The Jerusalem Post interviewed and quoted B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin about what a divided U.S. Congress (and a new Israeli government) means for Israel-related issues.
After two years in which both chambers of U.S. Congress were under Democratic control, the 118th Congress, to be sworn in next Tuesday, will divide the power between both parties. Republicans are set to hold a narrow, 10-seat majority in the House of Representatives, while Democrats will have the edge in the US Senate.
In the hyper-partisan reality of Washington, one question that comes to mind is how will both parties work on Israel-related issues? Will they find common ground to pass relevant legislation, or will they take an opposing approach, for example, in hearings and appropriations?
“With the most impactful contribution of Congress, Israel’s $3.8 billion in annual military assistance, locked into a 10-year cycle, Israel is largely insulated from the gridlock that may accompany the new, divided Congress,” said Scott Lasensky, a visiting professor of Israel and Jewish studies at the University of Maryland and a former State Department official with expertise on Israel.
“I would also give a tremendous amount of credit to [US] President [Joe] Biden and key cabinet members like Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken and Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin,” he said. “They have kept Israel largely out of partisan wrangling.”
Israel will need to steer clear of partisan jockeying
The balancing act for Israel, and especially for the new government, will be to steer clear of partisan jockeying and avoid Israel becoming a proxy for partisan competition, which would likely alienate and anger Democrats,” Lasensky said
“Resisting the temptation to seek minor, short-term gains, even symbolic ones, especially via the House, at the expense of long-term bipartisan support – that will be a challenge for [Prime Minister-designate Benjamin] Netanyahu and the new government,” he said.
Binding congressional action may be less important than the tenor and sentiment in this new Congress, and in this respect, hearings and visits will be key barometers, Lasensky said.
B’nai B’rith International CEO Dan Mariaschin said he expected bipartisan support to continue.
“That Israel will soon have a new government, or that the Congress is now divided, will not alter that objective in any way,” he said. “The threats and challenges to both American and Israeli interests in the region continue to align, especially given Iran’s march to a nuclear weapon, its involvement in the Ukraine war and in its brutal suppression of protesters in the streets of Iranian cities.”
“It appears that some of Israel’s incessant critics, including those who call Israel an apartheid state or who would impose conditionality on arms sales and deliveries, will be back in this Congress,” Mariaschin said. “Whether their motivation is ideological or neo-isolationist, they won’t be representative of the still-broad support that Israel enjoys in both houses.”