Both Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid courted congressional Democrats from the United States including a member of “the Squad” of progressive American politicians.
Importantly, Lapid met with a delegation sponsored by the leftist organization J Street, ending a several-year snub of the group led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Over the years, Israeli politicians have called J Street an anti-Israel organization.
The Democrat delegation hosted by J Street, including Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Mark Pocan, Barbara Lee, Melania Stansbury and Jamaal Bowman, met the prime minister, foreign minister and an Arab Knesset member – Minister of Regional Cooperation Issawi Frij – who called them “true friends of Israel and partners in promoting the two-states solution.”
The Democrats also plan to meet with Palestinian officials.
With a shift in power in both the United States in January and then months later in Israel, the new Israeli government had to recalculate relations between America and the Jewish state. With Donald Trump in power, Israel enjoyed favorable decisions from the administration and warm interactions.
This enabled Netanyahu to cater to Republicans while failing to sure up ties with Democrats and left-leaning Israel lobby groups.
Both Bennett and Lapid have worked to repair that breach with their American counterparts since their government was sworn in back in June.
The meetings this week are part of their strategy.
“This evening at the Knesset, I met with a delegation of Democratic members of Congress,” Lapid wrote on Twitter. “I thanked them for supporting the replenishment of the Iron Dome missile defense system, and we discussed the importance of continuing to strengthen the US-Israel relationship.
J Street advocates for a two-state solution and opposes Israel’s settlement activity, but also opposes boycotts of the Jewish state.
J Street had said in a statement that the trip’s emphasis is on “balance and providing equal time to both Israeli and Palestinian voices.” The trip included a tour of Israeli communities in the south that are targeted by Hamas rockets from Gaza and parts of the West Bank to “examine the impact of the Israeli settlement movement and de facto annexation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
Though Bowman is considered on of six members of the “Squad,” he has also been less critical of Israel than his peers. He voted in favor of replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system unlike Reps. Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Allesandria Ocasio-Cortez.
This auspicious visit comes as the new administration doubled down on commitment to a two-state solution. On Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price responded to a question about Bennett’s reluctance to negotiate with Palestinians.
“We believe that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable, democratic Palestinian state,” Price said. “That is why we will continue to focus our efforts on an approach that is affirmative, an approach that is practical, an approach that seeks to improve the quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians alike, in the immediate term, and over the longer term to help keep the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution alive.”
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS