One hundred days left until the mid-term elections in America, and how does this affect Israel

I last met Carl Levin about a decade ago, when he was at the height of his power, chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee. The notes from the meeting can still be read, but look like something from distant history, almost archaeology.

What did we talk about? on the question of how the US will act in Sisi’s regime in Egypt. Sisi deposed the Islamist Mohammed Morsi in early July 2013. The meeting with Levin was in November, in his office in the Senate. The Israeli position, which he knew well, was that Sisi was better than Morsi, and that the US should not try To be a great righteous person and protect Egyptian democracy – Morsi was an elected president – at the expense of regional stability.

Levin was not convinced that Israel was right. It “was a coup”, he said. The Obama administration was careful in those days about using this word, so that it could continue its contacts with the new government in Egypt. Levin is less careful. “We cannot ignore the law,” he said. Not Egyptian law, not American law. According to the law, the US is not allowed to aid regimes that have overthrown democratic governments. So the dance was complicated. On the one hand, there was Israeli pressure to give the new government in Egypt a chance.

On the other hand, the American tradition of resisting coups. On the third hand, the delicate balance that the Obama administration tried to maintain in the Middle East, in the midst of negotiations with Iran. On the fourth hand, the lawmakers in the Senate, who also have opinions. Levin was a key person. A highly experienced, senior Democratic lawmaker during a Democratic administration. In the pro- Israeli IPAK, did not like his position, but kept an open and serious channel of conversation.

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This was not the first controversy of Levin, one of the prominent Jewish legislators of the last decades, with the pro-Israel Jewish lobby. In the early 1980s, he sent a sharp letter to the Foreign Minister, George Shultz, criticizing Israel’s, in his opinion, recalcitrant position in the peace process. A debate developed within the organization on how to handle this letter, which Levin signed another 30 senators on. The decision was to relax, not sharpen. continue the dialogue. Levin was a key figure in transferring military aid to Israel every year. There was no argument about this.

A year ago, last summer, Levin passed away. He was the older brother of two Levin legislators. His brother, Sandy, was a member of the House of Commons, the lower house. But the dynasty is not over. Sandy has a son, Andy, a congressman. Second generation of the Levin family, representing the state of Michigan in Washington. Second generation – second voice. Levin the uncle, and to a lesser extent also the father, had a relationship with Israel of restrained criticism alongside clear support. Levin the nephew clashed with AIPAC to the point of rupture.

This week the organization’s lobbyists worked with all their might, and also invested a lot of money, to remove Levin from his position. On Tuesday morning we will send a final email to the supporters: we have an opportunity to replace a legislator who works against Israel with a legislator who will be in favor of Israel. AIPAC, the main pro-Israel Jewish lobby, supported the non-Jewish Democratic candidate. It was a tough battle within the family. A battle that shows how complicated it has become in America to be both – both progressive with credentials and distinctly pro-Israel.

Levin supported, like his uncle before him and like his father before him, the nuclear deal with Iran. That’s not what made him a target. The conditions he asked to add to the military aid to Israel were the problem. He wanted to prevent Israel from using American aid for purposes related to the occupation. However, as any Israeli understands, it is very difficult to manage American military aid that is not related to the occupation. The IDF is operating in Judea and Samaria, including this week, against the Islamic Jihad. Will Levin’s stipulation prevent the Cherry Force from using equipment purchased with American aid money? AIPAC determined that his position “erodes” almost wall-to-wall support for aid. Precisely because his name is “Levin”, precisely because his uncle is “Carl”, Andy’s position has a symbolic weight beyond the real weight of a not particularly senior legislator from Michigan.

The opportunity to oust him came thanks to the unification of two districts. Michigan is losing residents, a state that is being left in favor of better states. That is why it is necessary to unite Moshavim. Two sitting members of Congress suddenly found themselves running for the same constituency. Democratic vs. Democratic. In IPAK, they recognized the potential for a move that would have many echoes.

Two weeks ago they achieved a good result in a district in Maryland, when Belmo is a legislator whose critical positions against Israel were well known. The entire top of the Democratic Party stood behind her, but it was of no use against the press of AIPAC, which was accompanied by an aggressive and well-funded campaign. After the defeat of Donna Edwards, the spotlight was turned on Levin. Leftist organizations, of which AIPAC is a traditional enemy, recognized the importance of the battle . A small matter that interests one district in one country, has become a big drama, which has big money, big passions, big anger. and Israel in the middle.

Who is in favor of elimination?

