Republicans and Democrats should work together to ensure the United States and Israel maintain a mutually beneficial relationship to benefit the future success of both countries, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) said at a Nov. 20 event.
At the event “Rep. Gottheimer: The Democrats and the US-Israel Relationship,” Gottheimer discussed the current state of affairs between the United States and Israel regarding each nation’s economy and national security. Georgetown University College Democrats and Georgetown Israel Alliance co-sponsored the Wednesday event.
Gottheimer serves as co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan coalition that seeks to address congressional dilemmas. He also co-sponsored the U.S.-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act in July, which authorizes joint research and cooperation programs between the U.S. and Israel.
Israel has long been a U.S. ally in the Middle East since the United States was the first nation to recognize Israel as a state in 1948 and Jerusalem as its capital in 2017. Remaining allies are necessary for regional protection and the international economy in both countries, according to Gottheimer.
“This relationship is essential to our national security and important to the region,” Gottheimer said. “Part of what is so important in the U.S.-Israel relationship is the economic relationship.”
From a U.S. political perspective, Republicans and Democrats should collaborate to develop policies that effectively navigate the U.S.-Israeli relationship, according to Gottheimer.
“The U.S.-Israeli relationship has always been a bipartisan issue and we must make sure this remains bipartisan,” Gottheimer said.
The event comes after Israeli and Islamist forces on the Gaza Strip agreed to a tentative ceasefire Nov. 14 after two days of fighting between the groups. This ceasefire was threatened two days later, however, as Hamas, a Palestinian political and militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, launched two missiles into Israeli territory that were struck down by Israeli Air Defense systems, according to The Washington Post.
Certain news outlets have mischaracterized the nature of recent violence between Israel and Hamas, according to Gottheimer.
“I think the media, depending on the outlet, are portraying this as an attack on the Palestinian side and forgetting that Israel is responding and not being proactive in their use of force,” Gottheimer said.
Gottheimer also addressed the recent prevalence of antisemitism across the United States. Gottheimer has witnessed antisemitic hate crimes in schools in his district and while campaigning for his House seat, he said.
“In only the last few months, we have had six swastikas found in middle schools,” Gottheimer said. “I’m used to swastikas on my campaign signs and have faced comments questioning my loyalty to the USA as a Jew.”
After President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, hate crimes targeting Jews and Jewish institutions rose 37% in the United States. Several antisemitic events occurred at Georgetown in 2017, including antisemitic graffiti discovered near Makóm, the Jewish prayer space, and swastikas spray-painted in LXR Hall during Rosh Hashana the same year.
The growing trend of antisemitic sentiment in the United States has been exacerbated by social media, according to Gottheimer.
“A simmering cauldron of anger has been unleashed because people feel they can say whatever they want and hide behind social media like cowards,” Gottheimer said.
In a recent development in U.S.-Israeli foreign policy, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Nov. 18 that Trump’s administration determined Israeli settlements in the West Bank do not violate international law. More than 700,000 settlers reside in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, both of which are in regions claimed by Palestine. The announcement breaks with decades of preceding U.S. foreign policy, according to The Washington Post.
After Gottheimer addressed Georgetown community members, Maurice Zekaria (SFS ’21), a leader of the Georgetown Israel Alliance, led a question and answer period. A productive and impactful conversation came out of the event, according to Zekaria.
“I think it was a great event and a lot of people came out with diverse opinions,” Zekaria said in an interview with The Hoya. “It was a great exchange of ideas.”
The event exemplified Georgetown student interest in the U.S.-Israeli relationship, Gottheimer said in an interview with The Hoya.
“There was a room full of very thoughtful students who asked many poignant questions,” Gottheimer said. “I am looking forward to coming back to Georgetown to address U.S. and Israel related issues.”