(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus as he tries to improve his standing with the Biden administration and among Democrats.
The meeting Sunday in Jerusalem was part of a visit sponsored in part by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It came as some U.S. Democrats are keeping their distance from Netanyahu because of his government’s efforts to sap the power of Israel’s judiciary.
The delegation was led by Rep. Lucy McBath, a Georgia Democrat whose suburban Atlanta district includes a substantial Jewish population, and Rep. Nikema Williams, a Georgia Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations.
From the outset of the meeting, Netanyahu emphasized his commitment to bipartisan U.S. support for Israel. “It’s an opportunity to cement our relationship which is always based on a bipartisan relationship between Israel and both sides of the House and both sides of the Senate,” he said, according to text released by his office. “It’s very important for us, and I view this meeting as an important building block in this relationship.”
The Israeli prime minister has so far failed to secure a White House meeting with President Joe Biden, who has made clear his unhappiness with Netanyahu’s far-right government and plans to overhaul Israel’s court system. The White House has said the two leaders will encounter each other later this month when both men attend the U.N. General Assembly but has studiously avoided confirming claims by Netanyahu officials that there will be a White House meeting.
Netanyahu has been dogged for years by suspicions among Democrats that he favors Republicans. Black Democrats especially were furious with him in 2015 when he accepted an invitation by Republicans to speak in Congress to lambast the Iran policies of President Barack Obama.
AIPAC has in recent months been aggressively been pushing back against claims by rival J Street that it is losing support among Democrats and progressives because its political action committee affiliates backed pro-Trump Republican election-deniers in the last election. AIPAC’s PACs, and PACs close to AIPAC have backed McBath, Williams and others on the delegation, including Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York.
The delegation will continue to Rwanda. Williams told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that a theme of the visit was recovery from genocide, sayin the delegation would study “the two countries’ effort to build common ground while developing and growing socially, culturally, and economically out of tragedy.”