100 days until the midterm elections in America. A good time to eliminate the leader of al-Qaeda. A good time to try to give a final blow that will get the voters out of the house towards voting for the Democratic Party. On the eve of the assassination, the support rate for Joe Biden dropped a little more, although there is not much left to drop. On the other hand, the predictions regarding the mid-term elections have improved. In several states, the Democratic candidates gained strength. For example, in Arizona, where astronaut and senator Mark Kelly widened the gap over his opponent. For example, in Georgia, where the gap closed, and the Democratic candidate, Raphael Warnock, stuck to the Republican Herschel Jr. Walker.

Most models now predict that the Democratic Party will maintain its majority in the Senate, and even increase it. She will lose the majority in the House of Representatives, which will make it difficult to pass legislation. But it must be said honestly: there is a long tradition that holds that the party in power, currently the Democratic Party, always loses in the first mid-term elections. Then the Democrats will lose too. This is certainly not their ambition, but neither is it an unprecedented or sensational event.

It’s been a strange week for the Democratic Party. A week of militancy. Biden struck al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, challenged China. These strikes may somewhat improve the image of the president, but should not affect the results of the elections, which are being held in a parallel universe, on completely different issues. What issues That’s what the battle is about.

Republicans say about inflation. That’s what most Americans say too. As long as inflation is at the top of the agenda, and with it other economic matters, the Democrats will have a problem. But the Democrats have another priority, which they are trying to forcefully push to get voters out of the house: abortion. Only 4% of Republicans believe that abortion is a major issue on the agenda right now. In contrast, 13% of the Democrats think so, and the difference is not only in the rate – it is also in the rating.

For Republicans, abortion ranks ninth out of 11 issues suggested by Gallup pollsters. For the Democrats, abortions are in second place, and right after them is the “legal system”, which is the same thing by a different name. The legal system is the one that abolished the practice established in the “Roe v. Wade” ruling, and therefore the Democrats want to change it.

How does all this relate to Israel? There aren’t that many people here who pay much attention to the races in America, mainly because their elections come exactly one week after ours. We are too busy with ourselves, with the electoral affairs of the Likud and Yeh Atid, to devote ourselves to the electoral affairs of the Democrats and Republicans. Still, Israel has a clear interest in these elections. Both in the question of how they will proceed in connection with the issue of Israel’s status and also in the question of how they will end and who will win and who will lose.

Israel could benefit from the defeat of some critical or hostile Democratic candidates, who if they go home will not only spare Jerusalem the finger pointed against it, but will also send a message to the other members of Congress: Better not to mess with these crazies. This is actually the goal of AIPAC. To mark some prominent races, to oust some prominent legislators, to make it clear to others that anyone who stands out in the field in activities that are contrary to the pro-Israel line as AIPAC understands it, risks having the next campaign directed at him or her.

And since in the eyes of most legislators Israel is not a primary issue, and since most legislators have no particular reason to stand out in their criticism of Israel, the discouraging message may bring about a certain change in the attitude of the legislators in the left wing of the Democratic Party. If Yair Lapid wants to understand exactly how it will work, it will be quite simple. Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alon Oshfiz, appointed by his predecessor, Gabi Ashkenazi, served in the past as Israel’s envoy to the American Congress. He is well aware of this dynamic in all its aspects.

Who is for unity?

What is difficult for the Americans, it is said, for all of them to support Israel without party difference – it is also difficult for us. The discourse becomes polarized, and with it also topics that have no connection with the essence of polarization. Everything one side says, the other will say the opposite, should or should not. Everything one side likes, the other side will hate, need or not. This is what happens when substantive political discussion becomes a major component of identity. Not “I support the idea” but “I belong to the camp”. Camp is a package deal. This difficulty will be gradually discovered by the brave horsemen who assembled the new scooter known as the “Zionist Spirit”.

To what extent is Israel made of camps? You can start with the bad news, then increase: most Israelis think that Israeli society is “very divided”. These are data from the index website that were analyzed this week from four options, from “very divided” to “very united”. Israelis’ choice of “very united” is negligible to non-existent. The choice of “a little unified” – less than 10%. The result is a kind of consensus. Almost all of us are united by not being united. The hand of the index website’s new cohesion clock (a permanent clock, which is automatically updated as new responses from surfers come in – everyone is invited to browse and participate) shows the state of fragmentation versus the state of cohesion on a regular basis.

Why do you need a cohesion watch? to track an important trend. Polarization and cohesion, fragmentation and a sense of partnership, these are all components that deeply affect the conduct of Israeli society (and any other society as well). When people feel alienated from each other, when they do not trust each other, when they feel that they do not have common goals that they are striving for, it is difficult for them to agree. It is clear that under the conditions of repeated election campaigns, where the constant tone is of who does not sit with whom, who boycotts whom, who refuses to partner with whom, the sense of division deepens. This is evident in all Israelis, but more evident in certain sectors than others.

