Adam Schiff says he is ‘very concerned’ about proposals that ‘would make Israel less democratic’


(JTA) — Rep. Adam Schiff, the Jewish Democrat from California who recently announced a run for the Senate, said that he was “very concerned” about proposed Israeli measures that “would make Israel less democratic or potentially place individuals above the law.”

Speaking to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week, Schiff drew a link between former President Donald Trump and legislation advanced by Israel’s recently elected right-wing government, which is headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu was a close ally of Trump during his presidency.

“I am very concerned about it, about the participation of certain elements in the Israeli government that have expressed bigotry and divisive policies and positions,” Schiff told JTA. “Sadly, our last president gave guidance to would-be autocrats around the world. We see that in Brazil. We see that in the Philippines and elsewhere. It’s sad that the United States should be an example for anti-democratic initiatives around the world but under our own last president, that was the case.”

Schiff is one of a growing number of Democratic lawmakers with pro-Israel records who have sounded alarm over Israel’s government, which has been described as the most right-wing in the country’s history. Schiff, however, stopped short of suggesting that Trump had encouraged Netanyahu to pursue antidemocratic policies.

“I think we will have to evaluate the actions of the new government,” he said, when asked about Trump’s impact on Netanyahu. “Certainly its composition raises a lot of concerns. And at the same time, Israel is a key ally of ours, a very important ally, the only democracy in the region, a country that we have so many shared interests and values with — our people and the people of Israel.”

Schiff said protecting democracy in the United States is one of the three central issues of his campaign. Schiff is running for the seat currently held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 89, whose fitness has been called into question. He played a leading role in Trump’s first impeachment, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, recently removed him from the House Intelligence Committee.

Schiff said he’ll also be running on curbing the cost of living in California, and on combating climate change. California Rep. Katie Porter is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

“​​I want to make sure that the American dream is still a reality for Californians and that we address certain structural impediments in the economy in different parts of the state,” he said. “I think we’re still going to be in the fight of our lives to preserve and protect our democracy and our democratic institutions.”