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Iran, Israel, and the GOP Senate Primary Race

Carly Fiorina, who is in a tough Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in California, has raised a key foreign-policy issue. In a released statement, she notes:

President Ahmadinejad’s order yesterday to begin enriching uranium far past levels needed to power nuclear plants reveals the regime’s true intentions for its nuclear technology. Today’s news only further confirms that Iran is not serious about complying with the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty to which they are a party.

It is abundantly clear: engagement with Iran has failed. Negotiations have shown no progress. We cannot afford to talk any longer. We must act now to implement tough, crippling sanctions to persuade the Iranian regime to suspend its nuclear program and engage in serious negotiations.

Both the Senate and the House have passed strong versions of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. I urge our leaders in Congress to reconcile quickly their differences and present a bill to the President for his immediate signature and immediate implementation.

It will be interesting to see how significant an issue this becomes in the primary race. Her two opponents have yet to weigh in on this issue, but foreign policy — specifically, their stance toward Israel and the existential threat to the Jewish state’s existence posed by a nuclear-armed Iran — may well play a role in the race. One of her opponents, Chuck Devore, has in the past voiced strong support for Israel’s right of self-defense.

Tom Campbell, who has zipped into the lead in early polls, is quite another story. During his time in the House, Campbell was one of the few Republicans with a consistent anti-Israel voting record. In 1999, he introduced an amendment to cut foreign aid to Israel. This amendment, titled the Campbell Amendment, was defeated overwhelmingly on the House floor by a vote of 13-414. In 1999, Campbell was one of just 24 House members to vote against a resolution expressing congressional opposition to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. In 1997, Rep. Tom Campbell authored an amendment (also titled the Campbell Amendment) to cut foreign aid to Israel. The resolution failed 9-32 in committee. In 1990, Campbell was one of just 34 House members to vote against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.  The resolution passed the House 378-34. But Campbell has taken positions on more than just aid that have raised concerns about his views on Israel. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2000, Campbell, in his losing race against Dianne Feinstein, “told numerous crowds–including Jewish groups–that he believes Palestinians are entitled to a homeland and that Jerusalem can be the capital of more than one nation.”

By making Iran and foreign policy a focus of her campaign, Fiorina is most likely inviting comparisons with her opponents. We’ll see how California Republicans size up the candidates and whether their stance Iran and Israel become a major source of contention.