GRAFTON – Dan Kohl, candidate for Congress, is no stranger to thinking about solutions to Israel’s most difficult problems.
The incumbent in the Sixth Congressional District is Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman, who won more than 57 percent of the vote with two opponents in 2016. For 2018, Dan Kohl of Mequon, the nephew of former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, is running as a Democrat. Scott Olmer of Plymouth is running as a Republican.
Some media reports have described Kohl as a “founder” of J-Street. Kohl was unwilling to go quite so far when asked about it: “I was there in the early days.”
J-Street bills itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group that seeks a two-state solution to the enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Israel continuing to exist as “secure, democratic and the national home of the Jewish people.”
The former Milwaukee Bucks executive moved to Washington to be J-Street’s first national political director. After the election cycle in 2012, he left J-Street to enter legal practice. He’s resigned from several boards to run for Congress. He’s previously served on the Milwaukee Jewish Federation board.
“I’ve traveled countless times to Israel,” Kohl said, interviewing at his new Grafton campaign office, still awaiting furniture to fill its mostly empty spaces in August.
“It’s in my bones. Love for Israel is in my bones,” he said. “I’m deeply committed to Israel’s ability to survive and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state. I’m a Zionist. I believe strongly in the importance of having a Jewish state, now more than ever. I’m a father of three young adults.”
Kohl says that if elected to Congress, he will work to maintain support for Israel’s security; oppose efforts to delegitimize Israel and impugn its Jewish and democratic character; stand behind the two-state solution; and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
“I observed national silence several times while in Israel on Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, memorializing the IDF’s fallen soldiers and celebrating Israeli Independence,” Kohl says in a campaign statement on Israel, referring to the Israel Defense Forces.
Kohl is critical of the Trump administration. “I’m dubious about their ability to forge a two-state peace. I was concerned about the one-state, two-state veer by the president,” he said, referring to what some have seen as mixed messages from the Trump Administration. “It takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of substantive knowledge. It takes a lot of perseverance.”
With so many skilled people having applied themselves to the problem for so many years, Kohl doesn’t think Jared Kushner has the right experience or enough time for a peace-broker role. Media reports in August indicated that Trump was sending Kushner, his son-in-law, and negotiator Jason Greenblatt to the Middle East to work on resolving the conflict.
“This idea that Jared Kushner has the understanding because he has had exposure to Israel, I find that a strange credulity,” Kohl said.
“I think there are things that can be done to help restore hope and trust on both sides,” he added.
Kohl supports maintaining U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority at existing levels, in part to foster preconditions necessary for a two-state solution, according to his campaign’s statement. The Palestinian Authority’s payment of stipends to those perpetrating violence must stop, it adds.
“I would say for Jewish voters, Israel is really important, it matters deeply, but what also drives people are the same concerns that people all across this country are so concerned about and that’s affordable health care, it’s better paying jobs, it’s an economy that works for all and not just those at the top,” the candidate said.
“People are concerned about the next generation and their ability to succeed.”
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This story has been corrected from the original version, which misstated the margin of victory in the 2016 election for Rep. Glenn Grothman. He won more than 57 percent of the vote with two opponents in 2016.