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Views on Israel of U.S. Presidential Candidates 2020:
Kamala Harris

(1964 - )

Kamala Harris* was born on October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California, to a Tamil Indian mother and a Jamaican father. Harris’s parents divorced when she was seven, and her mother was granted custody of the children. After the divorce, when Harris was 12, her mother moved with the children to Montreal, Québec, Canada.

After graduating from Westmount High School in Westmount, Quebec in 1981, Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she majored in political science and economics.

Harris returned to California, where she earned her Juris Doctor from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, in 1989 and began her career in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

In 2003, Harris became the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco. After serving for two terms, she was elected as the first African-American and first woman to serve as California’s Attorney General.

She met her Jewish husband, Douglas Emhoff, on a blind date in San Francisco. They married in 2014. In 2017, they visited Israel and the West Bank together.

In 2017, Harris was sworn in as a United States Senator for California, the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in history. She serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on the Budget.


General Remarks

  • In a profile of Harris, journalist Ron Kampeas described her as “more AIPAC than J Street.” (JTA, January 11, 2019)
  • “So having grown up in the Bay Area, I fondly remember those Jewish national fund boxes that we would use to collect donations to plant trees for Israel,” she said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2017. “Years later when I visited Israel for the first time, I saw the fruits of that effort and the Israeli ingenuity that has truly made a desert bloom.” (JTA, January 11, 2019)
  • Harris has described Israel as being a “beautiful home to democracy and justice.” (Arab America, January30, 2019)
  • In an off-the-record discussion with members of AIPAC, she said: “The vast majority of people understand the importance of the State of Israel. Both in terms of its history and its present in terms of being a source of inspiration on so many issues, which I hope we will talk about, and also what it means in terms of the values of the United States and those values that are shared values with Israel, and the importance of fighting to make sure that we protect and respect a friend, one of the best friends we could possibly have. And I do believe, walking the halls of the United States Senate these last several months, that this is a shared value,” she added. “I do believe this is one of the issues that is more obviously not even a bipartisan issue but a nonpartisan issue.” (Huffpost, February 24, 2019)

Peace

  • “Her support for Israel is central to who she is,” Harris’ campaign communications director, Lily Adams, told McClatchy... Adams said that the California senator has no plans to stray from the positions she has laid out on Israel since being elected to the Senate. “She’ll continue to support the U.S.-Israel alliance and peace through a two-state solution as a senator, as a candidate, and as president. For the senator, Israel should not be a partisan issue,” Adams said. She also opposes cutting foreign aid to Israel.
  • Harris “believes taking unilateral action to annex the West Bank would be a mistake and would jeopardize the peace process,” according to Adams.
  • “She’ll continue to support the U.S.-Israel alliance and peace through a two-state solution as a senator, as a candidate, and as president. For the senator, Israel should not be a partisan issue,” Adams said. (McClatchy, April 16, 2019)
  • “I believe that a resolution to this conflict cannot be imposed,” she said. “It must be agreed upon by the parties themselves.” (JTA, January 11, 2019)
  • Harris co-sponsored a Senate resolution in 2017 criticizing President Obama’s refusal to veto a U.S. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies. (JTA, January 11, 2019)
  • In June 2017, she joined in the unanimous vote for a resolution marking the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six Day War. The resolution called on President Donald Trump to “abide by” the 1995 law calling for the U.S. Embassy to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It also said, “Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected.” Further, it advocated a two-state solution based on direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. (Arutz Sheva, June 6, 2017)
  • Harris insists that lasting peace can only take place if the Palestinians not only uphold their recognition and security guarantees to Israel but explicitly recognize Israel as “Jewish state.” (Arab America, January30, 2019)
  • She believes “Israel is America’s friend and we should support Israel,” adding that she also believes “very strongly in a two-state solution and the need for doing everything we can to encourage that the leaders in that region move toward that end.”
  • “Senator Harris strongly supports security assistance to strengthen Israel’s ability to defend itself. She has traveled to Israel where she saw the importance of U.S.-Israeli security cooperation firsthand. (JTA, February 7, 2019)

Interview with John Favreau:

