U.S. President Donald Trump blocked a visit by Democrat Congress members Ilhan Omar and Rashide Tlaib to occupied territories in the West Bank due to their criticism of Israel. Israel's travel ban against the two lawmakers is unprecedented. Congress's Democratic leadership, as well as the liberal wings of the Israel Lobby both reacted to the decision made by the Netanyahu government.
Three quarters of American Jews support Democrats. Trump and the Republicans are trying to sway Jews away from them. Liberal Jews generally tend to support Israel, but do not adopt Netanyahu's policies. Both the Democratic leadership and liberal Jews argue that Netanyahu and Trump are damaging the U.S.-Israeli alliance.
The Democratic leadership, which does not want to lose the support of American Jews, is trying to keep the new generation of Democrats who are critical of Israeli policies under control. There is a serious rift between the new generation of politicians and the Democratic leadership in Congress. Trump's rhetoric deepens this rift. Disturbed by the influence of lobbies over the political institution, Young Democrats have even launched initiatives to restrict donations made by lobbies.
The emergence of Democratic politicians, who openly criticize Israel, forces the hand of the party's mainstream leadership. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, is trying to calm the Israeli Lobby. Pelosi once again pledged at the national convention of the Israeli-American Council last year that the Democratic Party was committed to the U.S.-Israeli alliance. Pelosi went on to name Jewish Democratic MPs holding key positions in Congress.
Those named by Pelosi included Eliot Engel, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Nita Lowey, chairman of the Grants Committee, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a member of the Committee. Pelosi said Lowey and Wasserman would facilitate if Israel needed funding. Stressing that they did not cease to be pro-Israel, Pelosi also wanted them to pay no mind to the few Democrat lawmakers who criticize Israel.
In a recent interview, Pelosi argued that the U.S.-Israeli alliance is bigger than the Netanyahu-Trump cooperation, and that Israeli support is deeply rooted in the Democratic Party. Emphasizing that the travel ban would not undermine Israeli-U.S. ties, Pelosi said that both Democratic lawmakers would not give up their visit to Israel.
According to Zeeshan Aleem of Vox, Trump uses Israel as a means to advance his domestic political goals. Trump wants to divide the Democrats by demonizing deputies who criticize Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Pelosi, on the other hand, is in favor of keeping the U.S.-Israel alliance in a supra-political position and continuing the bipartisan Israel accord at the U.S. Congress.
More talk of Israel in American public opinion bothers Pelosi and other mainstream Democratic leaders. The pro-Israeli decisions were easily passed in Congress without any serious obstacles. Young Democrats began to shake this two-party bench.
Young Democrats are uncomfortable that U.S. policy in the Middle East is focused on Israel, which is increasingly burdening ordinary Americans. Trump's rhetoric deepens the Israeli crackdown among the Democrats. Pelosi is concerned that such criticism of Trump could disrupt this clandestine agreement.
The prominence of Young Democrats at the base and their representation in larger numbers in Congress also affect the relationship between the supporters and the leadership. Pelosi knows that this wave cannot be stopped. The way to deal with Trump is to incorporate the energy of new generations into politics. Long story short: Israel is a catalyst in the transformation of American politics.