Pro-Israel students on US campus 521.
(photo credit: Courtesy JAFI)
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In the closing stages of the razor-thin 2012 US presidential election, American
Jews suddenly emerged in a starring role in a way they never had
In no previous election had the candidates spent so much money
and expended so much time and energy in an effort to target and capture Jewish
votes. In the short term, some might see this as gratifying. After all, it’s
nice to be wanted. But some of the longer term implications are worrying both
for the American Jewish community and for Israel.
Traditionally, as is
well known, American Jews have loyally supported Democrats through good times
and bad, going all the way back to the Great Depression and the New Deal. The
only real exception came in 1980 when Jimmy Carter won only 45 percent of the
Jewish vote, while Ronald Reagan took 39%. (A third candidate, John Anderson,
won the rest).
In the five elections of the past 20 years prior to 2012,
Jewish support for the Democratic candidate was remarkably stable – between 76%
and 80%, according to exit polls. Barack Obama won 78% in 2008, a fairly typical
result. But this year, Republicans saw an opportunity to change
Obama’s failure to visit Israel, his public spats with Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his call for a return to the 1967 lines with
territorial land swaps to form the basis of a peace agreement with the
Palestinians alarmed and angered some Jews.
Romney accused Obama of
“throwing Israel under a bus.”
Bankrolled by casino magnate Sheldon
Adelson and other wealthy donors and aided by new campaign finance laws which
removed limits on political spending, the Romney campaign and its allies poured
$6.5 million into an air and ground offensive to reach Jewish voters in swing
states in the final weeks of the campaign.For more in-depth reporting and insight from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World subscribe to The Jerusalem Report