Forget Tlaib and Omar, Democratic 2020 front-runners should worry Israel more
While the new generation of pro-BDS lawmakers are making news, Democratic presidential contenders’ opposition to ’pro-Israel’ legislation signals a much deeper shift
Amir Tibon Washington
Feb 04, 2019
WASHINGTON – Two newly elected congresswomen may be generating a lot of headlines, but Israeli officials are most concerned about the heated Senate debate about Israel in the past month than the pro-boycott statements of Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
While Israeli officials are worried about the media attention Tlaib and Omar are receiving – which is seen as helping to advance their views and possibly creating more support for them – they are not perceived as having the potential to weaken or delay pro-Israel legislation in Congress. The representatives’ ability to pass laws that would harm or upset the Israeli government is seen as even more limited.
Haaretz Weekly Ep. 13Haaretz
But talking with Haaretz, Israeli officials admit greater concern that close to half of all Democratic senators voted against the anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions legislation proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (Republican of Florida) last week.
Almost all of the Democratic senators who are potential 2020 presidential nominees – from Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders (an independent who caucuses with the Democrats) to Sherrod Brown, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand – opposed the legislation, citing concerns over freedom of speech. The senators said that although they oppose BDS, they also oppose legislation that would force state contractors to sign a declaration saying they don’t boycott Israel or its settlements in the occupied territories.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar smiling during a news conference with Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 30, 2018.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar smiling during a news conference with Nancy Pelosi on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 30, 2018.Bloomberg
The anti-BDS legislation being opposed by high-ranking Democratic senators and presidential hopefuls has been a flagship project of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States for the past decade. It has also received strong support and encouragement from senior officials in the Israeli government. The pushback on the Democratic side to the legislation, which is coming from the mainstream of the party, is more consequential in the long-term than the provocative statements of freshman members of the House of Representatives, according to Israeli officials.