A toxic rift is opening between Democrats and Israel

President Donald Trump, Aug 16, 2019. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty)
Americans increasingly view the Israeli government negatively, with a sharp division along party lines.

By Matt Viser and Rachael Bade | The Washington Post | Aug 16, 2019

‘This is a strategic blunder of epic proportions that Netanyahu and his advisers have made, turning Israel into a branch of the Republican Party. This is a tiny little country in a very bad neighborhood that needs all the friends it can get.’
— Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street

A politically explosive fight over Israel’s attempt to block two members of Congress from entering the country — at President Trump’s urging — has elevated rifts between it and Democrats who have increasingly started to view the Israeli government and its leader as out of line or, in the eyes of at least two presidential candidates, even racist.

The shift in dialogue has been accelerated by the tight embrace between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and after a dizzying 48 hours, some Democrats are more openly discussing the unusual step of reconsidering foreign aid to the longtime ally.

The dispute has fractured bipartisan support for Israel and moved debates over it into partisan space more typically home to issues such as abortion, gun control and immigration.

“There is this tectonic shifting of one of the fundamental plates of American politics,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group. “This has been a plank of the rule book for 60 years, and things are shifting in a really important way.”

The situation also has put many Democratic lawmakers in the awkward position of defending colleagues they find politically toxic while rebuking a country they support. It has complicated a months-long effort by congressional Democrats to distance themselves from Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and repair some of the damage flowing from accusations that they were anti-Israel or, in the case of Omar, had made anti-Semitic remarks.

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