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Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate: A Jewish perspective
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Kamala Harris as Biden’s running mate: A Jewish perspective

The progressive is a staunch pro-Israel liberal who is more AIPAC than J Street.

Sen. Kamala Harris in the Russell Senate Office Building, June 24, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)
Sen. Kamala Harris in the Russell Senate Office Building, June 24, 2020. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images)

(JTA) — Joe Biden has chosen Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate — the first Black woman to be named to a major-party U.S. presidential ticket.

Background: The California senator briefly led the presidential contenders in the polls in mid-2019 when she stood out in the crowded debates — in part by bashing Biden on his civil rights record. Her outspoken feminism and her blunt prosecutorial style on the Senate Judiciary Committee has earned her support from Hillary Clinton-style Democrats and some progressives, while her background as a prosecutor has made her vulnerable to attacks from others to her left.

On Israel: Despite her progressive bona fides, Harris is a staunch pro-Israel liberal who is more AIPAC than J Street — in fact, J Street, the liberal Israel lobby, has never endorsed her, despite the fact that they endorse more than half of Senate Democrats. She pushed back against claims in 2019 that she was boycotting the American Israel Public Affairs Committee by releasing a picture posing with its conference activists. She backs a two-state solution and says that “a resolution to this conflict cannot be imposed” on Israelis or Palestinians. Harris isn’t just talk, though: She also co-sponsored a Senate resolution in early 2017 that essentially rebuked the Obama administration for allowing through a U.S. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies.

She has already broken some glass: She married Jewish lawyer Douglas Emhoff in 2014. His Twitter feed can get sappy about her, in a good way.

Blue box connection: “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 AIPAC conference 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.”

Her VP case: On paper, Harris is very aligned with Biden, who is also a centrist Israel defender, on Israel policy. By picking her, Biden could rest easy on that front while earning some points with progressives who are not thrilled by his record.

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