By Dmitriy Shapiro

The Georgia Senate race is tight — and a new issue, Israel, is in the mix.

While Georgia doesn’t have a large Jewish population, the Senate face-off between Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker has attracted Jewish organizations.

Both candidates have been endorsed by pro-Israel organizations along partisan lines with the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) endorsing Walker on June 15 and hosting fundraisers for him. 

Warnock, who is seeking his first full term after winning a special election for the seat over Republican Kelly Loeffler in 2020, appears to have ingratiated himself with Jewish Democratic groups over two years in the Senate. In his first campaign, he was attacked for his praise of antisemite Louis Farrakhan — concerns he has since put to rest. 

Latest polls show the race to be tight. Each side claims support for Israel.

“Elections are about trends and trajectories — and the trend lines in the Georgia U.S. Senate race are clear: This is a margin of error race, and Herschel Walker is on the rise,” Sam Markstein, national political director for RJC, said. He also claimed Warnock supported “… foreign policy that has abandoned Israel and emboldened Iran.”

The Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) PAC endorsed Warnock on July 28, citing his pro-Israel record, despite Warnock also having the endorsement of the J Street PAC, which promotes American leadership in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

DMFI PAC chairman Mark Mellman said his organization met with Warnock and his staff during the last election to assess his views on Israel. They endorsed Warnock after being satisfied with his answers and position paper. According to Mellman, Warnock has kept his commitments. 

“He’s voted right on the core issues that have been up for votes,” Mellman said. “From the community’s perspective, he’s voted right, he’s spoken well on Israel Issues, on antisemitism, and in general, he’s done a great job for Georgia and his constituents.” Warnock’s campaign has also touted his pro-Israel record, highlighting the fact he is a member of the Senate’s Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations.  

Warnock also supported pro-Israel elements of the 2022 and 2023 appropriations bills that provided additional funds for Iron Dome interceptors for Israel and an increase in security grants to U.S. nonprofit institutions, such as synagogues and community centers, at risk of terrorist attacks. 

He signed onto a letter that urged Senate leaders to provide full funding for U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense programs in the 2023 defense appropriations bill.  In March, Warnock cosponsored the Israel Relations Normalization Act of 2021 that pushed for American policy to prioritize diplomatic efforts to normalize Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors. That same month, he joined a letter urging U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to push for the United Nations to end its Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Israel. 

In June, Warnock joined in another letter opposing the downgrade of the military rank of the United States security coordinator in Jerusalem. In July, he cosponsored the Stop Iranian Drones Act, which sought to prevent Iran and its terrorist affiliates from being able to acquire lethal drones. 

“In the U.S. Senate and as a faith leader in his community, Reverend Warnock has supported Israel as our strongest ally in the Middle East — voting for aid to Israel, standing up to efforts that would compromise stability in the region, and supporting efforts to combat anti-Semitism,” Warnock’s communication director Meredith Brasher told Zenger. 

Conversely, Walker has no political record. 

But in many respects the candidates, who disagree on domestic policy, agree on Israel.

Walker’s campaign provided Zenger with a statement on Israel. In it, he promises to “strive to strengthen” ties between the United States and Israel. 

Supporters hold signs and cheer as US Senator Raphael Warnock speaks during a campaign event in Atlanta, Georgia on October 24, 2022. U.S. policy toward Israel has emerged as an unlikely issue in the Georgia Senate race. ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES.

“As senator, my focus regarding Israel will be on increasing national security, fighting anti-Semitism and expanding mutually beneficial trade between our countries, which will bring direct benefits to Georgia,” Walker said in the statement. “As a devout Christian, my faith tells me that the people of Israel are God’s chosen people, and we must do whatever we can to protect them.” 

Walker added he will oppose efforts to defund the Iron Dome and believes America’s security is enhanced when it has stronger ties to Israel’s military and intelligence services. He would also oppose efforts to scapegoat Israel in the United Nations and fight against anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) efforts.  

The GOP challenger called the Abraham Accords a key success in the Trump years. The Abraham Accords normalized relations between the State of Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. President Donald Trump, who endorsed Walker in his GOP primary,  signed as a witness. The candidate promised to continue supporting efforts to have more Arab countries reach normalization agreements with Israel. 

Walker believes a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must come from bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, without the interference of the U.N., but that the Palestinians must be willing to come to the table and negotiate in good faith. 

He described Palestinian violence against Israeli as terrorism and said that he supports the Taylor Force Act. The legislation prohibits American foreign aid from going to the Palestinian Authority unless the U.S. State Department can certify the aid is not going to payments of Palestinians imprisoned for acts of terror against Israel or to the families of terrorists killed while committing terrorist attacks against Israelis. 

“There has also been a distressing rise in antisemitic rhetoric on the left side of American politics, and even by some elected members of Congress,” Walker wrote in the statement, referring to the anti-Israel rhetoric echoed by progressive members of Congress known as “Squad.” “There is room for disagreement on policy, but we must not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form,” Walker said.  

However, Warnock’s staff argues that Walker ignores and even benefits from Republican members of Congress who have also made antisemitic statements, such as his financial ties to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) Walker also refused to condemn the organizers of an event due to its use of a swastika on social media.  

Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate.

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