Dems' 'progressive and anti-Israel axis is strengthening'

Diaspora minister urges ‘long-term fix’ of Israel’s ties with Democrats

As Progressive lawmakers force delay in Iron Dome funding, Nachman Shai says US party’s ‘anti-Israel axis’ growing stronger, blames Netanyahu for ‘clearly’ siding with Republicans

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai arrives at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)
Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai arrives at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, on June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai on Wednesday called for a “long-term fix” in Israel’s ties with the Democratic Party, after $1 billion in funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system was pulled from a United States government funding bill due to opposition from progressive House members.

“Long-term developments in the US are changing the Democratic Party and strengthening the progressive and anti-Israel axis,” Shai said in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster.

He slammed former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his opposition to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, signed by Democratic president Barack Obama, and charged that the ex-premier “clearly went in the Republican direction.”

Israeli officials, speaking to Axios on condition of anonymity, also blamed the removal of the Iron Dome funding from the spending bill on the previous Israeli governments led by Netanyahu, accusing the former prime minister of harming American bipartisan support for Israel.

“We need to invest in a long-term fix of Israel’s ties with the Democratic Party. A giant gap was created between the Jewish community in the US and Israel… The Biden administration is friendly toward Israel. I’m worried about the distant future,” Shai said.

The minister, a member of the Labor party, said in a separate interview with Army Radio that Israel cannot “close its eyes” to changes taking place in the US.

“Most of the Democratic party supports Israel but an extremist group is getting stronger,” he said, referring to the “The Squad,” the outspoken group of progressive House representatives.

US Rep. Ilhan Omar, flanked by US Rep. Rashida Tlaib (left) and US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, speaks at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 15, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

A congress member told The Times of Israel that Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Betty McCollum pushed to have the Iron Dome funding removed from the spending bill and managed to succeed through mediation by Congresswoman Rosa Delauro.

Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Pramila Jayapal also threatened to vote against the bill if the Iron Dome funding was included, a congressional aide said.

The clause approving the huge sum to restock Israel’s Iron Dome interceptors — crucial to protecting Israeli towns from rocket attacks and which became somewhat depleted during May’s Gaza war — had caused a hangup in the House of Representatives, as party leaders sought to push forward a bill to raise the debt ceiling.

Still, the funds for the Iron Dome are widely expected to be approved, but at a later date.

US House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday the Iron Dome funding would be brought for a separate vote this week. A congressional aide, speaking to The Times of Israel earlier Tuesday, insisted that the funding would eventually be approved, but instead would be attached to the 2022 Defense Appropriations Bill.

Explosions are seen in the sky from Iron Dome interceptions above an Israeli woman, as she is seen running to a public bomb shelter, during a rocket barrage fired from the Gaza strip, on May 18, 2021, in the Southern city of Ashkelon. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

Hamas and other Gazan terrorists fired over 4,300 rockets at Israel during May’s flare-up of fighting, according to the Israel Defense Forces, which said that the pace of fire was the highest ever.

According to the military, around 90 percent of the missiles fired at populated areas within Israel were downed by Iron Dome.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke of plans to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile batteries in June, after meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz on the matter.

US President Joe Biden also pledged to replenish Israel’s stock, bucking calls from some progressive lawmakers to reduce military aid to Israel.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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