John Kerry: Better for Israel, Better for Jewish Voters
I will be voting for John Kerry this November. When I tell people this, they assume that it is because I am a progressive voter who supports reproductive freedom, gun control, and civil rights for all Americans. They assume I support John Kerry's position that tax cuts should be for the middle class and not only the rich, and that every American child deserves health care, a fair education, and a safe and protected environment. While all of these things are true, they are not the primary reasons that I will vote for Senator Kerry. Rather, I will vote for John Kerry because of his steadfast support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, and because John Kerry will better serve the interests of the pro-Israel community than George W. Bush.
Over the course of his 19 years in the United States Senate, John Kerry has a 100% pro-Israel voting record. On every bill that has come up on the Senate floor over the last 19 years, be it regarding economic aid or military security, John Kerry has counted himself with Israel. Kerry has also surrounded himself with a number of pro-Israel foreign policy advisors, including former U.S. Congressman and AIPAC board member Mel Levine, who serves as Kerry's chief Mideast advisor, and Senator Joe Biden, one of the most ardent supporters of Israel in the Senate, and considered one of the favorites to serve as Secretary of State when Kerry is elected.
In his public appearances, Kerry has spoken of his support for Israel in the clearest of terms. It would be hard to be more pro-Israel if he tried.
"When I am President of the United States, my promise to the people of Israel will be this: We will never pressure you to compromise your security. We will never expect you to negotiate for peace without a credible partner. And we will always work to provide the political and military and economic help for your fight against terror." (Speech before Anti Defamation League, May 3, 2004)
"Terrorism is an incontrovertible evil, and an unacceptable response and the idea that every bitter dispute between Israelis and the Palestinians can somehow justify Palestinian violence or justify Arafat's winking at it or should warrant the release of yet more Hamas leaders or could excuse the PLO's failure to rewrite its covenant - all of this reflects a moral blindness, a failure for courage that only encourages the cowards, the haters and the killers."(Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference, April 7, 1997)
"Let me state it as plainly as I can. The UN Security Council has no right to impose insecurity on Israel." (Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference, April 7, 1997)
(For more of Kerry's statements and speeches about Israel visit http://www.johnkerry.com/communities/jewish_americans/)
Now let us turn our attention to the man who some have tried to describe as the best friend in the White House Israel has ever had. While President Bush has generally been supportive of the Israeli government, his record is far from perfect.
Bush has routinely spoken out against Israel's security fence, an anti-terrorism measure. In a November 2003 speech in London, he said, "Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences" (www.whitehouse.gov, November 19, 2003). He repeated the line near verbatim just two weeks ago in a speech before the UN General Assembly (September 21, 2004). Additionally, Bush attempted to implement official policy against Israel, threatening to revoke $300 million in loan guarantees from Israel as a penalty for building the fence.
John Kerry, on the other hand, has supported Israel's right to safety and security, including the right to build a security fence, saying, "No nation can stand by while its children are blown up at pizza parlors and on buses ... Israel has a right and a duty to defend its citizens. The fence only exists in response to the wave of terror attacks against Israel" (press release, February 23, 2004).
President Bush has failed to take a consistent moral stand against terrorism. As late as 2002, after the breakdown of Camp David and the beginning of the Intifada proved that Yassir Arafat was no longer a reliable partner for peace, President Bush refused to label him a terrorist, claiming that Arafat "remained engaged in peace negotiations" (United Press International, April 1, 2002). John Kerry, on the other hand, stated that "Yassir Arafat's support for terrorism has already rendered him unfit as a partner for peace. If there is to be any progress toward peace, the current Palestinian leadership can and must crack down on the terror and stop teaching the hate that fuels it" (press release, February 23, 2004).
When Bush was running for president in 2000, he said on several occasions that on the first day after he was sworn in, he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel's capital. Bush lied. John Kerry, on the other hand, has consistently voted in the Senate to move the embassy, even signing a letter in1998 that rebuked President Clinton for failing to take action.
But there are even greater threats to the security and existence of Israel and the United States, and it is on these fronts that John Kerry's fortitude is strongest, and George W. Bush's uninformed stance is most troubling. The most impending existential threat to Israel is a nuclear-armed Iran. President Bush has largely ignored this threat, choosing instead to focus on the milder threat in Iraq. As a result of the war in Iraq, Bush has lost the political capital necessary to take action against Iran, and he has done nothing to halt their nuclear program. No one denies that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power is a good thing, and John Kerry has never backed off his support for Saddam's removal. But the nature of that removal, and the ongoing problems that have resulted, are a clear threat to the Mideast stability that Israel craves. The growth of hatred for America that President Bush has ignited across the globe is bad for the United States, and it's bad for Israel.
Most troubling about George W. Bush, however, is his relationship with Saudi Arabia, and specifically the Saudi royal family. Saudi Arabia is a bastion of anti-Semitism, the home to fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists, and the leading sponsor of terrorism across the Middle East. Yet, in speech at the White House on May 16, 2003, Bush plainly declared, "Saudi Arabia is our friend." When Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah blamed "Zionists" for terror attacks, it was John Kerry who condemned him while Bush remained silent. To quote the Senator, "The sweetheart relationship between this administration and Saudi Arabia and the lack of willingness of this administration to hold Arab countries accountable for their newspaper articles, for their anti-Semitism, for their conspiracy theories ... has not made the world safer and has not protected Israel" (Address to B'nai Brith, June 26, 2004).
John Kerry recognizes the threat that Saudi Arabia poses to both the U.S. and Israel, and he has proposed an energy plan that will wean us off Arab oil and make us less dependent on theocratic, anti-Semitic regimes. Instead of depending on Saudi Arabia to prop up the American economy, as we do today, under President John Kerry Saudi Arabia and other terrorist regimes will be held accountable.
If someone tells you President Bush is better for Israel than President Kerry will be, tell them it simply isn't true. The facts and the candidates' records speak for themselves. Add to this that the platform of the Texas Republican Convention affirms that "the United States of America is a Christian nation," and Bush's opposition to the separation of church and state and to funding stem-cell research that can potentially cure fatal illnesses, and the choice is clear: John Kerry is better for Israel and better for Jewish voters.
Mr. Sinensky graduated from Yeshiva College in 2004 and will be attending the University of Pennsylvania Law School next year.