Jewish leaders: Political shift won't affect ME policy

Top American Jewish organizations say midterm voters cared more about domestic issues, weaker Obama won't affect peace talks.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
November 3, 2010 20:05
2 minute read.
Obama makes a final get-out-the-vote push, Sat.

Obama speaking flag 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)

NEW YORK – In the aftermath of the US midterm elections, American Jewish leaders speculated Wednesday that American support for Israel, if not the Obama administration, would largely remain unchanged by the nation’s newly-elected members of Congress.

Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ Malcolm Hoenlein anticipated no instant or substantial change in the American-Israeli relationship as a result of Tuesday’s Republican victories in the House of Representatives.

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 “Congress can reject or approve policy, but the initiatives come from the White House, so in terms of the peace process, I don’t anticipate any major shift,” Hoenlein told The Jerusalem Post. “I do think, though, that the new Congress will continue the tradition of bipartisan support for Israel, which is quite remarkable. I think we have great support today, and that we will continue to have it with the new members, and then we’ll have to see.”
              
Hoenlein said Tuesday’s election was mostly concerning in “what this reflects about the mood of the American people – the anger that’s there, the frustration, and how that translates.”

 “We don’t know what the attitude will be to American involvement in Israel in the long run,” Hoenlein said. “Right now, the American people are remarkably committed to Israel in almost record numbers, but I’m concerned. When you have this kind of unrest in society, it usually isn’t good.”

In a press release, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said that it was “abundantly clear that the 112th Congress will continue America's long tradition of staunch support for a strong, safe and secure Israel and an abiding friendship between the United States and our most reliable ally in the Middle East.”

An election night poll specifically of American Jewish voters, conducted by JStreet with pollster Jim Gerstein, found that the Jewish community supported Democratic candidates, President Obama, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The American Jewish community took little to no part in the “Tea Party tidal wave,” JStreet President Jeremy Ben-Ami said, and “remains deeply suspicious of political conservatives individually as well as the Republican party and the Tea Party institutionally.”

According to the JStreet poll, only 7% of Jewish voters mentioned Israel as one of the top two issues on which they were basing their votes.  Iran came in last, with only 1% of Jewish voters saying it was one of their top two issues.



 “People are focused on the economy, and they’re focused on issues at home,” Gerstein said in a JStreet conference call Wednesday.  

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s Associate Director Mark J. Pelavin said the election exemplified a general trend from the past ten years of increasing focus on domestic, rather than international, issues.

“I don’t necessarily think it’s a problem, as long as the bipartisan base of support for Israel we’ve seen continues to exist,” Pelavin said, adding, “You don’t need 535 champions – you need a handful of champions.”


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