People protesting anti-BDS laws in New York, June 9, 2016 (Photo/JTA-Erik McGregor-Pacific Press-LightRocket via Getty Images)
People protesting anti-BDS laws in New York, June 9, 2016 (Photo/JTA-Erik McGregor-Pacific Press-LightRocket via Getty Images)

Anti-BDS bill is ill-advised and politically suspect

Not so long ago, staunch bipartisan support for Israel was a given. The vast majority of congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well as presidents, stood shoulder to shoulder in defense of the Jewish state.

In recent years, we have seen a widening partisan gap in that support, with some in the Democratic Party increasing their criticism of Israeli policies and Republicans making unwavering support for Israel a firm party principle.

We have editorialized before on the potential harm of this divide on the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Both parties share blame.

With the 116th Congress just sworn in, we are seeing an alarming trend among newer lawmakers, in particular freshman Democratic House members Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, in expressing stridently anti-Israel sentiments.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been a lifelong supporter of Israel, so we are not too worried that this minority anti-Israel view will dominate the Democratic Party. But it is something that demands vigilance.

Our concerns do not fall only on the Democratic side of the aisle. This week, as their first order of business, Senate Republicans pushed S.1, which, among other things, shields from lawsuits those states that pass anti-BDS legislation — provisions that are almost certainly unconstitutional.

Notice the timing. Rather than deal with the 3-week-old crisis caused by the government shutdown, the Senate majority has created a convenient wedge issue and tried to put Democrats on the hook with this Middle East mini-omnibus package, which also includes billions in defense spending for Israel.

There are no Senate Democrats who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York is a loud, proud, lifelong supporter of the Jewish state. He is joined by others, including California Sen. Dianne Feinstein — whose pro-Israel bona fides are likewise beyond question — in rejecting this bill.

For Republicans to push the bill now and characterize it as a test of loyalty to Israel is naked political gamesmanship. This is a time when Congress should be prioritizing the reopening of government before the shutdown devolves into a national disaster.

Both sides should seek to narrow the partisan divide when it comes to Israel, not widen it.

If Senate Republicans would stand up to Donald Trump and end the shutdown that he instituted, then perhaps the Senate can take up S.1 properly. The American people will then see that support for Israel remains a bedrock bipartisan value.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens weekly editorials as the voice of J.