President Joe Biden met with the Israeli president at the White House last Tuesday in an effort to bolster relations between the two longtime and vital allies. But the White House must do more to tamp down the anti-Israeli sentiment that frequently bubbles up in the party’s far-left progressive wing.
The week before, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Washington Democrat who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told a group of pro-Palestinian protesters that “Israel is a racist state.” Rep. Jayapal quickly walked back her comments. Democratic House leaders issued a tepid statement condemning her misguided assertion.
But this has become a pattern in recent years. In 2021, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., compared the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban. Previously, Democrats had debated whether to censure Rep. Omar for what critics called antisemitic comments. They never did — and many of her progressive colleagues defended her against condemnations from more moderate Democrats.
It was not so surprising, then, that nine House Democrats — all of the progressive variety — this week opposed a resolution asserting that the United States will support Israel, condemning antisemitism and declaring that the only democracy in the Middle East is not a racist apartheid state. The New York Times noted that “the number of Democrats who went on record against the resolution … was striking, underscoring a growing boldness on the left for challenging Israel.”
This “boldness” reflects a myopic and highly partisan agenda that borders on antisemitism and depends on a willful distortion of history. Mr. Biden didn’t help matters when he publicly stated in March that he wouldn’t invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House “in the near term.” He has since announced that he will host such a meeting later this year. That will be an opportunity for the two nations to reaffirm their strong ties even as the relationship evolves.
It’s an unfortunate reality that Democratic support for Israel has deteriorated over the past decade. Mr. Biden could help turn that around — if he wanted to — by forcefully condemning comments like those made by Rep. Jayapal while articulating the value of our long-term friendship with Israel.
Israel is this nation’s most important ally in a region that has long been wracked by conflict and turmoil. While no two countries will see eye to eye on every geopolitical issue, the United States and Israel have a long history of shared goals, interests and values that form the foundation for mutual respect and cooperation that mustn’t be undermined by ignorance and petty political disputes.