U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Josh Gottheimer preached bipartisan support for Israel at a roundtable discussion with local Jewish leaders at the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce in Fairless Hills on Aug. 15.
Fitzpatrick, a Republican representing Pennsylvania’s 1st District, and Gottheimer, a Democrat representing New Jersey’s 5th District, presented a united front. They spoke passionately about Israel, insisting that the nation’s interests must not get lost in the throes of extreme partisanship permeating swaths of United States politics.
“Josh and I were part of a bipartisan delegation that went to Israel a year ago, this month, in August,” Fitzpatrick said. “By far, it was the most impactful trip I’ve ever taken.”
“That’s what Brian and I have in common. We are Americans first, before we worry about being Democrat or Republican,” Gottheimer said. “Israel should never, ever be a partisan issue. Support for Israel should never be political or partisan.”
Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer sat beside one another, with an American flag positioned behind them. To Gottheimer’s right was Rabbi Mendel Prus, who kicked off the discussion by blowing the shofar. To Fitzpatrick’s left was Dani Dayan, the consul general of Israel in New York.
Dayan’s spokesperson, Almog Elijis, wrote in an email that the diplomat would not be endorsing a candidate in Fitzpatrick’s bid for re-election against Democratic nominee Scott Wallace in the November midterms. Dayan, though, spoke glowingly of Fitzpatrick — as well as Gottheimer — at the roundtable.
“I am glad to be here because I am both with two personal friends and two staunch friends of the state of Israel,” Dayan said. “I met Brian and Josh many times and I was always touched by their kindness personally, but first and foremost for their support for Israel.”
The Israeli government does not intervene in United States domestic affairs and campaigns, and does not endorse candidates, Elijis wrote.
The Israel roundtable was the second of three events hosted by Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer in Fairless Hills. In the morning, they held a joint press conference advocating for the Saracini Aviation Safety Act (H.R. 911), a bill that calls for heightened security measures for pilots in aircrafts in response to 9/11, and in the afternoon they invited small business owners and labor leaders to discuss training the workforce and closing the “skills gap.”
Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House of Representatives. The group includes 48 members and follows a “Noah’s Ark” rule for entry: Any Republican seeking admission must find a Democrat to join with them, and vice versa.
The Problem Solvers strive for finding common ground. If 75 percent of the caucus and 50 percent of each party’s members of the caucus agree to a principle, the group votes “yes” as a bloc.
“If we can grow our numbers to 60 or so, you’ll see the Problem Solvers become the new governing body in Congress,” Fitzpatrick said. “The reason we are doing this is to fix that brokenness and to have common sense solutions.”
One primary area of focus for the Problem Solvers is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which last week took a particularly violent turn, with Hamas and affiliated Palestinian organizations in Gaza firing about 180 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli communities.
The IDF responded, carrying out extensive attacks on Hamas’ infrastructure.
A truce appeared to be in the works Aug. 16, with Egypt reportedly helping orchestrate a deal between Israel and Hamas to halt violence at the border for a year.
Dayan, who was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and immigrated to Israel in 1971, said the conflict will only end permanently when the Palestinians realize that the Israelis are not foreigners trying to invade their country.
“When the Palestinians come to term with the obvious, that we are not like the crusaders,” Dayan said. “But that we also belong. That day the peace process will start. And you will be surprised probably how forthcoming we Israelis will be.”
One guest at the roundtable brought up questionable rhetoric toward Israel from some Democrats.
Ilhan Omar, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House in Minnesota’s 5th District, referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime” in a May tweet. She recently stated her support for Israel, though, insisting that she was opposed to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
“If you actually still look at where Democrats vote on these things, and we have things that are pro-Israel pieces of legislation, overwhelmingly the Democrats and the Republicans support it. Right? You have a sliver of people that won’t support it,” Gottheimer said, annunciating a view that Fitzpatrick endorsed in an interview the following day. “It’s a minority of people, and we have to push back on them and overwhelm them with the facts.” l