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Views on Israel of U.S. Presidential Candidates 2020:
Cory Booker

(1969 - )

 

Cory Booker* was born on April 27, 1969, in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Harrington Park, New Jersey. His parents, Carolyn Rose (née Jordan) and Cary Alfred Booker, were among the first black executives at IBM. Booker has stated that he was raised in a religious household, and that he and his family attended a small African Methodist Episcopal Church in New Jersey.

Booker graduated from Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan, where he played varsity football and was named to the 1986 USA Today All-USA high school football team. Booker attended Stanford University on a football scholarship, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1991 and a Master of Arts in sociology the following year. While at Stanford, he played tight end on the football team and made the All–Pacific-10 Academic team. As a senior, he was elected class president. In addition, Booker ran The Bridge Peer Counseling Center, a student-run crisis hotline, and organized help from Stanford students for youth in East Palo Alto, California.

After Stanford, Booker was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, where he earned an honors degree in United States history in 1994. He also served as the president of the L’Chaim society created by Oxford’s Chabad rabbi Shmuley Boteach and his love of Judaism can be traced to the friendship they developed.

He earned his Juris Doctor in 1997 from Yale Law School, where he operated free legal clinics for low-income residents of New Haven, Connecticut. At Yale, Booker was a founding member of the Chai Society (now Shabtai), was a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and was active in the National Black Law Students Association.

After law school, Booker moved to Newark – where he still lives – and started a nonprofit organization to provide legal services for low-income families and help tenants take on slumlords, improve living conditions, and stay in their homes. He served as staff attorney for the Urban Justice Center in New York and program coordinator of the Newark Youth Project.

In 1998, at the age of 29, Booker won an upset victory for a seat on the Municipal Council of Newark. In 2006, Booker was elected mayor of Newark; he was reelected in 2010.

In 2013, Booker ran and won a special election to replace Senator Frank Lautenberg after he died in office. On November 4, 2014, Booker was re-elected to a full six year term.

In 2009, after Barack Obama became President of the United States, Booker was offered the leadership of the new White House Office of Urban Affairs. He turned the offer down, citing a commitment to Newark.

In 2015, Booker supported the Iran nuclear deal, which damaged his relationship with Jewish voters and supporters. In an attempt to reduce the damage, he initiated an emergency summit for Jewish leaders, which some of his longstanding supporters did not attend.

In August 2018, he was criticized for posing 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. Booker’s communication’s director, Jeff Giertz, subsequently said the senator didn’t realize the sign related to Israel when the picture was taken.

Booker sometimes begins speeches with Torah analysis. “Today I want to do something a little different than you were probably expecting from this Christian man from Newark, New Jersey,” Booker told Yale’s 2013 graduating class. “I want to do something that has probably never been done before at this university. I want to stand here as a Christian goy in all of my non-Jewish self and give you all a d’var Torah.”

Booker currently serves on the following committees: Foreign Relations, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Environment and Public Works, and Judiciary.

Booker has never been married.

Booker announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2020 election on February 1, 2019.


Anti-Semitism

  • “I do not support BDS. Never have, never will….There are some in the BDS movement that don’t believe Israel should even exist. It’s an anti-Israel movement. I believe a lot of things that BDS is calling for actually hurt our ability to get a two-state solution.” (Tufts Daily, September 20, 2019)

  • “As president, you have a lot of leverage, from our [Department of Justice] to a whole Department of Homeland Security. They need to be doing a lot more to counter antisemitism, to counter the kind of violence we see that Jews and others are facing in this country. We need to make sure from an educational standpoint all the way to an investigatory and research standpoint. We need to be doing everything we can as a culture to shun this darkness and this evil from our nation.” (Times of Israel, August 14, 2019).

