Steve Garvey and Adam Schiff are at war over who’s the stronger Israel supporter. Does it matter?

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Steve Garvey says Adam Schiff has “turned his back” on Israel.

Garvey claims the Democratic congressman has engaged in “hypocrisy” and “betrayal” with his views of the protesters and the Israel-Hamas war.

But Schiff — who is Jewish and has a long, consistent history of strong support for Israel — brushes off the charges.

“Mr. Garvey, I think, can probably do a great job explaining his position on the designated-hitter rule. But he has been far from clear about his views on anything. And so I don’t take his comments very seriously,” Schiff said of the former all-star first baseman..

Independent analysts and pollsters see little if any political impact from this debate. Schiff remains a strong favorite to top his Republican challenger in their battle for a California U.S. Senate

“There’s clearly a divide among the younger generation” over the Israel-Hamas war, said Jessica Taylor, Senate and governors editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. But, she said, “there’s not enough (of a divide) to make a difference.”

The Dispute

Garvey, who until this election has never sought political office, says he’s a strong supporter of Israel.

“This conflict is not just complex; it’s about the fundamental security of a nation. I stand firmly in support of Israel and believe that any lasting peace solution hinges on this principle. This is an area where my view diverges sharply from those of my opponents,” he says on his campaign website.

Last month, Garvey held a news conference in Los Angeles. Flanked by Israeli flags, he railed against protesters sympathetic to Hamas at UCLA, USC and elsewhere. “These people are terrorists,” he said.

Schiff has consistently spoken out against protests that have turned violent or have antisemitic overtones.

“Jewish students should feel safe on campus. Period. That will never be the case if we allow situations like the one at Columbia (University) — where antisemitic and hateful rhetoric is being loudly and proudly displayed — to be tolerated. This needs to stop,” he tweeted last month.

The Vote

Republicans earlier this month forced a House vote on whether to require President Joe Biden to provide weapons to Israel that had been approved by Congress.

The bill would cut off money to diplomatic and defense agencies until such weapons were provided to Israel.

Biden, facing pressure from progressives in his party, had delayed shipment of 3,500 bombs in an effort to discourage Israel from launching a full-scale invasion of Rafah in Southern Gaza. But the administration still planned to move ahead with a $1 billion sale of other military material to Israel.

The bill passed, with most Republicans in the GOP-run House voting for it, but most Democrats saw the vote as a political ploy aimed at embarrassing them, and it is likely going nowhere in the Democratic-majority Senate. Sixteen House Democrats voted yes and 184, including Schiff, voted no.

Garvey pounced, calling Schiff’s vote “a betrayal of our strongest ally in the Middle East.” Other California Republicans agreed.

“Unable to deter Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, or any other nefarious actor seeking to attack the Jewish state, the Biden administration instead is suppressing a close ally,” said Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona.

Garvey cited a Schiff statement from October 8, the day after the Hamas raid on Israel killed 1,200 and saw 250 people taken hostage.

“Schiff at the time emphasized ‘unwavering support’ for Israel and emphasized the U.S. must assist in its defense. Yet, when it came time to act, he turned his back,” Garvey said.

Garvey promised that if elected, “I will stand firmly with Israel, yesterday, today, and tomorrow to ensure it has the resources to defend itself against terrorism. We need leaders who uphold these commitments, not those who falter in times of need.”

Schiff explained after the May vote that he had conversations with senior officials at the National Security Council. He said he was “reassured that the administration recognizes the imperative of ending Hamas rule and denying its leadership and military refuge anywhere in Gaza.”

Schiff praised Biden for his “dedication to Israel’s security and to bringing the hostages home,”

Garvey, Schiff said, is approaching the Israel issue “first and foremost, on how can he take advantage of this horrible conflict politically, rather than what’s the right policy answer. And that’s certainly not where I’m coming from.”

The Politics

When Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, recently announced her support for Schiff, Garvey blasted Democrats, tweeting a reminder that Lee backed a permanent cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, and has been a consistent advocate for liberal causes.

Lee, who ran against Schiff for the Senate seat in the March primary and finished fourth, laughed when asked about Garvey’s criticism.

“What does he want me to do? Endorse him?” she asked.

Schiff appears to have suffered little if any political damage from the Israel controversy. An April Public Policy Institute of California poll had him up 61% to 37%. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is providing no apparent help; its spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee PAC is supporting Schiff. United for Democracy, a SuperPAC affiliated with AIPAC, gave $5 million three weeks before the California primary to the Standing Strong PAC, an independent organization that’s been helping Schiff.

At PPIC, survey director Mark Baldassare found the economy and inflation, not Israel policy, are the key issues driving most races.

Garvey, he said, is following a national Republican script where the GOP is trying to show it’s a stronger supporter of Israel than Democrats.

Democrats for decades have routinely won strong majorities among Jewish voters in national and California races. The Los Angeles area has one of the country’s largest Jewish populations, and the state’s Jewish population is second only to New York in this country.

Baldassare and others did not see a lot of Democrats flipping to Garvey, explaining, “What’s driving this race at this point is…Democrats have coalesced around Schiff.” The PPIC survey showed Schiff the choice of 91% of Democrats.

Schiff is strong because people are interested in other issues, said Lee.

“Let’s talk about the threats to our democracy and what happens in November if Donald Trump and Steve Garvey….are elected,” she said.