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Ted Deutsch: Support for Israel ‘can’t, and shouldn’t’ become partisan

CM 08/10/2021

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WASHINGTON – It’s been a rocky couple of weeks within the Democratic Party. Two weeks ago, when the House of Representatives passed a bill to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system, one moment caught the attention of members of the House. It was when Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Florida) gave an emotional speech right after his fellow democrat, Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), called Israel “an apartheid regime.”
“I cannot allow one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and label the Jewish democratic State of Israel an apartheid state. I reject it,” he said. “The House of Representatives will overwhelmingly stand with our ally, the State of Israel, in replenishing this defensive system. If you believe in human rights, if you believe in saving lives, Israeli lives and Palestinian lives, I say to my colleague who just besmirched our ally, then you will support this legislation.”
“There was a lot leading to that moment,” Deutch told The Jerusalem Post in an interview. “There was enormous frustration when the Iron Dome funding was pulled from the bill after a number of us pressed House leadership to not only to ensure that we would vote on that Iron Dome funding, but to announce it before we even had a vote on the Continuing Resolution. This should have been very straightforward.”

“Lots of people ask me about why I was so emotional,” he said. “I was in large part responding to the speech that Representative Tlaib gave immediately before me. And what was really so upsetting at the moment was that this vote was for a defensive system that its sole purpose is to save lives. And to stand and argue against supporting that kind of lifesaving [system] and against Israel the way she did, I thought it [called for] a strong response.”
The Florida congressman serves as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and Global Counterterrorism.


On many occasions in the past, Deutch described the progressive flank of his party as a small group and said the vast majority of his colleagues strongly support Israel. Asked whether the events of the past few weeks, when progressives were able to block a resolution for continuing funding, had changed his perspective, he maintained his position.
“Yes, a small number of Democrats, when there are party-line votes, have enormous sway,” he said. “That’s something we’ve seen over the past couple weeks in other contexts as well. But ultimately, it was also a number of Democrats who then immediately responded to push a vote forward within days [on a stand-alone bill].”
Had the resolution passed, it would have been without any Republican support, Deutch said.
“Which gets to the bigger issue, which is the fact that support for Israel really, really can’t and shouldn’t become partisan,” he said. “And that’s what I think we have to focus on coming out of this.”
“The number of people who came up to me after my speech, especially Democrats, to thank me for speaking forcefully in support of this program that they know is so important was really important,” he added. “And beyond that, the number of people who stood up before that vote to make sure that we actually voted, again, not just those of us who are on the frontlines and supported the US-Israel relationship every day, but rank-and-file Democrats who are committed to the relationship, that also was a sign of the strong support that exists.”
Progressives and moderate democrats are fighting on other issues as well these days. The major fight is around a $1 trillion infrastructure bill the leadership seeks to pass – one of President Joe Biden’s flagship reforms. Progressives threaten to vote it down unless a $3.5t. spending bill is attached to it.
“There’s been a lot of attention on the intra-party squabble, but the fact is that people understand how important it is for us to compete globally,” Deutch said. “And when we have universal pre-K [kindergarten] education to help prepare our kids to compete; and we are no longer the only country in the world without paid family leave, which will help us be more competitive; when we finally take on the life-threatening issue of climate change, we have a chance to further establish ourselves in a stronger economic condition.
“There’s going to be a deal that’s reached. I hope that some of my Republican colleagues will support it because there’s nothing more important than setting America for a stronger future.”
Regarding Iran, Deutch said the US should “work closely with our allies, who are as concerned about the Iranian threat as we are, and that means close consultations with our Israeli allies and consultation with our other allies in the region, our allies in Europe, all of whom ultimately are at risk from the continued development of a nuclear-missile program [and] its support for terrorists around the world.”
“I don’t think we should be waiting on [Iranian President Ebrahim] Raisi,” he said. “His record speaks for itself, and the steps that he’s taken and that Iran has taken in recent days are obviously immensely troubling.”
Deutch also addressed the prospects of expanding the Abraham Accords.
 “We’re not going to have to wait decades more for more countries to [join] because there’s a framework now in place, and it’s a framework that has already created meaningful change in the region,” he said. “So, I don’t know when more announcements will come. But I do know that the opportunities exist based on what we’ve already seen.”
“I don’t know when the next one will come, but I am confident that more countries will recognize what they have to gain by having normal relations with Israel,” he added..
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Deutch said rather than focusing solely on the outcome of the negotiations, the sides could find opportunities to improve the situation on the ground.
The Israeli government has been clear in its approach and the desire to work to find ways to meaningfully improve quality-of-life issues for Palestinians, he said, adding: “I hope that there are opportunities to move forward on some of those proposals quickly.”


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