This week, stakes were high as Israel and the United States took to the polls in elections set to have a major impact on both sides of the ocean.
In Israel this past Monday, voters headed to the ballot box for the third time in under 12 months in an election largely seen as a referendum on the more than 10-year reign of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The next day was Super Tuesday, where American members of the Democratic Party voted in 14 states for the presidential nominee who will face off against US President Donald Trump in the November 2020 elections (Republicans also voted on a nominee, but incumbent Trump was a shoo-in).
People of the Pod sits down with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas, who talks about his observations on the ground at the March 1-3 annual conference of the Israel lobby group AIPAC, which was boycotted by the strong contender for Democratic presidential nominee, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Then, the political correspondent for Israeli daily Globes, Tal Schneider, discusses Israel’s near future after an election that seems as inconclusive as the previous ones, along with the complex navigation required for a government to be formed and a dreaded fourth election avoided.
Speaking with co-host Manya Brachear Pashman, Kampeas says that Sanders’s decision not to speak at the pro-Israel AIPAC conference caused many in the audience to react more enthusiastically to Republican speakers at the event. They even cheered one speaker’s prediction that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat with close ties to AIPAC, would no longer be serving in that position next year – a partisan reaction usually discouraged by AIPAC leadership, says Kampeas.
Sanders had preemptively declined to attend AIPAC, drawing sharp criticism after calling it a platform for those who “express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”
The Vermont senator’s main competitor, former vice president Joe Biden seemed to be an exception, Kameas says. In contrast to his opponent, Biden “drew some applause” after his speech via satellite, Kampeas says, despite Biden’s criticism of Israeli settlement policy.
“Here was a Democratic leader who could come and praise the US-Israel relationship and say he would uphold it and continue aid, but also criticize Israel’s settlement policy, and people were fine with that,” Kampeas says.
Hear the whole discussion and more when you tune in to this week’s episode of People of the Pod, a weekly podcast produced in cooperation between the American Jewish Committee and The Times of Israel, which examines current events through a Jewish lens.
Also this week, Times of Israel founding editor David Horovitz analyzes who gained and who lost in Israel’s March 2 threepeat elections, as the ballot counts conclude. With no clear frontrunner looking able to clear the 61-seat threshold to form a majority governing coalition, the future remains unclear.
Will Israelis be forced to go to the ballot box yet another time before a government is formed?
“I hope this doesn’t sound naïve. We don’t have particularly high expectations of our politicians, but I think that [Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor] Liberman’s behavior in particular is a new low of essentially the political torture of an electorate,” says Horovitz. “Essentially, when we are all hostage to the caprices of our politicians, nobody can predict anything.”