On the right, the largest camp in Israel, about half of the respondents (the data are based on 1,300 questionnaires) say that Israel is “very divided”. Another third say “a little split”. But the more you move to the left on the political scale, towards center-right, then center, then center-left and left, the higher the proportion of those who identify a deep split and the lower the proportion of those who identify a slight split or unity. In fact, on the left of the center there is no one at all who believes that Israel is “very united”. And only a tiny percentage believe that Israel is “somewhat united”.

Israeli society: divided or united? (Photo: Index website)

And on the right, the combination of “very united” and “somewhat united” gains only a little support – less than a fifth. For example, only 11% of the Likud voters who responded to the survey said “united” (somewhat or very much). Of Shas voters, only 6%. The exceptional party is religious Zionism. Among its voters, about a quarter say that Israel is united. It is actually the only party whose main group of voters says that Israel is “a little divided” and not “very divided.”

Is a split feeling equivalent to a split? Not necessarily. It may be that we feel a deep division, but in a testing moment, say, an attack by Hezbollah, or an announcement by Iran that it has nuclear weapons, or rapid inflation around the world, it will become clear to us that we were wrong. that an external threat quickly moves us from superficial division to deep unity. Could be – but not sure. Sometimes the public is right in feeling that the split is significant. And sometimes the very feeling that there is a split feeds a process that ends up being even more split. The less united we feel, the more we stick to our “camp”, and thus we sharpen the sense of division.

who’s against whom?

Let’s continue with religious Zionism: if it seems to you that there is nothing further from Bezalel Smotrich and Ahmed Tibi, or from their voters, here’s a surprise: in one thing they are actually similar, and different from the voters of most other parties. Both the religious Zionist voters and the joint list voters (and also the very many Arab voters who did not participate in the elections), believe that the main tension in Israeli society is between Jews and Arabs. What do the others think? The voters of the three major parties, Likud, Yesh Atid and Blue and White, believe that the main tension in Israeli society is precisely between the right and the left.

In the questionnaire we mentioned, five options for main tension are presented: Jews-Arabs, religious-secular, right-left, rich-poor, Mizrahi-Ashkenazim. You can of course suggest more, but these are the categories we have chosen. Of these, two are more dominant than the others: right-left, which makes sense, especially in an election atmosphere. Arab-Jews, which also makes sense, unless we landed on the moon.

The other tensions receive less attention. Religious-secular is still mentioned by about a fifth of the Jews, rich-poor, despite the many discussions about the cost of living and the economy in general, is mentioned by about a tenth, Mizrahim-Ashkenazim is at the bottom of the scale. It is indeed a topic that is often discussed, but even if it is interesting and disturbing, it is ultimately a secondary tension, not the main issue that Israeli society is preoccupied with. Why yes? We said, right-left. In all age groups, except for the youngest, this is the main issue. Among young Arab Jews it is the dominant tension.

Ask why specifically among the young? Here is a possible explanation: among the young people there is a considerable proportion of ultra-Orthodox, religious, Arabs. These believe that the Jewish-Arab tension is more significant than the right-left tension. About half of Torah Judaism voters place Arab-Jews as the main tension, followed by (24%) secular-religious. Shas voters also give priority to Jewish-Arabs (35%), and as mentioned, religious Zionist voters, by a significant margin, and voters of the Joint List and Ra’am, and with them a great many Israelis who did not vote in the elections, among whom there is a significant representation of Arab voters. These are data that allow for some reflections.

The first: It is not necessarily clear what the difference is between Jewish-Arabs and right-left, and it is worth examining whether right-left is not an indirect way of describing the intra-Jewish debate on the question of how to treat the Arab minority.

The second: the young people focus on the “external” conflict, a national majority against a national minority, but as the age increases, the assessment sharpens that the “internal” conflict is more threatening than the “external” threat. Of course, it is not certain that this is a correct assessment, it is not certain that the political divide is more dangerous than the national divide, but it is evident that age strengthens such an assessment.

The third: a significant proportion of Jews on the religious-Zionist right have difficulty recognizing how much the political divide affects the rest of Israeli society. Earlier we saw how religious Zionist voters are the ones who tend more than others to underestimate the severity of the division in Israeli society. Now we see that those voters are more inclined than others to underestimate the severity of the left-right divide. In other words, religious Zionist voters are not aligned with the feelings of the majority of other Jews in Israel. They live in their own movie.

This week we used data from the index website, Gallup and Pio data, 538 and Real Clear Politics models, and reports in the “Washington Post” and “New York Times” newspapers.


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