Instead of focusing on the political infighting in Congress over aid to Israel, Naftali Bennett, in his first U.N. address as prime minister, touted his new government’s inclusiveness.
“In a polarized world where algorithms fuel our anger, people on the right and on the left operate in two separate realities, each in their own social media bubble. They hear only the voices that confirm what they already believe in. People end up hating each other,” Bennett told the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 27. “In Israel, after four elections in two years, with a fifth looming, the people yearned for an antidote: Calm. Stability. An honest attempt for political normalcy.”
He lauded his new right-center-left and Arab government, calling it the “most diverse government in our history.”
Bennett only briefly thanked the U.S. for its continued friendship and for Congress’ approval of $1 billion to replenish receptors for the Iron Dome defense system that protected Israel against hundreds of missiles launched from Gaza in the latest flare-up in May.
His conciliatory speech contrasted with some American Jewish groups, who had lambasted Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the $1 billion in aid was yanked from a bill to prevent a U.S. government shutdown and suspend the debt limit, at the urging of a few progressive members of the Democratic Party.
Republican Jewish Coalition National Chairman Sen. Norm Coleman castigated Democrats for “cowardly caving to the Israel-hating wing of their party and blocking vital assistance to support our ally.”
Subsequently, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations credited the “overwhelming bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives for legislation that provides $1 billion to the State of Israel for the restocking of its Iron Dome missile defense system.” The stand-alone bill passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.
Former Georgia legislator Mitchell Kaye suggested that the efforts of the small, progressive wing of the Democratic Party “backfired,” noting that the legislation passed by a vote of 420 to nine, with only eight Democrats and one Republican voting against. “What a tremendous statement of overwhelming bipartisan support for Israel,” he said.
Leaders of J Street’s Atlanta chapter said its self-identified pro-Israel, pro-peace organization supported the $1 billion replenishment of Iron Dome. However, when asked about passage of the same bill in the U.S. Senate, J Street Atlanta chapter chair Scott Rafshoon and chapter steering committee members Joe Sterling and Cedric Suzman said in a statement, “it seems likely the bill will pass the Senate, but it is important to note that earlier this year every House Republican voted against the package that contained the standard annual aid to Israel. It’s certainly possible that Senate Republicans could derail this aid bill in a similar fashion.”
Sterling and Suzman added that they were “dismayed that some have unhelpfully framed this as a vote to fund or to defund Iron Dome, when in fact it was a vote for additional funding outside the normal appropriations process. Vitriolic attacks seeking to present those Congress members who did not vote for this supplementary appropriation as antisemitic or sympathetic to terror have been particularly unhelpful. It’s overwhelmingly clear that the Democratic Party supports Israel.”
About the same time that the U.S. House of Representatives voted to re-fund the Iron Dome system, Michigan Rep. Andy Levin introduced the Two-State Solution Act, designed to “preserve conditions for, and improve the likelihood of, a two-state solution that secures Israel’s future as a democratic state and a national home for the Jewish people.” He had more than a dozen co-sponsors, including several other Jewish members of Congress.
Kaye dismissed the proposal, saying “the two-state solution has been dead and buried years ago and [this] is acknowledged by the Israelis, Palestinians and Arab world. No legislation on a piece of paper is going to change those realities.”
However, J Street Atlanta contends that “much of the Republican Party has seemingly abandoned the pursuit of peace and embraced a status quo of permanent occupation that has done nothing but ensure a continuing cycle of violence and injustice for Israelis and Palestinians.”
In his U.N. address, Bennett emphasized unity despite disagreements within Israel. “Healthy debate is a basic tenet of the Jewish tradition,” he said. “What we have proven, is that even in the age of social media, we can debate, without hate.”
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