is new, I want to to be clear about what we’re for and what we’re against.

We will oppose attempts to claim the title of “pro-Israel” as the exclusive property of one political party for its own purposes, a tactic that inevitably would lessen Israel’s support, and we will push back against that small number in our own party who are unwilling to affirm the facts of Israel’s existence or its right to defend the lives of its citizens like any other country.

In recent months, as we’ve worked to develop DMFI, I’ve had the chance to talk with a wide range of Democrats, from elected officials and community leaders to college students. Over and over I’ve heard that they would appreciate a Democratic political organization that can use modern campaign techniques as they advocate for the U.S.-Israel relationship and bring it to campaigns when appropriate.

We will work with student or community leaders who are ready to use their experience in political campaigns and defend elected leaders who are champions for the U.S.-Israel relationship if they come under attack.

I’ve spent years working in Democratic campaigns and in a Democratic White House. I know that political campaigns can be difficult and outcomes are never guaranteed. But I also know the difference that hard work and smart, well-planned campaigns can make – and I’m proud of the accomplished, diverse team that has joined our DMFI board.

As we saw in the 2018 midterm elections, the most powerful political force in a democracy is people speaking up for what they believe in. For the Democratic Majority for Israel, speaking for the majority of our party, that is precisely the opportunity and responsibility we gladly accept.

Ann F. Lewis is former director of communications for President Bill Clinton and co-chair of Democratic Majority for Israel.

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