In advance of the April 26 Pennsylvania primary, The Jewish Chronicle reached out to all presidential, senatorial and attorney general candidates and asked them to respond to questions of interest to the Jewish community. Their responses follow.
The Chronicle received statements from Hillary Clinton and the campaign of Ted Cruz regarding the role Israel would play in their foreign policy if elected and their views on U.S. involvement in maintaining the security of the Jewish state. The Chronicle received no response from Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump or John Kasich.
Hillary Clinton (D):
“My commitment to Israel’s future and security isn’t just about policy — it’s personal. It’s one I’ve held dear for 35 years, since my first visit to Israel sparked an enduring emotional connection to the country’s land and people.
“That’s why as secretary of state, I led the effort to bring crushing global sanctions against Iran and fought to get funding to upgrade Iron Dome. And why as senator, I fought successfully to have Magen David Adom accepted by the International Red Cross and supported efforts to crack down on incitement in Palestinian textbooks.
“In today’s perilous world, three converging threats are making the U.S.-Israel alliance more indispensable than ever. First, Iran’s continued aggression and growing regional ambitions. Second, a rising tide of extremism across a wide arc of instability. And third, the growing effort to delegitimize Israel on the world stage, especially the alarming BDS movement.
“To meet these challenges, we need to take our alliance to the next level. Israel should be able to deter and stop any threat, so, as president, I’ll make a firm commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. We need to bolster Israeli missile defenses and work together to develop better tunnel detection technology to prevent arms smuggling and terrorist attacks. To organize this, I’ll send a delegation from the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs to Israel for early consultations.
“Together, we’ll reaffirm our strong and enduring national interest in Israel’s security — and make clear that Israel’s adversaries can never drive a wedge between us.”
Ted Cruz (R):
“Revitalizing the U.S.-Israel alliance will be a key component in a Cruz administration foreign policy. Cruz recognizes Israel as a vital U.S. ally in the Middle East, our closest partner in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism and also a vibrant democracy. He has made it clear that he stands unequivocally with Israel, and that while, like all Israelis, he prays for a peaceful resolution to the dispute with the Palestinians, he will immediately oppose any unilateral effort by the Palestinians to declare statehood outside a settlement directly negotiated between both parties.
“In order to preserve this critical alliance, Cruz is prepared to do whatever is necessary to guarantee Israel’s security in a very dangerous and difficult neighborhood. If the president of the United States is not willing to make this guarantee, gestures such as moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the true capital of Israel, Jerusalem, are ultimately empty symbolism given Israel’s size and the threats to its very existence. Sen. Cruz also understands American support for Israel is not disinterested charity, but rather an investment in a strategic partnership that benefits us both as is proven by collaborative missile defense programs such as David’s Sling and Arrow 2&3, which will be of use to both our nations. Cruz looks forward to fully supporting these programs, along with the extremely successful proprietary Israeli system Iron Dome, while looking for other opportunities for collaboration that will result in greater security for both America and Israel.”
The Chronicle received statements from Joe Sestak, Katie McGinty and the campaign of Pat Toomey regarding the role Israel would play in their foreign policy if elected and their views on U.S. involvement in maintaining the security of the Jewish state. The Chronicle received no response from John Fetterman.
Katie McGinty (D):
“I have a deep respect for the State of Israel. At the moment of its founding in 1948, Israel was faced with a war for its very survival and has had to defend itself from attack time and time again since. Over the past 67 years, the Israeli people have built a vibrant and enduring democracy in a part of the world where that is all too rare while developing an innovation economy respected around the world.
“As a United States senator, I would be proud to stand up for the U.S.-Israel relationship, to defend both our necessary strategic alliance and our shared values. I believe that Israel’s security is America’s security and that existential threats to Israel pose a great threat to the United States as well.
“All countries, including Israel, have a right to self-defense and to defend their people from threats to their safety. In this regard, the United States has a critical role to play to defend our ally. I strongly support joint efforts to protect Israeli security, like the Iron Dome missile defense system, which has proven extremely effective in saving Israeli lives.
“I believe we should continue to work with Israelis and Palestinians to promote a two-state solution. Experts in both the U.S. and Israel who care deeply for Israel, including members of Israel’s national security establishment agree — the status quo is not an option for Israel’s long-term security. A two-state solution allows for the protection guaranteed only by a real, internationally recognized border.”
Joe Sestak (D):
“Speaking from firsthand experience, Israel’s security is absolutely a priority to me.
“As a former three-star admiral, I worked closely with Israel’s military, developing a deep understanding of Israel’s security needs and respect for the Israeli people in over a dozen visits to Israel. My wife also works in Israel with the Israeli military.
