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Israel Lobby Changes: How The Influence in Washington Has Changed Over Time

By    |   Wednesday, 19 November 2014 09:00 PM

Despite setbacks in achieving peace in the Middle East, changes in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since the 1990s have affected the influence of the Israel lobby. Israel and the PLO have taken steps in an attempt to recognize each other through negotiations over the past two decades.

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Talks about exchanging land captured by Israel in the 1967 war and the proposed two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians have altered the debate in the Middle East. However, supporters of Israel come to its aid when rocket attacks occur on the nation from Hamas or danger persists from Hezbollah and Iran. The U.S. Senate passed strong resolutions affirming support for the nation, one of them declaring “Israel’s right to defend its citizens,” and condemning the unprovoked attacks in 2014 on Israel by Hamas.

The Israel lobby has gone through ups and downs with its largest number of supporters in the House through the 1990s and early 2000s. However, it lost a few strong supporters in recent years, including Republican Eric Cantor of Virginia, who lost his seat in the House to a Tea Party candidate. Holocaust survivor Rep. Tom Lantos, a Democrat from California, who died in 2008. Gary Ackerman, a Democratic House member from New York and a leading Democrat in the Middle East subcommittee, retired in 2012.

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Ironically, the Jewish lobby lost some representation with the election of conservatives from the Tea Party movement, leading to a loss of seniority on committees in 2010. However, the 2014 midterm election victories by Republicans instilled a stronger presence by pro-Israel conservatives to work with House veterans such as Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California who has been called a champion of Israel. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York remains a senior Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chairs the Israel Allies Caucus. Mark Kirk, a Republican senator from Illinois, has been a strong ally on Israel-U.S. relations.

Israel has a new promising face in Washington with Lee Zeldin, a New York state senator elected to the House in 2014. Zeldin campaigned for a “secure and free Israel” to "make the Middle East safer.” Zeldin has said that a threat to Israel is a threat to the U.S. and that America shares the same values with Israel. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democratic representative from Tennessee, says today’s representatives may differ on certain issues dealing with Israel, but those ideas center around making “Israel viable for eternity.”

Americans have a tendency to tire from war, even if it’s only for supporting an ally, but when Israel is under attack and its existence is threatened, there is an outpouring of support from Christians and Jewish leaders and proponents who rally around the country for continued support. Still, there are also the demonstrations against supporting a war in Gaza and assistance to Israel, making the Israel lobby continue on a road of gaining and losing influence.

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Despite setbacks in achieving peace in the Middle East, changes in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since the 1990s have affected the influence of the Israel lobby.
israel, lobby
Wednesday, 19 November 2014 09:00 PM
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