Israel is “a prerequisite for any national politician"Elizabeth Warren’s trip to Israel and other Middle East countries is likely more an indication of the senator’s fast rise within the Democratic Party than a sign that she is rethinking her political future, longtime Democratic observers of the Massachusetts senator said Monday.
Warren is the lone lawmaker on the trip organized by the State Department and the Senate Banking Committee, of which she is a member. She will be meeting with officials from the Israeli and Jordanian governments, the Palestinian Authority, United Nations groups and USAID. Warren will also meet with troops from Massachusetts serving in the Middle East.
The senator’s Middle East trip, first reported by the Boston Globe, is her first trip abroad as a senator. And given the importance of U.S.-Israeli relations, it was bound to stoke speculation about a potential 2016 presidential bid.
The liberal favorite has insisted that she is not running for president, but progressive activists are making a push to persuade her to run as an alternative to the likely Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The trip comes weeks after Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid announced the creation of a special leadership role for Warren as a liaison between progressive groups and Senate Democrats.
Democratic strategists said the trip reflects Warren’s growing influence within the party.
“She’s very quickly in a very different place than when she was first elected,” said Scott Ferson, president of the Liberty Square Group and former press secretary for the late Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.
He called the trip, which aides told the Globe was organized in August, smart for both political and policy purposes, citing Massachusetts’ important trading relationship with Israel and the state’s sizable Jewish population. “My sense is that she’s going to listen, more than talk, on this trip,” Ferson said.
Other Democratic operatives noted that the trip shows that Warren is taking on a more public role two years into her term.
Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist, noted that the trip is a departure from much of Warren’s tenure as senator, when she mostly conducted interviews with local press and stuck almost exclusively to economic issues.
“One could deduce that this new position she’s taken with leadership is going to require her to weigh in on issues other than the ones she has,” she said. “And she’s going to do her homework.”
Marsh also noted the state’s long legacy of senators who have focused on foreign policy issues, including Kennedy and current Secretary of State John Kerry.
Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former Reid spokesman, added that “there is no better way to start building your foreign policy résumé than going to Israel — as long as you manage to avoid missteps in that unforgiving part of the world.”
Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen agreed traveling to Israel is “a prerequisite for any national politician” but agreed that too much shouldn’t be read into Warren’s intentions.
Warren has mostly stayed quiet on foreign policy during her time in the Senate, spending most of her time on domestic economic issues like student loan debt and financial regulations.
At a town hall in August, she defended Israel’s shelling of targets in Gaza, saying that Israel had a right to defend itself against attacks from Hamas.
“America has a very special relationship with Israel,” she said, according to the Cape Cod Times. “Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”