  • Booker defended his support of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which he co-sponsored in 2018. The current version of the Senate bill, he said, “protects American companies” from being forced to comply with actions that undermine the state of Israel. “I am sorry, the BDS movement is something that I do not support, and I think that we should do what we can to protect American companies, and other Americans, from being attacked in a way that undermines their ability to stand up for what they believe is right.” (HuffPost, June 5, 2019)

  • “I am against BDS because I am deeply concerned that we have roots in the BDS movement that do not have any sense for proportionality about other countries. Where is the Chinese BDS movement because of what they’re doing to the Uighurs and to other folks? But you do not hear that. Israel is a country that has a right to exist and a right to defend itself.” (Jewish Insider, February 16, 2019)

  • “We have seen painful realities surge in our country, a rise in anti-Semitism, anti-Islamic attacks. We’re seeing just a vicious, horrific, cruel violence that’s motivated by bias and hate. We need to do more to protect all Americans and make sure all neighborhoods and communities are safe.” (CNN, February 17, 2019)

  • “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.” (Jewish News Service, February 3, 2019)

  • Booker was one of 22 Democrats who voted against the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019 (76 senators voted aye) a bill that authorizes state and local governments to demand that contractors declare they do not support boycotts of Israel or its settlements in the West Bank. He explained why: “I have a strong and lengthy record of opposing efforts to boycott Israel, as evidenced by my co-sponsorship of S. 720, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. However, this specific piece of legislation contains provisions that raise serious First Amendment concerns, and that’s why I voted against it. I drafted an amendment to help address these widely-held concerns, but there was no amendment process offered to allow for this bill to be improved. There are ways to combat BDS without compromising free speech, and this bill as it currently stands plainly misses the mark.” (JTA, February 7, 2019)

Israel

  • I strongly condemn the rocket attacks against Israel. Our security aid to Israel ensured the damage wasn’t worse—that support must continue. But with each senseless act of violence, more innocent lives are lost. As a new ceasefire takes hold, I urge restraint & calm in the area. (@SenBooker, November 14, 2019)

  • “We need leadership in both parties that is about uniting Americans around a common cause. And what greater tradition has there been in America, going back to the founding of Israel that we have common cause with the state of Israel. We have a common cause, and they are our allies.” (Vice, September 25, 2019)

  • “I fully committed to Palestinians having their own fate and the right to self-determination … I’m real concerned as someone who has been to the West Bank and met with Palestinian leaders and continues to fight against this administration who is drawing away critical humanitarian aid.” (Tufts Daily, September 20, 2019)

  • Asked if he believed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is a racist, Booker said, “You know, what I think very strongly, sir, is that we have a crisis with Israel right now. Israel is less safe under this president than it was before. We literally have a president right now that has allowed Iran to have a superhighway through Syria; that literally announces by tweet that he’s pulling our troops out which puts Israel more at risk. We have a president who is breaking [the] tradition of Democratic and Republican presidents in the past by turning his back on the commitment to a two-state solution. We have a president that’s not doing what he should be doing to protect that region. He’s pulling away from a nuclear deal now as he's making Iran go perilously towards it.”

    “I know you have these interesting questions,” Booker continued, “but I got to the United States Senate to stand up for our allies and for the State of Israel and this is a president who is making the United States weaker and making Israel more vulnerable.” (JewishInsider, August 12, 2019)

  • Asked by an IfNotNow activist about the “occupation,” Booker said, “You are not going to get me to address that question as you want, and I know that that’s the question that you’ve been asking every presidential candidate. But I am working on this issue, probably more than any other foreign policy issue... If that’s your issue, I would understand if you want to support somebody else, but know I am just as committed to that as you are — committed to human rights.” (@IfNotNowOrg, July 14, 2019)

  • Axios asked candidates if they would move the U.S. embassy back to Tel Aviv: “I opposed the move of the embassy because I believed it should have been included in the larger process of negotiations of a final status agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Now that the embassy has been moved, I do not see moving it back as either practical or productive, and believe we should focus on reclaiming our status as a trusted mediator as we work towards peace and a two state solution.” (Axios, July 14, 2019)

  • Asked by the New York Times, “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?” Booker responded, “I think we have a problem right now in America with the way we are debating issues surrounding Israel and Israel’s security. We have a president that seems not to support this idea of a two-state solution, which has had bipartisan commitment and conviction over decades in our past. My commitment right now is in affirming Israel’s right to exist and affirming Israel’s right to defend itself against enemies, which they have virtually surrounding them, but also to affirm the dignity and self-determination of Palestinian people. I believe that we can get back to the kind of policies that affirm that two-state solution, affirm human rights, and that America can be a force to accomplishing that in Israel.” (New York Times, June 19, 2019)

