Prominent Democrats form pro-Israel group to counter skepticism on the left

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington last March. (photos: Sipa via Associated Press)
Some Democrats have suggested that the new group represents a Democratic arm of AIPAC.

By Jonathan Martin | The New York Times | Jan 28, 2019

‘My generation sees the occupation and what’s happening in Israel-Palestine as a crisis the same way we do climate change. Too many in the American Jewish establishment and the Democratic establishment have let [Israel] off the hook.’
— Simone Zimmerman, co-founder of IfNotNow

‘The idea that the Democratic Party should just support the Netanyahu government, right or wrong, is out of line with where American Jews are at and where Jewish Democrats are at.’
— Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street

Several prominent veteran Democrats, alarmed by the party’s drift from its longstanding alignment with Israel, are starting a new political group that will try to counter the rising skepticism on the left toward the Jewish state by supporting lawmakers and candidates in 2020 who stand unwaveringly with the country.

With polls showing that liberals and younger voters are increasingly less sympathetic to Israel, and a handful of vocal supporters of Palestinian rights arriving in Congress, the new group — the Democratic Majority for Israel — is planning to wage a campaign to remind elected officials about what they call the party’s shared values and interests with one of America’s strongest allies.

“Most Democrats are strongly pro-Israel and we want to keep it that way,” said Mark Mellman, the group’s president and a longtime Democratic pollster. “There are a few discordant voices, but we want to make sure that what’s a very small problem doesn’t metastasize into a bigger problem.”

The group, whose board includes former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and a former Clinton administration housing secretary, Henry Cisneros, will create a political action committee later this year and may engage in Democratic primaries, Mr. Mellman said. They also are planning an “early states project” with the goal of organizing pro-Israel Democrats in the first nominating states to lobby the party’s presidential hopefuls.

For many traditional Democratic supporters of Israel, there is a deepening concern that voters in America’s two major political parties appear to be moving apart in how they view the country.

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