April 14, 2024
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Garrett and Gottheimer: Pro-Israel Candidates at Odds With One Another

If solid support for Israel is a key consideration in your decision for the 5th congressional district election in New Jersey, you can’t go wrong no matter who you choose. Both incumbent Scott Garrett and challenger Josh Gott­heimer are unquestionably in Israel’s corner.

Garrett, a conservative Republican, has served seven terms since entering Congress in 2002. He has easily won reelection each time, with at least 55% of the vote. He has received a 99.3% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union. Gottheimer, a moderate Democrat, is running for office for the first time, but has political associations that began while serving as a page for New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg at age 16, and as a speechwriter for then-President Bill Clinton at age 23. Most recently, he quit his job as a corporate strategist at Microsoft to devote full time to the current campaign.

Garrett, who has visited Israel several times, has criticized both President Obama and former President Bush for their refusal to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, saying that every sovereign nation has a right to determine where its capital should be. He has co-sponsored bills against Hezbollah, and in 2010 introduced legislation supportive of Israel’s right to build its security fence.

On more than one occasion, including at a recent talk as part of his stump campaign, Garrett has stated that Israel is the only true friend of the United States in the Middle East, and that people need to understand that Israel is on the front lines. He has regularly backed those words with actions, with a voting record consistently supportive of Israel.

Garrett served on the Iran sanctions Committee in 2010 where he pushed for very tough sanctions. In a November, 2015 interview for the Jewish Press, he stated “We tried to force Iran’s hand on the nuclear situation and we got pushback from the administration and the State Department, who said ‘No, no, we don’t want those tough sanctions in place, just give us more flexibility so we will be able to work with them.’”

Gottheimer, for his part, has been a long-time member of both AIPAC and NORPAC. Prior to the release of the Democratic Party Platform this year, when there was a concern among Jewish groups that Bernie Sanders’s appointees to the committee would push for anti-Israel language in the Mideast policy statement, Gottheimer released a statement of his own. In part, it stated, “I am deeply concerned that inserting language into the Democratic Platform which favors Palestinians over our key strategic ally, Israel, is both inconsistent with our party and country’s long history.”

Gottheimer also publicly voiced his opposition to the Iran deal, going against the majority opinion of his party. In a July interview at the offices of the Jewish Link, he noted that many people view J Street and the BDS Movement in a similar manner, offering that members of J Street “routinely discuss the merits of the Palestinian narrative to the detriment of the physical safety of Jews living in Israel.” He expressed concern about the group’s deep pockets and strong lobbying presence. He further noted that a big challenge for the Democratic Party going forward was the fact that the Obama White House had “elevated J Street to preferred status on Israel issues.” Following a talk at a local synagogue last month, he told The Jewish Link that because of his affiliations and views regarding Israel, J Street has been incredibly hostile towards him. It goes without saying that the organization is no supporter of Garrett either.

Obviously, there is much more to this campaign than the issue of Israel, and that’s where the contrasts become more apparent. Gottheimer positions Garrett as a Tea Party Conservative who is too extreme in his positions. He claims that Garrett has not stood up for our veterans and has cited his opponent’s opposition to gay marriage and his stance against endorsing Republican gays for office, while referring to himself as “fiscally conservative, socially progressive.”

At the same local event mentioned earlier, Gottheimer shared that the reason he is running for Congress is because he is frustrated with the government of today and how people treat each other. He bemoaned the lack of respect each party has for the other, adding “They are more interested in insulting and screaming at each other than doing for us. If you did that at work, they’d fire you.” Gottheimer stressed his wish to work with the Republican Party, reminding the audience that he had been endorsed by Joe Lieberman’s “No labels” group, which puts ideas over ideology. “I’m there to fight for us, not a party,” he stated. Gottheimer’s campaign statements, though, have often been marked by some of the very name calling he has railed against.

For his part, Garrett has accused national Democratic leaders of trying to buy the New Jersey Congressional seat for Gottheimer, saying his opponent is more interested in winning over Washington, DC lobbyists than 5th-district constituents. Garrett is a senior member of the Budget Committee and a member of the Financial Services Committee as well, which he considers to be one of the top one or two bipartisan committees. In answer to a question at a recent local Jewish community forum regarding Washington infighting, he pointed out that he has worked across the aisle with both Carolyn Maloney and the very liberal Barney Frank, adding “Newspapers don’t report that. They like fighting and talking about conflicts. It’s not exciting when we get along.” Garrett’s campaign statements, too, however, have been characterized by aggression and insult toward his opponent.

Gottheimer has spent much of his campaign focusing on economic issues that affect New Jersey residents. In several forums he has noted that the 5th district receives 33 cents back from the federal government for every dollar it pays out, which is less than half the state average, and far, far less than many other states. West Virginia, in comparison, receives over $4 back for every dollar it contributes.

At the local event, he stated that some of the consequences of the federal funds shortfall have been higher property taxes and a poor infrastructure due to lack of capital to make necessary repairs. This has led to a weak state economy. He offered that New Jersey taxes are outrageously high, and that we rank 49th among the states in business friendliness. He complained that we lost Hertz, Mercedes and A&P without a fight, although in fairness, it should be noted that A&P didn’t relocate, but declared bankruptcy. He has promised to reduce corporate taxes by about 10% to be more competitive, and to work at bringing back more federal dollars for district use. He claims that Garrett isn’t fighting hard enough for those funds, labeling it the “Garrett Tax” and saying it has cost each person in the district $14,000.

Garrett has his own pet issues. He has always been a big proponent of preserving our environment and of protecting the tens of thousands of acres of open spaces and forests of his New Jersey district. On the economic front, he has consistently worked to curtail irresponsible spending by the federal government. He is against Washington control of health care as well as of federal education spending, popularly known as “Common Core.” As a state legislator, he has proposed that public schools include lessons on intelligent design alongside evolution, something that Gottheimer opposes.

As stated at the outset, if a supportive role towards Israel is of prime concern, either candidate will most certainly deliver the goods. Beyond that, the two men running for congress in New Jersey’s 5th district, particularly regarding domestic and local issues, are more often at odds than in agreement. The voter must decide.

Robert Isler is a marketing researcher and writer who lives in Fair Lawn. He can be contacted at [email protected].

By Robert Isler

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