Conservative group: Democratic Party is no longer pro-Israel – Jonathan Swan/TheHill
The Democratic Party no longer supports the State of Israel, according to the leader of an influential conservative Jewish group.
“A lot of people believe what I’m going to say, and unfortunately no one has had the courage to say it,” says Matthew Brooks, the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“We as a Jewish community have to take a long, hard step back and acknowledge the reality … that today there is one pro-Israel party and that is the Republican Party.”
Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is the major financial sponsor of the RJC, and the group’s board includes other Republican mega-donors such as hedge fund manager Paul Singer and Mel Sembler, the former U.S. ambassador to Italy and Australia who is a prominent Jeb Bush supporter.
Brooks says that other Jewish organizations are promoting a “charade” that Democrats still support Israel, but he said such a position was no longer credible given Democrats’ overwhelming support for President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Asked whether he felt that the current Democratic Party poses a threat to Israel, Brooks looked down at his chair and said nothing for more than 30 seconds.
During the pause, the RJC’s communications director, Mark McNulty, who was sitting in on the interview on Wednesday in Brooks’s Capitol Hill office, said: “Depends on what your definition of threat is.”
Brooks eventually said: “I would not say that the Democratic Party is a threat to Israel.
“I would say that the policies of [the Obama] administration… have significantly undermined the relationship between the United States and Israel.”
“There is an understanding by everybody in the pro-Israel community that they will continue to promote the idea, despite the facts and despite the reality, that there is this unshakeable, bipartisan support for Israel,” Brooks added.
“The reality… is that the notion of bipartisan support for Israel, here and now, today sadly does not exist any more.”
Other prominent conservatives such as Elliot Abrams, the former adviser to George W. Bush, have questioned Democrats’ support for Israel amid the Obama administration’s deal with Iran and the president’s strained relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But establishment Republicans still routinely state that, while there are disagreements on policy between the parties, their Democrat opponents are equally sincere in their support for Israel.
Brooks says such declarations cannot be made “in good conscience” given the Iran deal, though he does single out the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, New York’s Eliot Engel, as “one of the good guys.”
The RJC supports hard-line national security policies, and spends its money pursuing two related goals: converting more American Jews into Republican voters, and ultimately electing a Republican Congress and president.
Field teams are already being hired in Florida and Ohio for the RJC’s 2016 efforts, and a head of data analytics has been appointed for the first time, with a mandate to target Jewish voters and turn disaffected Jewish Democrats into Republicans.
In the 2012 election cycle, the RJC super-PAC spent about $4.5 million on ads opposing Obama, and a separate though affiliated group funded exclusively by the Adelson family spent close to $2 million.
The RJC’s conventional political action committee routinely disperses campaign contributions to help re-elect pro-Israel Republicans.
Brooks will not say how much the group will spend in 2016 but he believes it “the trajectory is positive,” thanks partly to a lift in donations due to anti-Obama sentiment. He mentioned a recent meeting with a former Clinton donor in New York in which the donor — a lifelong Democrat — wrote RJC a check for $25,000 “on the spot.”
Asked about the 2016 candidates, Brooks says the RJC will not intervene in the GOP primaries. He declined to offer his views on the frontrunners Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, but did not seem thrilled with Carson’s tendency to use Nazi analogies to describe U.S. politics.
“I think we all agree that there needs to be a greater level of sensitivity on the part of all political candidates… on using, or misusing as the case may be, Holocaust references and imagery,” Brooks said, when asked what he thought about Carson’s Nazi references.
“I think we all agree that we need less on the Holocaust imagery,” he added. “But the bigger threat to the Jewish community is the Democratic Party moving away from its traditional pro-Israel roots.”