Last month, we took the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee to task for the so-called “Unity Pledge” they promoted that was aimed primarily at stifling Republican criticism of President Obama’s attitude toward Israel. The “pledge” was a reflection of Democratic Party talking points we’ve been hearing for the last decade in which they demand that support for Israel be considered off-limits for campaign debate. Such a request is blatantly partisan, as it not only gives left-wingers with bad records on Israel a pass but also treats the strong support for the Jewish state on the part of many Republicans as irrelevant.
But, as we knew all along, the Democrats’ idea of “bipartisanship” on the issue only enjoins silence about liberals who go off the pro-Israel reservation, not conservatives. Thus, we read of Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s condemnation of Republicans who want to “zero out” aid to Israel with no small amusement. If we were to hold her to the same standards Democrats have tried to enforce about restricting comments about the pro-Israel records of their candidates, Wasserman Schultz’s angry riposte to some of the statements uttered at last Saturday’s Republican presidential debate on foreign policy was entirely out of bounds. The alacrity with which the DNC chair jumped on the opening created by Rick Perry’s pledge to make all nations getting foreign aid — including Israel — start at zero and then make a case for getting any money, demonstrates the absurdity of the Democrats’ lame effort to silence criticism of Obama on the grounds that Israel is a bipartisan issue.
Hypocrisy aside, Wasserman Schultz is entirely within her rights to take Republicans who want to mess around with Israel’s aid package to task, though she wrongly lumped in Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich with Perry’s proposal. There is an argument to be made, at least in principle, for requiring all government agencies and even foreign aid recipients to justify their requests. And Perry did specify he believed Israel deserved considerable aid from the U.S. But considering most of the aid to Israel (and, to be fair, many other countries) is in the form of credits towards buying military equipment manufactured here in the United States, the idea that this money is a drain on the American economy is a misnomer. Perry’s plan would also make a hash of long term budget plans on joint U.S.-Israel anti-missile projects and other vital defense items. Like much of his proposal to downsize the U.S. government, it is a well-intentioned but simplistic approach that would create more problems than it solves.
But contrary to Wasserman Schultz’s attack, the focus of the discussion at the GOP debate was not cutting aid to Israel, which is something that is only supported by libertarian extremist Ron Paul, but on the question of continuing aid to Pakistan. It was on that point that Romney and Gingrich seemed to agree with Perry, not on Israel.
Wasserman Schultz is entitled to take her shot at the sinking Perry for his mistaken insistence on lumping Israel in with a host of other nations (including the Palestinian Authority) that do not deserve U.S. aid. But few pro-Israel voters will be fooled by her attempt to change the subject from President Obama’s blatant hostility to Israel’s government and his feckless leadership on the issue of stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Nor should her blast at a Republican’s position on Israel be forgotten the next time Democrats try to shut down debate about Obama’s record.