It’s now official: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s choice for vice president.
“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked Kamala Harris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” the former vice president said in a tweet on Aug. 11.
In her first statement since her selection, Harris said, “Joe Biden can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for us. And as president, he’ll build an America that lives up to our ideals. I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for vice president, and do what it takes to make him our commander-in-chief.”
In his own statement, President Donald Trump immediately wrote, “Not long ago, Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist and asked for an apology she never received. Clearly, Phony Kamala will abandon her own morals, as well as try to bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat Party.”
The Oakland, Calif.-born Harris, who made history as the first Black woman to join a major party presidential ticket, is still in her first term. But during several years in public office, the 55-year-old lawmaker’s outspoken opinions on a range of issues and her presidential run have given Jewish voters plenty to scrutinize.
The daughter of a mother who came to the U.S. from India and a father who immigrated from Jamaica, Harris is married to Jewish lawyer Douglas Emhoff, who would become the country’s first Jewish “second husband.” They married in August of 2014 in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“Look at my own life, where a daughter of a South Asian mother and a Jamaican father concluded her own interfaith wedding with her husband, breaking glass and everyone yelling, ‘Mazal tov!’” she said in a 2017 speech.
As a senator, Harris has been aligned with Biden on Israel. She is seen as a strong supporter with ties to AIPAC, the country’s largest pro-Israel lobby, and unlike some Democrats has not broached the idea of conditioning aid to Israel to influence its policies.
Harris has publicly advocated a two-state solution in the Middle East, but she doesn’t believe in big-footing either side. “I believe that a resolution to this conflict cannot be imposed,” she has said. “It must be agreed upon by the parties themselves.”
In early 2017, Harris co-sponsored a Senate resolution that essentially rebuked the Obama administration for allowing through a U.S. Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies.
During her presidential run, Harris separated herself somewhat from even the mainstream moderates in the pack, firmly opposing the idea of condemnatory United Nations votes or even strong public criticism aimed at swaying Israeli policy.
While the more liberal pro-Israel group J Street has endorsed the centrist Biden, who also has committed to keeping spats with Israel private and the idea of not allowing any “daylight” between the United State and Israel in diplomatic terms, it has not backed Harris.
J Street, which lobbies for a two-state solution, has endorsed more than half of Senate Democrats.
However, Harris has said that she would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, an agreement that conservative Jews despise over its aid to Iran, a regime that routinely calls for Israel’s destruction. That keeps her aligned with Biden, who was part of the Obama administration that brokered the 2015 agreement over vehement objections by Israel.
“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,” Harris wrote in a statement in 2018 after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal. “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.”
Harris, previously the attorney general of California, is a self-described progressive who’s also known for being “tough on crime” — a quality that has hurt her standing among other progressives but could be seen as a plus by Jewish Americans rattled by a series of historic anti-Semitic attacks during the past few years, including the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 in 2018.
As San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris created a hate crimes unit, and as attorney general, she reported in 2012 that anti-Jewish hate crimes were the most commonplace religion-based hate crime in California.
In the Senate, she has urged better hate crime reporting and helped pass a resolution that named religious institutions as possible targets of hate crimes.
Outside of politics, Harris’ husband Emhoff has two Jewish children, Cole and Ella, from a previous marriage — and he often cheerleads for his wife on Twitter.
Haile Soifer, head of the Democratic Jewish Council of America, said Harris “prioritizes the same issues as Jewish voters, and will work diligently to defend our values in the White House, alongside our next president, Joe Biden.” She praised Harris”s “support of the U.S.-Israel relationship, her commitment to ensuring access to affordable health care and education, her intolerance for hatred and bigotry, and her unwavering efforts to protect our country’s most vulnerable communities.”
In a tweet, Dan Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, also praised Biden’s selection of Harris. “Three years after racists marched in Charlottesville, Joe Biden took a huge step toward restoring the soul of our nation in picking a stellar running mate,” he wrote.
But Matt Brooks, head of the Republican Jewish Coalition, countered, “Joe Biden has sealed the Democrat Party’s move to the extreme left with the choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate. Harris is right up there with the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. A Biden-Harris White House would push the Left’s agenda on the American people, weakening our national security, choking off our economic opportunities, endangering our allies, and weakening our relationship with Israel.”
Gabe Friedman writes for the JTA global Jewish news source. Portions of this article were also culled from other media sources.