Favreau: Bibi Netanyahu just won re-election. One of his promises right before the election was he said he might annex West Bank settlements. If you’re President, Netanyahu decides to annex West Bank settlements, what do you do?
Harris: “Well, I’m completely opposed to a unilateral decision to annex and, and I would express that opposition.”
Favreau: How do you see sort of your support for Israel — which I know you’re a strong supporter of Israel ― with the policies under Netanyahu and the direction he’s taken that politics? What can you do as president to show that, yes we support Israel but I’m unhappy with the direction?
Harris: “Let me be clear: I support the people of Israel. And I’m unambiguous about that. I’m supporting the people of Israel does not mean, it should not be translated to supporting whoever happens to be in elected office at that moment. And so, my support of Israel is strong and it is sincere. There is also no question that we must speak out when human rights abuses occur. We must work with our friend, which is Israel, to do those things that we collectively know are in the best interest of human rights and democracy because it is that shared commitment to democracy from which the relationship was born and so we have to hold on to that.”
“I also believe that there is no question a Harris administration would be very forceful in working toward a two state solution. That has to happen.”
Favreau: What kind of diplomatic pressure could you exert on Israel to make sure that that happens, or at least push them towards that direction?
Harris: “Well, there are a number of things. But it has to be about opening a channel of communication that is honest and not informed by a lack of information or a lack of historical perspective or a lack of concern. And I think that all of those are concerns that we should have about the current administration.” (PodSaveAmerica, April 17, 2019)

Iran

  • Spokesperson: “Senator Harris has said keeping the American people safe is her top priority and that Iran cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. The president’s actions increase the likelihood of a military confrontation, and do not make us safer. She believes that firm diplomacy is the best path to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and avoid war. The Iran Deal was not perfect, but the president’s decision to unilaterally abandon it was driven by political motives and it hurts our ability to hold Iran accountable. She believes the U.S. should work with the international community to ensure Iran complies with the terms of the deal and place new limits on their missile program.”​ (Jewish Insider, May 15, 2019)
  • “Obviously Iran is a big source of concern for many reasons and in terms of — what I have concerns about is the president’s approach to it all.” (Jewish Insider, May 8, 2019)
  • She supported the Iran nuclear deal, although she was not a senator when it was signed in 2015. (JTA, January 11, 2019)
  • After the Trump administration pulled out of the deal, she issued the following statement:
  • “Today’s decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal jeopardizes our national security and isolates us from our closest allies. This nuclear deal is not perfect, but it is certainly the best existing tool we have to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and avoid a disastrous military conflict in the Middle East.
  • “As the international community and the Administration’s own national security team has confirmed multiple times, Iran remains in compliance with the deal. In the absence of an Iranian violation, it is reckless to break this agreement without presenting any plan on how to move forward. Instead of establishing a comprehensive, strategic national security policy, this Administration is far too focused on scoring political points.” (Kamala D. Harris, May 8, 2018)
  • According to a spokesperson for Harris, she “would rejoin the Iran deal if the U.S. could verify Iran is not cheating and is complying with the strict requirements detailed in the agreement…. She believes we must engage in tough, forceful diplomacy to combat Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region.” (Al-Monitor, March 19, 2019)

Anti-Semitism

  • Harris opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel. (JTA, January 11, 2019); nevertheless, she 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. She and other Democrats who opposed the bill said they did so because of their concern that it could limit Americans’ First Amendment rights. (JTA, February 7, 2019)
  • “Harris’ response to that Omar controversy [anti-Semitic remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar] focused on bigotry and race, but was vague on the anti-Semitism charges against Omar.” (McClatchy, April 16, 2019)

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


Sources: Kamala D. Harris;
“Kamala Harris,” Wikileaks;
Ron Kampeas, “5 Jewish things to know about Kamala Harris,” JTA, (January 11, 2019);
Stephen Zunes, “More AIPAC Than J Street’: Kamala Harris Runs to the Right on Foreign Policy,” Arab America, January30, 2019);
Ben Ariel, “Senate approves resolution on Jerusalem reunification,” Arutz Sheva, (June 6, 2017);
Maxwell Strachan, “Kamala Harris Releases Off-The-Record AIPAC Comments,” Huffpost, (February 24, 2019);
John Favreau, “2020: Kamala Harris On American Identity And Secret Recipes,” PodSaveAmerica, (April 17, 2019);
Ron Kampeas, “Why these Democratic presidential hopefuls voted no on an anti-BDS bill,” JTA, (February 7, 2019);
“Harris Statement on Trump Violating the Iran Nuclear Deal,” Kamala D. Harris, (May 8, 2018);
Bryant Harris, “2020 Democrats vow to re-enter Iran nuclear deal,” Al-Monitor, (March 19, 2019);
Emily Cadei And  Michael Wilner, “On Israel, Kamala Harris breaks with liberal 2020 pack,” McClatchy, (April 16, 2019);
“Daily Kickoff: 2020 Dems criticize Trump’s approach to Iran,” Jewish Insider, (May 15, 2019).