Israeli Analysts Worry About Democratic Control of Congress

July 7, 2008 - 8:17 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - A Democratic takeover of Congress could have a long-term negative impact on U.S.-Israel strategic relations and the campaign against terrorism, according to some experts here.

They worry that Democrats may shift policy toward appeasement of terrorist groups and rogue states and placing greater trust in the United Nations.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Zalman Shoval told Cybercast News Service he did not expect the widespread bipartisan support that Israel has enjoyed for years to change, should Democrats win control of either the House or Senate, or both.

At the same time, however, "what one has to look at is whether a Democratic win in one or two houses of Congress will have a far-reaching impact on the administration's ability to pursue difficult [objectives] in its foreign policy, which could both influence and have a dire effect on Israel."

How the U.S. deals with Iran and Iraq were cases in point, Shoval said.

With regard to Iraq, "there is uncertainty [about] how to continue." Any decision on withdrawing American troops would have a bearing on the attitudes of Muslims and Arabs towards the U.S. and Israel, he said.

On Iran and its nuclear program, Shoval said, there were those who wanted to wait and see how effective U.N. sanctions would be, while others promoted the idea of engaging Iran in a bid to resolve the problems in Iraq.

The sanctions don't have much chance of succeeding, he argued, and it would be "ludicrous" to think of talking to Tehran about Iraq.

Bringing Iran into discussions about its neighbor would turn Iraq into a "major sphere of influence" for Iran, Shoval said.

'Worldview'

"Everything that takes place in the U.S. has an effect on ... the entire world [and] that applies also to the election," said Yoram Ettinger, a former diplomat who served as the Israeli Embassy's liaison to the U.S. Congress.

A shift from Republican to Democratic control would mean "a change in worldview of the majority on Capitol Hill," said Ettinger. "Worldview is the main factor behind U.S. policy throughout the world."

Ettinger said if congressional committee heads "consider Israel to be a strategic partner in the battle against terrorist organizations and rogue regimes" - as the Republicans do now, he said - this provides more opportunity for enhanced bilateral cooperation in areas such as joint military training exercises and development of counter-terrorism equipment.

But if committee chairmen held a worldview leaning towards "negotiations rather than confrontation with terrorist organizations and rogue regimes," there would be less focus on efforts to expand such cooperation, he said.

If a committee chair viewed the United Nations as "a positive element in international relations then certainly it will affect their attitude toward Israel, which happens to be burdened by discrimination [at the U.N.] there," Ettinger said.

"The more legislation follows a worldview which confronts terrorism with military actions rather than debates in the United Nations, the more [likely it is there will be] legislation to enhance the strategic role of Israel."

Ettinger also believes that if U.S. lawmakers see the Palestinian issue as the core of all the problems in the Middle East, they would be more likely to lean on Israel to resolve the conflict.

'Appeasement'

Independent Israeli analyst and columnist Jonathon Rosenblum sees an increasingly appeasement-oriented mindset in the Democratic Party.

Rosenblum said in a phone interview that Israelis were alarmed by the Democrats' orientation towards Europe as a role model and strong support for the U.N.

"A deep ambivalence towards Israel has infected the Democratic Party," he wrote recently.

Rosenblum cited a U.S. opinion poll comparing voter attitudes on the war in Lebanon and towards Israel, which he said showed Republicans to be far more supportive of Israel than Democrats.

"Though the Democratic Party is the political home of the vast majority of American Jews, 54 percent of Democrats advocate that the United States adopt a more neutral - i.e., less pro-Israel - stance to the Middle East, as opposed to only 29 percent of Republicans," wrote Rosenblum.

"In the recent Senate hearings on John Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations, Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic standard-bearer, repeatedly criticized Bolton for the fact that America is consistently the odd-man out at the United Nations, and stands outside the consensus of our European 'allies,' he said.

"One shudders to think where Israel would be if the United States ceased to be the 'odd-man-out' at the U.N. Recall that six of those so-called European allies, including France, voted in favor of a resolution of the U.N. Human Rights Commission specifically legitimizing terrorism against Israeli citizens to further Palestinian liberation," Rosenblum added.

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