  • “You know, I have the blessing of discovering Israel before I was a politician. And you know this, a lot of times the first trips people take, often when they’re running for office — they run over to Israel, and they should, to learn about foreign policy. My first trip to Israel was when I was 24 years old. I had been studying Torah for two years and discovering Israel for me, and the people of Israel and the authenticity and the grit… Some of the harshest criticisms of Israeli policy right now are Israeli Jews and the wonderful thing about Israel is its democracy and you have fearsome debates, the same way we have in our country. And I often laugh at people and say, ‘I don't want anybody to judge my nation on Donald Trump and the same way I'm not going to judge Israel by Netanyahu.’”

    Re a two-state solution: “You hear the President’s comments, he doesn't even seem to understand the history of that commitment to a two-state solution and is doing things to me that are offensive by pulling back humanitarian support. I understand one thing, not giving payments to the Palestinian Authority, I supported the Taylor Force Act, but to pull money from NGOs and other[s]— often led by Americans trying to get access to clean water, that’s wrong to me. And so this is a perilous time that I think we as a government, and we as a nation, need to recommit ourselves to a two-state solution.” (The Axe Files, May 11, 2019).

  • Responding to a question about violence in Gaza in May 2019, Booker told CBS News: “We support Israel’s right to defend itself, full stop,” he said. “You have a terrorist organization that actually suppresses its own people, conducts acts of violence and human rights violations against people who live in Gaza. And so Israel has a right to defend itself and it should do that.” (JTA, May 6, 2019).
     
  • “[I am] committed to finding that two-state solution, and along the way, restoring funding to those non-profit [UN] organizations that are trying to do best to restore a sense of dignity and self-determination to the Palestinians.” (Jewish Insider, February 16, 2019)
     
  • “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.” (Jewish News Service, February 3, 2019)
     
  • Regarding the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy: “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.” (Jewish News Service, February 3, 2019)
  • 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.  (Jewish News Service, February 3, 2019)

Iran

  • “First and foremost, it was a mistake to pull out of that deal,” Booker said of the Iran deal. “And one of the reasons why we are seeing this hostility now is because Donald Trump is marching us toward a far more dangerous situation. Literally, he took us out of a deal that gave us transparency into their nuclear program and pushed back a nuclear breakout 10-20 years, and now we see Iran threatening to go further and we are being pulled further and further into this crisis.”

    “We need to negotiate and get back into a deal, but I am not going to have a primary platform to say, unilaterally, I am going to rejoin that deal, because when I am president of the U.S., I am going to do the best I can to secure this country and that region, and make sure that if I have the opportunity to leverage a better deal, I am going to do it.” (NBC News, June 27, 2019)
  • In March 2019, Booker said it was still “too early” for him to make a decision on returning to the Iran nuclear deal. (Haaretz, April 23, 2019)

  • “My concern right now, my focus, is the denuclearization of Iran…We need to be focused on best strategies to get us there. 2021 is a long time from now, and I’m focused on the steps we have to do right now.” (Al-Monitor, March 19, 2019)

  • “It’s why things that things Obama did right, like trying to find a way to end the nuclear race going on in the Middle East, where Iran was racing to a nuclear weapon and trying to join with our allies to try and find a better way forward than bombing yet another country.” (Jewish Insider, February 16, 2019)

  • “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.” (Jewish News Service, February 3, 2019)

  • Following the Trump administration’s decision to opt out of the Iran deal: “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.” (Jewish News Service, February 3, 2019)

  • “After hours and hours of study, research, deliberation and consultation, I am more convinced than ever that eliminating the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is among the most important global security challenges of our time. Allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon would pose an unacceptable and grave threat to the safety of our allies, to Middle East stability, and to American security.

    We began negotiations with Iran at a time when our sanctions regime was having its most significant impact on the Iranians. We were gaining maximum leverage on Iran through coordinated economic sanctions with our international partners. We joined with our partner nations at the outset of negotiations with the stated intention of preventing Iran from having the capability to get a nuclear weapon.

