Sen. Cory Booker, now US presidential candidate, gets mixed marks on Israel

Since being elected to the Senate in 2012, Cory Booker’s record on Israel has been mixed at best, sometimes going back and forth on major issues. 

By Jackson Richman, JNS

Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker announced on Friday that he is entering the 2020 presidential race.

Since being elected to the Senate in 2012 after serving as mayor of Newark, his record on Israel has been mixed at best, and sometimes going back and forth on certain issues.

In 2016, Booker, 49, who represents a state with more than half a million Jews, labeled BDS as an “anti-Jewish movement” and last year co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act that would prohibit American businesses from boycotting the Jewish state.

“We’ve seen the alarming rise in anti-Semitism in the United States and across the world in recent years manifest itself in many deeply concerning ways, including in the actions of foreign governments targeting Israel and the Israeli people,” he said.

However, on Tuesday he voted against the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act—legislation that is a combination of four bills, including one that would enable state and local governments in the United States to fight BDS.

He also posed last August with a sign from a pro-BDS group that read “From Palestine to Mexico. All the walls have got to go,” a motto coined by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Per the watchdog organization NGO Monitor, “USCPR is a national coalition of hundreds of groups working to advocate for Palestinian rights and a shift in U.S. policy, and is a leader and mobilizer of anti-Israel BDS campaigns.”

In a statement to JNS at the time, Booker’s communication’s director, Jeff Giertz, said the senator didn’t realize the sign related to Israel when the picture was taken.

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“Just before delivering a speech in New Orleans, Senator Booker was approached by dozens of people for photos,” he said. “In one instance, amid the rush, he was posing for a photo and was passed a sign to hold—he didn’t have time to read the sign, and from his cursory glance he thought it was talking about Mexico and didn’t realize it had anything to do with Israel.”

“He hopes for a day when there will be no need for security barriers in the State of Israel, but while active terrorist organizations threaten the safety of the people living in Israel, security barriers are unfortunate but necessary to protect human lives,” added Giertz.

Regarding Iran, Booker said in a position paper when running for the Senate that “as a state sponsor of terrorism, Iran poses a threat to American security, a threat made worse by their pursuit of nuclear technology in defiance of the international community and their own treaty obligations. A nuclear-armed Iran is plainly unacceptable. It would pose serious threats to American interests and to our allies, particularly Israel.”

Despite the pressure placed on him by allies such as Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Booker supported the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, calling it “the better of two flawed options.”

“Despite its significant shortcomings, we have passed a point of no return,” said Booker. “Accepting this deal and moving forward with vigilance and continued commitment to keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is preferable to a world in which a debilitated sanctions regime and fractured community of nations allows Iran to acquire many of the benefits of this deal without accepting its meaningful constraints.”

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Boteach, who has known Booker since their time at Oxford University, reacted critically to Booker’s presidential campaign announcement: “My friend @corybooker announces for @Potus but will lose unless he repudiates utterly his support for #Iran & reverses his eroding support for #Israel as this betrays American values, shows weakness in foreign policy, proves he puts politics before principle, and abandons friends,” he tweeted.

“Since our time together at #Oxford where Cory served as my student president I believed he could be president & we remained close like brothers. But since embracing #Iran deal & gradual abandonment of Israel his prospects have eroded. He must show he stands friends & convictions,” added Boteach.

Nonetheless, Booker has expressed concerns ranging from Iran testing ballistic missiles to the U.S. Treasury Department suspending countermeasures against Iran’s financial sponsorship of terrorism to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports on the regime complying with the nuclear agreement.

As expected, he opposed U.S. President Donald Trump withdrawing America from the nuclear accord, saying, “The President’s announcement is nothing less than an abdication of American leadership that jeopardizes our national security, makes the world less safe and increases the prospect of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.”

“Make no mistake, I had concerns about the Iran nuclear agreement when I voted on it, but an imperfect deal with years remaining to conduct further diplomacy was and remains better than a nuclear-armed Iran,” he continued. “The President’s decision puts the U.S. in default of our commitments to the international community and our closest allies.”

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Following the party on Mideast issues and concerns

Along with the rest of his party, Booker also opposed the nomination of David Friedman in March 2017 to be U.S. ambassador to Israel: “I am deeply concerned that confirming David Friedman to serve as ambassador to Israel would damage the prospects of finding a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians, the only path to a lasting peace that would bring true security and Middle East stability,” he said.

Moreover, Booker was against the United States officially recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, in addition to relocating its embassy there last May from Tel Aviv.

“It should be part of negotiations for eventual final status,” Booker told The Weekly Standard. “We need to be working towards peace in that region.”

Yet he was a co-sponsor of a Senate resolution to rebuke U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334.

In April 2017, Booker signed onto a letter to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, calling for the end of the world body’s animosity towards the Jewish state.

Rising from serving in local government and Congress to running for the White House, Booker’s stances related to the U.S.-Israel relationship have shifted in an apparent attempt to appeal to all factions on the left and in the Democratic Party. According to the latest POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, Booker is only at three percent.

Whether he will backtrack on his stances to appeal to Boteach and those similar to him remains to be seen.