AIPAC and Pro-Israel Groups Target Progressive Democrats in Primaries Amid Israel-Hamas Fallout

Pro-Israel groups target progressive Dem lawmakers in primaries, highlighting party divide over US policy toward Israel-Palestine. $100M spent to oust critics of Israel, with implications for Dem party's direction.

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Geeta Pillai
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AIPAC and Pro-Israel Groups Target Progressive Democrats in Primaries Amid Israel-Hamas Fallout

AIPAC and Pro-Israel Groups Target Progressive Democrats in Primaries Amid Israel-Hamas Fallout

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other pro-Israel groups focus on progressive Democratic lawmakers Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) in their primary elections, as the fallout from the Israel-Hamas war continues to impact U.S. politics. AIPAC plans to spend $100 million to focus on progressive candidates, while the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) PAC and the Jewish Democratic Council of America have also set their sights on Bowman and Bush.

The effort highlights the degree to which the Israel-Hamas war will factor into Democratic primaries and shape the party's next wave of incoming lawmakers. Polling suggests Bowman and Bush are facing challenging primary races, with their pro-Israel opponents leading in surveys. The involvement of groups like AIPAC in Democratic primaries has been criticized by progressive groups like J Street, who argue it threatens to divide the party ahead of the November elections.

Why this matters: The targeting of progressive Democrats by pro-Israel groups highlights the growing divide within the party over U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine. The outcome of these primaries could have significant implications for the direction of the Democratic Party and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

AIPAC is expected to spend over $100 million in Democratic primaries to target and oust progressive members of Congress, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, and Ilhan Omar. AIPAC is supporting primary challengers to these lawmakers who have spoken out against Israel's actions in the recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Full support for Israel is the primary criterion for AIPAC's endorsement, and the group has previously endorsed 109 Republican representatives who voted to overturn the 2020 election results.

AIPAC has launched a super PAC, the United Democracy Project (UDP), to directly fund political campaigns and block Democratic candidates critical of Israel at the primary level. The UDP has raised over $49 million and plans to spend $100 million this year against primarily Democratic candidates. Meanwhile, more moderate pro-Israel groups like J Street have raised significantly less. The leading donors to the UDP are Republicans seeking to influence Democratic primaries, including the conservative Ukrainian American billionaire co-founder of Palantir.

Rep. Cori Bush is facing a tough Democratic primary challenge amid investigations into her use of campaign funds to hire her husband as part of her security team. Bush, a vocal critic of Israel, has spent close to $100,000 on legal fees in the first quarter of the year due to the investigation. Her primary opponent has significantly more cash on hand, and has been endorsed by AIPAC and the DMFI PAC.

The 2024 election will be a bellwether for the enduring impact of these pro-Israel groups on U.S. politics. As progressive group Our Revolution hosts a town hall event featuring members of 'The Squad' to "shore up defenses against well-funded corporate lobbyists" like AIPAC, the divisions within the Democratic Party over Israel-Palestine are likely to remain a major factor in the primaries and general election.

Key Takeaways

  • AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups target progressive Dem lawmakers Bowman and Bush.
  • AIPAC plans to spend $100M to oust progressive Dems critical of Israel in primaries.
  • Outcome of these primaries could impact Dem party's stance on Israel-Palestine policy.
  • Cori Bush faces legal issues over use of campaign funds, giving her opponent an edge.
  • 2024 elections will test the influence of pro-Israel groups on US politics and Dems.