By Alex Kane and Nashwa Bawab | 1 June 2019
THE INTERCEPT — On the afternoon of April 19, 2018, a group of Texas Republicans received an email confirming their upcoming all-expenses-paid trips to Israel. An orientation packet filled with background on their destination “for reading on the flight,” the message said, was forthcoming.
The May 2018 trip to Israel would not be Texas politicians’ first — Gov. Greg Abbott, for one, flew to Israel on casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s private jet in 2016.
But it was unique in at least one crucial way: The trip was organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, according to records obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and reviewed by The Intercept. The right-wing group of over 2,000 state legislators, lobbyists, and corporate backers writes legislation to be exported to statehouses around the country and has largely focused on issues like “stand your ground” gun laws and voter suppression efforts. By leading a delegation to Israel, ALEC was opening up a new front, demonstrating the extent to which support for Israel has become a central part of the GOP’s policy agenda, especially in Texas.
The delegation, which included eight elected Texas officials, was a reflection of Texas Republicans’ deep ties to Israel: rooted in a combination of economic interests, an Israel-loving evangelical base, and pro-Israel advocates whose campaign contributions have helped the state’s GOP maintain its 16-year governing trifecta. Those ties have grown stronger in recent years, even as Israel lurches to the extremist right, entrenches its military occupation of Palestinian land, and continues to build settlements, considered by most of the world illegal under international law.
As the Trump administration maintains the friendliest U.S. relationship with the Israeli right in history, Texas has become one of the most pro-Israel states in the country. It has forged ties with Israeli settlements and aggressively enforced a law targeting advocates of boycotting Israel. Its exports to Israel last year topped $900 million, and its imports from Israel are valued at $1.5 billion, according to the Texas Economic Development Corporation, making Texas the fourth biggest Israeli trade partner in the U.S. (Florida, however, is now competing with Texas over supporting Israel: The state’s Trump-backed governor, Ron DeSantis, who campaigned on a promise to be America’s most pro-Israel governor, traveled to Israel on a “business development mission” with members of his cabinet in late May and was on hand to applaud the announcement of a student exchange program between Ariel University, an institution located in an Israeli settlement deep in the occupied West Bank, and Florida Atlantic University.)
“I think we have a lot in common with Israel,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, an adviser to Trump’s 2016 election campaign who once shared a meme on Facebook suggesting the U.S. drop a nuclear bomb on the “Muslim world,” told The Intercept. “The Israelis are kind of like cowboys. They’re tough and gritty and they don’t take any shit from anybody.” […]