A Progressive Victory on Israel, as Hardliners Fail to Mount Campaign Against Donna Edwards
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Rep. Donna Edwards, a Maryland Democrat who is associated with J Street, which argues for a more progressive U.S. policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict, has staved off a challenge from a fellow Democrat who sought to raise money by running to her right on Mideast issues.
This week, Glenn Ivey, the former Prince George’s County state’s attorney, announced he was abandoning plans to challenge Edwards, citing his inability to raise money.
“[I]t would take a very substantial amount of money to get my message out to voters in two very expensive media markets,” Ivey said in a statement. “A tough economy and a compressed election time-frame have made it tough for my campaign to raise enough funds to move forward.”
Ivey had raised about $150,000 while Edwards had taken in about $230,000, according to the latest available numbers reported by the Baltimore Sun. Part of the fundraising fight centered on the contentious issue of American policy toward Israel.
Edwards has long been associated with J Street, and she has, for example, been much more critical of Jewish settlements in the West Bank than most members of Congress. In 2010, she raised money from a group, New Policy PAC, that is open to the idea of a “democratic secular state” in historic Palestine – in other words, a one-state solution. Edwards describes herself a strong supporter of a two-state solution to the conflict.
In the past few months, J Street raised more than $40,000 for Edwards, the group tells me. Federal election filings show that virtually all of the money J Street raised for Edwards came from outside of her district, from places like New York and California.
American activists who are more aligned with the hardline positions of the American Israel Public Affairs Council than with J Street have long opposed Edwards and sought to unseat her. Ivey first explored a primary challenge to Edwards in 2009 with the backing of right-wing activists on the issue, who were angered by Edwards’ “present” vote on a resolution supporting Israel’s invasion of Gaza.
This time around, Ivey was “rumored to have the backing of several wealthy members of the local Jewish community who live outside of Edwards’ district,” Washington Jewish Week reported in November.
A December invitation to an Ivey fundraiser, which I’ve posted in full below, focused almost exclusively on U.S. policy toward Israel.
“Glenn [Ivey] has made it clear that he is unwavering in his support for the State of Israel while his opponent’s voting record, public positions and comments on Israel related issues have been of major concern to the Jewish community,” writes Barbara Goldberg Goldman of Rockville in the invitation, adding in a follow-up:
“His opponent, Donna Edwards, has demonstrated by her absolute actions on multiple occasions that her ideas about Israel’s safety, security and right to defend herself, is vastly different from how we believe as a people and as a community. We now have an opportunity to make an important change and difference. It doesn’t matter whether or not you reside in Glenn’s district. Let’s do it!”
The invitation also contained a lengthy and detailed Ivey position paper on Israel and Iran, in which Ivey pledges to support increased U.S. military aid for Israel, despite the deficit-cutting fever In Washington, and tightened sanctions on Iran.
In the end, though, the effort to raise money for Ivey apparently fell short. JStreetPAC President Jeremy Ben-Ami argues that Ivey’s decision not to pursue a challenge against Edwards says something significant about the current moment.