Jewish values and Democratic Party values are in sync; there is no split among elected Democratic officials when it comes to Israel; the rise in anti-Israel movements on American campuses must be fought; and the Republicans are going to give Democrats a run for their money in November elections, but will fail to win the Senate.
These were some of the key points made by Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a recent interview with the Journal at the University of Southern California, where the Florida congresswoman and chair of the Democratic National Committee was attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 12 to promote her 2013 release, “For the Next Generation: A Wake-Up Call to Solving Our Nation’s Problems.”
A common figure on the Sunday and weekday news shows, Wasserman Schultz is known for her concise, forceful, sometimes aggressive remarks on issues such as health insurance, unemployment, abortion, and the Republican Party.
Florida’s first elected Jewish congresswoman, Wasserman Schultz has risen quickly within the party, becoming one of the most well known political faces at only 47.
And as “a liberal Democrat who’s not afraid to say it out loud,” as Wasserman Schultz said, pro-Israel Jews who vote Democrat should feel confident that their party stands behind the Jewish State as strongly as it always has.
“Despite millions of dollars being thrown by Republicans to try to persuade the Jewish community to support Republicans,” Wasserman Schultz said, “The Jewish community voted 70 percent in 2012 for Barack Obama.”
Wasserman Schultz even expounded on why she believes Judaism and Democratic Party values are in sync, and why American Jews tend to overwhelmingly vote Democrat.
“We are raised to believe in the importance of tikkun olam,” she said. “Being our brothers keeper and looking out for one another—those are all things that are hallmarks of the Democratic Party.”
“The Republicans are wrong on all those issues that matter to Jews,” Wasserman Schultz continued. “Democrats have made those issues priorities.”
While she said that the Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party, particularly in the House of Representatives, Wasserman Schultz feels confident that Democrats will buck many pundits’ predictions this November, and maintain control of the Senate.
Why? Because Americans’ attitudes towards the Tea Party, and thus towards the Republicans, have worsened since its peak in 2010.
“The Republicans have allowed the Tea Party to take them over, they have been obsessed with obstruction,” she said. “They were willing to shut the government down over denying health care.”
Asked during the interview about the perception that there is a divide on the Democratic left about support for Israel, Wasserman Schultz responded pointedly, “That’s just completely fabricated, it’s just totally untrue. That perception has not been growing.”
Although the vast majority of elected Democrats consistently support pro-Israel legislation, as Wasserman Schultz said, perception of division grew when, at the 2012 Democratic national convention in Charlotte, party leaders had to jump into crisis management mode upon a row over the party’s decision to reinstate into its platform that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, something that was removed following its presence in the 2008 party platform.
When former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for verbal “ayes” and “nos” amongst the conferences attendees, in regards to reintroducing the Jerusalem clause, the crowd sounded roughly split. Determined to put an end to the uncomfortable situation, Villaraigosa pushed the measure through, and reinstated the clause. Democratic leaders, including Wasserman Schultz, have insisted that the omission was unintentional.
In recent months, most attention within pro-Israel circles has been focused on two sets of negotiations. One, between the Israelis and Palestinians, which only recently fell apart. The second, between Western powers and Iran, on its nuclear program, which have made little, if any progress, since they were announced in Fall 2013.
Although, according to a January Huffington Post report, Wasserman Schultz had quietly opposed potential legislation that would automatically reinstate sanctions on Iran if a permanent deal on its nuclear program is not reached, she told the Journal that if no agreement is reached by the July 20 deadline, she would vote to immediately reapply the eased sanctions.
“Congress will send President Obama even stronger sanctions,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Like the President, I’m a pretty significant skeptic on whether or not this is actually going to result in a final agreement, but we have to try.”
She added that, when it comes to the boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) movement, which anti-Israel campus groups in the United States have recently spearheaded, Democrats must “push hard against it.”
“A lot of the young people who have embraced that movement, I don’t think they fully grasp the siege that Israel has been under for so long,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Part of it is, sadly, some anti-Semitism.”