    Unfortunately, it’s clear we didn’t achieve that objective and have only delayed — not blocked — Iran’s potential nuclear breakout.

    But, with the JCPOA, we have now passed a point of no return that we should have never reached, leaving our nation to choose between two imperfect, dangerous and uncertain options. Left with these two choices,

    “After hours and hours of study, research, deliberation and consultation, I am more convinced than ever that eliminating the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is among the most important global security challenges of our time. Allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon would pose an unacceptable and grave threat to the safety of our allies, to Middle East stability, and to American security.

    We began negotiations with Iran at a time when our sanctions regime was having its most significant impact on the Iranians. We were gaining maximum leverage on Iran through coordinated economic sanctions with our international partners. We joined with our partner nations at the outset of negotiations with the stated intention of preventing Iran from having the capability to get a nuclear weapon.

    Unfortunately, it’s clear we didn’t achieve that objective and have only delayed — not blocked — Iran’s potential nuclear breakout.

    But, with the JCPOA, we have now passed a point of no return that we should have never reached, leaving our nation to choose between two imperfect, dangerous and uncertain options. Left with these two choices, I nonetheless believe it is better to support a deeply flawed deal, for the alternative is worse. Thus, I will vote in support of the deal.” (Medium, September 3, 2015)

Syria

  • “I voted for the Defense Re-authorization Act and I’ll tell you why…If you pull back—I went recently to the border of Syria, where there are refugee camps, and this administration is pulling back funding for these refugee camps—you then create problems for this country that are going to be far more expensive to deal with, and we’re going to have to deal with them in a far more violent way. And so I believe that we need to get back to being moral leaders in this country.” (Jewish Insider, February 16, 2019)

  • Following the April 2017 U.S. airstrike on an airbase in Syria believed to be the launch site for a chemical weapons attack, Booker said: “The chemical attack in Syria that killed dozens of innocent civilians, including many children, is a heinous act and a crime against humanity. The ongoing war in Syria is a tragedy of historic proportions – the loss of life there unfathomable – and the United States should always seek to, in a thoughtful and deliberate way, alleviate human suffering and prevent acts of barbarity whenever possible.

    “History has shown the dire consequences of military engagement without a clear plan or strategy.  Any escalation in our engagement in the continuing conflict in Syria demands that the President put forth a clear plan for the American people and that he seek authorization for the use of military force from Congress as the Constitution requires. Escalation without the support of Congress, the American people, and our allies would create more instability and put lives at risk.” (CBS New York, April 7, 2017)

*AICE does not rate or endorse any candidate for political office.


Sources: Cory Booker U.S. Senator from New Jersey;
Cory2020;
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Cory Booker,” Supporting the Iran agreement is the better of two flawed options,” Medium, (September 3, 2015);
“Local Officials React To US Missile Strike On Syria,” CBS New York, (April 7, 2017);
Ron Kampeas, “5 Jewish things to know about Cory Booker,” JTA, (February 1, 2019);
“Corey Booker: Democratic Presidential Candidate With Mixed Record on Israel,” Jewish News Service, (February 3, 2019);
Ron Kampeas, “Why these Democratic presidential hopefuls voted no on an anti-BDS bill,” JTA, (February 7, 2019);
“In New Hampshire, Sen. Cory Booker questioned on his support for Israel,” Jewish Insider, (February 16, 2019);
Eli Watkins and Daniella Diaz, “Smollett case until more information comes out,” CNN, (February 17, 2019);
Bryant Harris, “2020 Democrats vow to re-enter Iran nuclear deal,” Al-Monitor, (March 19, 2019);
Gabe Friedman, “Cory Booker speaks Hebrew on CNN,” JTA, (March 28, 2019);
Amir Tibon and Amos Harel, “2020 Democrats Promise to Re-enter the Iran Deal, and Israel Is Concerned,” Haaretz, (April 23, 2019);
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Jeremia Kimelman, “Full transcript: 2019 Democratic debate Night One, sortable by topic,” NBC News, (June 27, 2019);
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Anton Shenk, “Presidential hopeful Booker addresses BDS, student debt, climate in conversation with the Daily,” Tufts Daily, (September 20, 2019);
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