By Jake Baum
For the Mitzpeh
With the presidential debates in full swing, the 2016 election cycle has finally begun. Citizens across the U.S. are ramping up for the preliminary campaigns, following the candidates and arranging their priorities to decide what will be most important to them when they cast their votes next November.
Some of the major topics will be Planned Parenthood, illegal immigration, climate change and sustainability.
However, for a large portion of the Jewish community in the U.S., the most important topic can be summed up in one word: Israel. Israel is a long-standing ally of the U.S., and the American Jewish community is determined to keep it that way. So where exactly do these candidates (Republicans and Democrats alike) stand?
First, let’s look at the GOP. The Republican Party has maintained a longstanding position on Israel – one of absolute support of the nation and the Israeli people as a whole. Many of the most popular candidates such as Sen. Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz emphasize Israel’s role as the U.S.’s strongest ally in the Middle East. They also claim that the Iran deal would lead to attacks on Israel and a new war could be avoided with stricter sanctions and a better deal overall.
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP and a refreshing female presence in the testosterone-dominated GOP, even asserted that her first call in the Oval Office would be to express her unwavering support for the state of Israel.
However, within the mix of the GOP candidates lie some red flags that cannot be ignored. Sen. Rand Paul, for example, proposed he would cut off all aid to foreign nations including Israel – claiming it would help Israel in the long run to allow them to develop economic independence and dominance over the region.
At the Republican Jewish Coalition convention in Las Vegas in 2014, Gov. Chris Christie referred to the areas of Judea and Samaria as “occupied territories,” which did not fly well with his dedicated voters, despite his later apology regarding his remarks.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who recently participated in the “No Nukes for Iran” tour, seemed to take a very unusual stance on the subject. While assuring his support for an independent Israel, he also supports a two-state solution to the conflict, defying the typical Republican candidate’s stance that Israel should exist as a solely Jewish democratic state.
Last but certainly not least, is businessman Donald Trump. Like others in the GOP, nothing comes in the way of his strong support for Israel. After the last Republican debate, he even asserted that President Obama “hates Israel,” making it clear that he, like his fellow Republican candidates, would stand with Israel if elected.
With few Democrats in the race from the start (and the numbers already dwindling), positions on Israel are not entirely consistent. Only three candidates are left now that Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, and Joe Biden decided not to run, but the Democrats are somehow still distinct in their views on Israel.
While the two most popular candidates, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders support the Iran Deal, they do so for very different reasons.
Clinton said she believes in Israel as the ultimate U.S. ally in the Middle East. In her letter to megadonor Haim Saban, she claimed that the term “apartheid,” the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and the denial of Jerusalem as capital of Israel are ludicrous. These views are surprisingly similar to those of her GOP counterparts.
Sanders, on the other hand, opposes “war to end war” altogether. Interestingly, as a Jew, he is still impartial when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and believes in a two-state solution to end the violence.
Former Gov. Martin O’Malley said he believes in Israel’s right to defend itself, a very Republican sentiment seemingly out of place in the field of Democrats.
As a generally indecisive person, I have not yet decided on a particular candidate. That being said, no matter who I vote for come 2016, unwavering support for Israel is my top priority. Given the wide variety of stances on Israel, I sincerely hope that it is America’s priority as well, and that the American people elect someone who will protect my country at all costs.