“In 2003, charged with protecting Israel from possible Iraqi missiles, I integrated my Carrier Battle Group’s radar system into Israel’s air defense system to provide early warning leading up to the Iraq War. I helped plan and oversaw Operation Reliant Mermaid, the first-ever Israeli-Turkish military exercise.
“In Congress, I was honored by an invitation from Israeli Ambassador Salai Meridor to his home, where he asked for my help in obtaining permission for Israel to procure the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Class combat ship — which I gladly achieved. At the request of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, I also ensured Israel could continue developing the Arrow III missile system, which the U.S. military was canceling.
“In Congress, I took every opportunity to vote to support Israel with robust military and economic aid — a record that I will proudly continue in the Senate. I will work to affirm and ensure Israel’s absolute right to exist as our invaluable ally as we work toward a two-state solution to ensure Israel’s safety, security, and prosperity.
“I will always stand with Israel, and I will do all I can to fortify the bond between our two nations.”
Pat Toomey (R):
“Israel is a beacon of democracy and freedom in a Middle East dominated by turmoil, dictatorships and political persecution. In his first year in the Senate, Toomey made it a priority to visit Israel. He sat down with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking about the special relationship between the United States and Israel and the long-term security challenges facing our nations. Make no doubt about it, U.S. cooperation with Israel is essential in the effort to bring stability to the region and the fight against global terrorism.
“As our greatest ally in an unstable and dangerous Middle East, Israel’s security is crucial to our own. Toomey believes we should reject initiatives that undermine Israel’s security, like the president’s dangerous nuclear deal with Iran. This agreement has released billions of dollars to Iran’s terrorism financing machine, and they continue to flame tensions across the region. In direct defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, Iran has even tested ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Israel inscribed with the statement ‘Israel must be wiped off the earth’ in Hebrew. Toomey has called for the renewal of harsh sanctions until we can guarantee Iran has given up their designs for a nuclear weapon program once and for all.
“Toomey continues to steadfastly stand with Israel in support of their efforts to defend themselves from terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. While visiting Israel, Toomey also met with the head of the Palestinian Authority and delivered a stern and clear message: He would not support aid to a Palestinian government that included Hamas.
“Furthermore, Toomey has been a consistent supporter of military aid to ensure Israel has the capabilities to respond to threats, such as assistance for the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system. Additionally, he has promoted strengthening cooperation between the Israeli military and our own through expanded technology sharing and joint military exercises.”
Attorney General candidates
The Chronicle asked the candidates if the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel is an issue that should be of concern to citizens of the Commonwealth, and if so, what the role of the Commonwealth should be in regard to that movement. The Chronicle received responses from Josh Shapiro, Stephen Zappala and John Morganelli. The Chronicle did not receive a response from Joe Peters or John Rafferty
John Morganelli (D):
“BDS should be a concern of every American and, particularly, elected officials. Israel is a great friend of the U.S., and the only true democracy in the region. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should be opposed and not be a part of this effort to hurt Israel. As attorney general, I would so state this position.”
Josh Shapiro (D):
“BDS should be of critical concern to Pennsylvanians and all Americans who support Israel and want to see stability in the Middle East. BDS is something I’ve actively worked against for a decade and is one of the biggest threats today to Israel and its security. We need to aggressively and systematically push back on BDS in high schools and colleges in our Commonwealth and all across the country to better inform the next generation of leaders on the truth about Israel and the Palestinians. Make no mistake, if we fail to meet this challenge now, we will significantly and possibly irrevocably undermine Israel’s national security in the future. It will lead to a weakening in American foreign policy toward Israel, a reduction in foreign aid to Israel, a splintering of our allies in this cause and destabilization in the region.
“Standing strong with Israel is a matter of policy and especially a matter of faith and personal conviction. It’s in my kishkes and I will never compromise that commitment. That is why I feel so strongly about combating BDS now. I believe strongly that supporting our family and friends in Israel is simply the right thing to do for Israel and for global security and stability. That’s why one of my proudest moments as a state legislator in Harrisburg was leading the fight to divest Pennsylvania’s pension fund dollars from companies that do business with Iran. Through that legislation, Pennsylvania took a concrete action to support and strengthen Israel.”
Stephen Zappala (D):
“Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East and a staunch ally of the United States. The complex issues in the Middle East affect world peace and Israel’s existence. The citizens of Pennsylvania must understand that it is in everyone’s interest to support Israel and its democratic institutions. To that end, the punitive BDS movement is of concern to Pennsylvania’s citizens. The world has seen that retaliation does not lead to peace. The Commonwealth should seek a path that supports democracy, lessens tensions and promotes peace.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.