WASHINGTON — A right-wing pro-Israel group in the US is turning up the heat on New Jersey Senator Cory Booker for not supporting legislation that seeks to slash funding to the Palestinians Authority until it cuts off salaries to terrorists.
The Committee for Israel released an attack ad Wednesday targeting the Democrat for voting to block the Taylor Force Act from advancing to a vote on the Senate floor.
The ad, titled “Under the Bus,” invokes widespread speculation that Booker is mulling a run for president in 2020.
“Stabbings, shootings, suicide bombings. Israelis and Americans killed by Palestinian terrorists, and we’re paying for it,” the narrator says. “Finally, Democrats and Republicans are coming together to stop it.”
At that point, b-roll footage shows Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, standing with Senator John McCain, a Republican of Arizona.
“But not Cory Booker. He ran here as a friend to Israel. Just four years later, he’s eyeing a run for president and throwing Israel under the bus. Call Booker. Tell him we noticed.”
The television spot will start airing Wednesday night in the New York and Philadelphia markets.
Booker was one of four lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to vote against the measure, which passed in August with the support of 17 others. Other lawmakers voting against included Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
The law would cut US funding to the PA until Ramallah stops paying stipends to Palestinian terrorists and their families. It is named for a US army veteran killed in a 2016 stabbing attack in Jaffa.
Booker said afterward he was swayed by indications that Israeli officials did not support the measure, fearful that it could squeeze PA President Mahmoud Abbas, with whom Israel cooperates in the West Bank on security matters.
“There have long been mixed signals and conflicting recommendations from both US and Israeli national security officials about whether the bill would achieve its desired ends without worsening the security situation,” Booker said in a statement explaining his vote.
He went on to say he hopes his concerns about the bill are addressed “quickly and well before the full Senate considers this legislation, so that this bill can receive my support,” indicating he could vote in favor of a modified version down the road.
The version that passed the committee was itself a modified version of the original bill, which only won support from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC after it was marked up to protect security funding from cuts.
Israeli officials have denied they do not support the bill and similar legislation has been introduced in the Knesset.
Politico reported that the Committee for Israel, formerly known as the Emergency Committee for Israel, was also planning to finance print ads in New Jersey’s Jewish newspapers attacking Booker, while quoting Schumer and Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democratic from Maryland, both of whom back the legislation.
Established in 2010 by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, the neo-conservative group adamantly defends the US-Israel relationship and other hawkish positions on US foreign policy. It launched a vigorous ad campaign in 2015 opposing the Iran nuclear deal and mounted numerous attacks on former president Barack Obama’s defense secretary Chuck Hagel during his nomination process.
Booker is known for his deep ties to the Jewish community. While a student at Oxford University, he frequented the Chabad house, where he became friends with Shmuley Boteach, now a prominent right-wing Orthodox rabbi.
After Booker’s August vote against the bill, Boteach published an op-ed in The Hill lamenting his decision.