DRIVING THE CONVO — On Monday, Jewish leaders affiliated with the Democratic Party slammed World Jewish Congress’s Ronald Lauder for his observation about an “unsettling” decline in support for Israel among 2020 Democrats.

“Mr. Lauder’s remarks are misleading and propagate a myth that damages the U.S. Israel relationship,” Mark Mellman, president and CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel, said in a statement. “The vast majority of the 280 Democrats serving in the House and Senate and the 23 Democratic Governors have long pro-Israel records. They support a strong U.S-Israel alliance, Israel’s right to defend itself, U.S. aid to Israel and a lasting peace through a two-state solution negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians. While some have expressed disagreements with certain policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu, as have many pro-Israel organizations in the U.S., one can be critical of the government’s policies and still be pro-Israel.”

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), said in an interview that Lauder’s remarks are “completely baseless.”

“There’s no evidence to support the claims that Democratic support for Israel has diminished in any way,” Soifer explained. “We’ve seen no diminishing of this support and this includes even among the candidates. I think that there are some, as we get closer to 2020, [who] are trying to draw these distinctions where they just don’t exist, and we’re going to push back against these false narratives with facts… One can consider themselves pro-Israel and be critical of some of the Israeli government policies, just as one can be a patriot and be critical of the Trump administration policies, and we shouldn’t conflate the two.”

Opinion Editor of the Forward Batya Ungar-Sargon says that contrary to Lauder’s claim, the views expressed by the 2020 Democratic candidates reflect the politics of the American Jewish community. “To call them anti-Israel is to call us all anti-Israel,” Ungar-Sargon said in an email to JI, calling the equivocation “ridiculous!” This is a “party redefining what it means to be pro-Israel in alignment with what we think it means to be pro-Israel – indeed, what Ron Lauder himself thinks it means to be pro-Israel, if we are to believe his two op-eds in the New York Times last year,” Ungar-Sargon continued. [JewishInsider]

A Lauder spokesperson tells JI: “There is real irony in Mr. Mellman’s statement that there are no problems with support for Israel in the Democratic party. The creation of DMFI is a sheer acknowledgment that this problem is very real and must be dealt with urgently.”