Political prostitutes seeking approval from Israel
Put on Defensive by G.O.P.'s Israel Policy
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
New York Times
August 1, 2003
In the battle for Jewish votes, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas,
the House majority leader, undoubtedly scored a few points this
week when, during a speech to members of the Israeli parliament,
he proclaimed himself "an Israeli at
Now it is the Democrats' turn.
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic
whip and one of Israel's strongest supporters in Congress, will
lead a Democratic delegation of 29 House members including
12 freshmen lawmakers to Israel on Saturday, carrying a more
moderate message than Mr. DeLay but with much the same purpose:
to court Jewish voters at home.
Like Mr. DeLay, Mr. Hoyer and his group plan to meet with Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, as well as with members of the
Israeli parliament. They also hope to see the Palestinian prime
minister, Mahmoud Abbas, known to his friends as Abu Mazen. "We'd
like to get a feel of the man," he said.
But while Mr. DeLay, departing from the Bush administration, said
he "can't imagine in the near future that a Palestinian state
could ever happen," Mr. Hoyer said he was hopeful that it could.
The position puts him squarely in line behind President Bush.
"The policy of the United States is to see two states, an
Israeli state and a Palestinian state living side by side, and I
think that message will be conveyed, certainly, that there is the
expectation that the realization of a Palestinian state will be
part of the solution," Mr. Hoyer said in an interview today.
"But there is a requirement, and that requirement, which is
critical, is that the Palestinians, Abu Mazen and others bring terrorist
activity to a close."
Those carefully chosen words are aimed as much at soothing American
ears as those of Israelis. Mr. Hoyer's trip comes as Democrats are
growing more concerned about maintaining their hold on Jewish voters,
particularly in swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida.
Some American Jews have grown increasingly uneasy with Congressional
Democrats of late. When Mr. DeLay put forth a Congressional resolution
expressing solidarity with Israel last year, a number of Democrats
voted "no" or "present," irritating some Jewish
leaders. And some Jews sensed an anti-Israeli tinge to the sentiments
of Democrats who did not support President Bush on the war in Iraq.
All the while, Republicans have aggressively wooed Jewish voters.
"There has been a deliberate and concerted effort on the part
of the Republican Party to make inroads in the Jewish community,"
said Howard Wolfson, a Democratic strategist. "Tom DeLay's
trip to the Middle East is just the latest example of that effort."
Mr. Hoyer is well aware of that, and said he hoped his trip would
reassure Jews "of the Democratic Party's strong commitment
to Israel and to its survival and to its success."
Mr. DeLay's trip was an official visit, paid for by the taxpayers.
Mr. Hoyer's will be paid for by the American
Israeli Education Foundation, an arm of the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington.
Howard Kohr, the committee's executive director, said he regarded
it as a "significant statement" that 29 Democrats were
willing to spend part of their August recess traveling to a land
that most tourists have forsaken.
Soon, Republicans will have their chance. The committee is scheduled
to take a Republican delegation to Israel at the end of the month.