Amid Growing Debate, New Democratic Group Seeks to Present 'pro-Israel Face' of Party

The creation of the group comes amid a contentious debate over anti-BDS legislation in the Senate, which has been opposed by leading Democratic figures

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the AIPAC conference.
Haim Zach/GPA

WASHINGTON – A new Democratic organization that will present itself as the “pro-Israel” face of the party is being established and could be officially announced before the end of the week.

The new group will challenge the perception that the Democratic Party is less committed to supporting Israel than it was in the past and will seek to promote a “progressive case for Israel.”

The new group, called Democratic Majority for Israel, claims to speak for the majority of the Democratic Party that supports Israel. Hours after Haaretz first reported about its existence, the group published a press release with quotes from Democratic senators and representatives who support its mission.

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Haaretz has confirmed that among those who will be involved in the new group are a former Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm; pollster and political adviser Mark Mellman; and veteran Democratic strategist Ann Lewis, who has had a close relationship with the Clintons for many years.

The aim of the group, according to two sources in the Democratic Party who spoke with Haaretz on the subject, will be to try to convince progressive Democrats to adopt a more traditional, pro-Israeli policy line.

Granholm was a prime speaker at last year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference, where she spoke about the importance of presenting a pro-Israel case to progressives in the United States. Lewis said at AIPAC’s 2013 conference it would be a mistake for the pro-Israel community to give up on progressives and automatically assume they won’t support Israel.

“We need to speak out more as progressives, not to let the other side own the issue of Israel,” she said. Lewis has led trips to Israel that were affiliated with AIPAC’s educational arm, where an emphasis was placed on bringing liberal and progressive voices closer to Israel.

The creation of the new group could cause some competition between it and the Jewish Democratic Council of America, which is currently the leading Jewish organization affiliated with the party. JDCA has taken a centrist, pro-Israel approach over the past two years.

Lewis said on Monday night: “We are launching Democratic Majority for Israel to represent the majority of Democrats in our party, serve as the voice of pro-Israel Democrats everywhere, and advocate for policies that ensure our party’s and our country’s long-term global leadership.”

This week, for example, the party came out in favor of anti-BDS legislation that is being debated in the Senate – legislation that leading progressive voices in the Democratic Party are opposing.

JDCA welcomed the group's establishment in a statement on Tuesday. "While our mission is distinct from DMFI's, we welcome additional pro-Israel voices and look forward to working with DMFI to elect Democrats in 2020," Executive Director Halie Soifer said.