Next Week and the Future of Bipartisan Support for Israel

Next week, notes Shmuel Rosner, three significant events will take place. On March 1, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will hold its annual conference; the next day is Super Tuesday—when primaries are held in a number of states, possibly leaving one Democratic candidate with a lock on the nomination—and on the next, Israel will have its second do-over election. The outcome of the two elections could have serious repercussions for the U.S.-Israel alliance:

AIPAC is the epitome of bipartisan support for Israel. Yet the presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has vowed to skip it. AIPAC strongly supported moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, yet Bernie Sanders says moving it back to Tel Aviv “would be on the table” under certain circumstances. [By contrast, in 1995, an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress called for relocating the embassy to Jerusalem.] Can AIPAC forge a path for a bipartisan U.S. policy under such terms? And what would it be? A relocation of the embassy to Modi’in, about halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

The larger question about bipartisanship isn’t the one about this or that leader. . . . It is the question about general public support for Israel and all that comes with it. The elected leaders usually reflect their voters’ beliefs; hence, one must wonder about these [American] voters. Do they deem Israel an ally, or a rogue [state]? Is it seen as a model, or as a pariah? Is it seen as a country deserving sympathy, or condemnation; assistance, or pressure?

Debates about Israel-related policies always have been a part of public discourse, and no one expects the two main parties to agree on all the details. However, some tenets were considered foundational to the idea of bipartisan support, and these also seem under threat. Military aid to Israel is one such topic. When Sanders says, “Aid can be conditioned on Israel taking steps to end the occupation and move toward a peace agreement,” that’s a change.

Bipartisanship is defined by basic agreement on some fundamental features of policy toward Israel. But when everything—including the embassy’s location, the [Palestinians’] “right of return,” aid, the Iran threat—is open for discussion, what is left of bipartisanship is very little: namely, the cliché that all candidates make sure to repeat about “Israel’s right to exist.” Well, thank you. You have a right to exist, too.

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: 2020 Election, AIPAC, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, US-Israel relations

Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria