Posted by MataHarley on 24 May, 2011 at 4:19 pm. 12 comments already!


In an unbelievably tactless act, DNC Chairwoman, Rep Debbie Wasserman-Schultz used a joint delegates meeting between Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanhayu, and the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council as a human shield for political campaigning in the upcoming Presidential election. With the PM present, Wasserman Schultz point blank asked the RJC to “pledge” they would refrain from using Israel as a campaign issue. Matt Brooks, RJC executive director, likened it to hijacking “these meeting in order to, in front of the prime minister, put a gag order in effect to prevent us from speaking out on Israel.”

It is highly unusual for a sitting DNC chair to try to use a foreign prime minister to pressure another political group to act in a way that she deems appropriate. But this seems to have been what happened yesterday.

Asked about Netanyahu’s reaction, Brooks said Netanyahu was “clearly uncomfortable and at one point said, ‘do you guys want me to leave the room and give you guys some privacy?’”

It was reported that the awkward moment was leaked by Democrats (go no…) to Politico’s Ben Smith, who blogged on the same today. Reps Wasserman Schultz and Steve Israel both denied they were attempting to make Netanyahu “the referee”, stating they didn’t ask the PM to weigh in on the attempted campaign pact. Yet it still leaves me scratching my head as to that choice of timing to effect such an agreement that clearly goes against the grain of our First Amendment.

What must have been an embarrassing moment for Netanyahu – being used as a political football between Congressional supporters – may have prompted his opening comments of his address to Congress today:

“I am deeply honored by your warm welcome. And I am deeply honored that you have given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time.

Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time we were the new kids in town?

And I do see a lot of old friends here. And I do see a lot of new friends of Israel here. Democrats and Republicans alike.

Wasserman Schultz is, without a doubt, a staunch supporter of Israel. Which, of course, gives one pause for cause when she opts to act in questionable ways for political measures, such endorsing the anti-Israel group, J Street back in 2009. The chairwoman may have her hands full, attempting to shield her own peers that hit the campaign trail with their less than impressive records on Israeli support…. a point that Brooks made in a follow up letter to the DNC chair. Nevertheless, the attempt to stifle debate over Israel – a legitimate campaign point – merely for Democrats’ political cover was made even more offensive by the timing of such a request.

I also commend you personally for your pro-Israel record as a Congresswoman. There is no question that when it comes to how you vote, you have always been strong for Israel. Not everyone in Congress is like you and that’s why it is important for both of us to continue to speak out freely when individuals in our parties break from a position of support for Israel. I did so just two weeks ago when Congressman Ron Paul announced his candidacy for President.

In order to maintain bipartisan support for Israel, the RJC will continue to publicly point out the records and statements of public officials who stray from this bipartisan position. I hope you will do the same and not feel pressure to sweep under the rug or whitewash the positions of anyone in your party whose positions represent a threat to Israel’s security.

I hope you agree with me that no one – in either party – whether it’s the President of the United States, a candidate for President or a rank and file member – should be shielded from criticism if their positions are harmful to Israel’s well being. Covering up anti-Israel positions by gagging debate about them doesn’t help anyone; instead it only protects those who hope to get away with their anti-Israel positions. The Jewish community has a right to be informed about people’s records and people should be answerable for the positions they take. That is the essence of democracy.


However, in our meeting with the Prime Minister, you appealed to us, in front of the leader of a foreign nation, to pledge to refrain from any debate about these matters. I do not think that the timing or the venue you chose for raising this issue was appropriate.

I recognize that now, as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, you are in a position where you must support candidates whose positions on Israel are different from yours.

To that end, I understand why you would like to shield and provide political amnesty to those Democrats whose positions undermine Israel’s security.


I understand that you would like to stifle debate in the Jewish community on these issues, but the RJC believes they are legitimate issues and part of a healthy and vigorous debate. Indeed, the best way to avoid debating them is for Democratic candidates not to hold positions that weaken Israel’s security, in which case both parties would be fully joined together in strong support of Israel.

One would hope Ms. Wasserman Schultz will take a cue from a strong and diplomatic leader, such as Netanyahu, in his speech today when discussing debate within legislative bodies.

As the great English writer George Eliot predicted over a century ago, that once established, the Jewish state will “shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East.” Well, she was right. We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates. You think you guys are tough on one another in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset. Be my guest.

Still, I have to wonder if representatives of the Knesset would choose the presence of a US POTUS as the moment to lay down ground rules of quelching, not advancing, political debate.

Ms. Wasserman Schultz, IMHO, clearly embarrassed not only herself yesterday, but her delegates as well. While that is quite unfortunate, it seems she also forgot the the basic freedoms so treasured by Israel and this nation.

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