The Democrats are running scared, the Republicans are delusional, and the
Israeli government should be worried.
A new Gallup poll shows 60 percent
of American Jews approve of Barack Obama’s overall performance – well below the
78% he got in 2008. That number may be 14 points ahead of his approval rating
among all voters, but it’s giving Democratic operatives heartburn and
Republicans high hopes for a mass exodus of Jews to the red side of the
Republicans – focusing on the 60% and ignoring Obama’s 85%
approval rating among Jewish Democrats in the same poll – have been predicting a
sea change in Jewish voting for as long as I can recall.
In 2008, some
were confidently predicting Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), with a solid
pro-Israel voting record and popular in the Jewish community, would be the first
Republican to win a Jewish majority. To make sure that happened, the Republican
Jewish Coalition spent millions on a fear-and-smear campaign against the
Democratic nominee, painting him as the Muslim Manchurian
Fortunately for Obama, that strategy snatched defeat from the
jaws of victory, especially in the key state of Florida, and helped assure a
large Democratic turnout.
I don’t know if they’re smart enough to avoid
trying that again.
Not that Obama isn’t vulnerable.
administration has given stronger support for Israel’s security than its
predecessors, even providing advanced technology such as the F-35 Joint Strike
Fighter that the Bush administration refused, and has supported Israeli
positions on Hamas, Iran and the Palestinian UN strategy, many feel there is
There’s none of the warmth that friends of Israel have
come to expect. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t get along with Bill
Clinton either, but Clinton and George W. Bush demonstrated a warmth toward
Israel that Obama lacks.
He just doesn’t have it in his
Obama is “pretty low on the trust and confidence scale” with
Israel and the Jews, said Aaron David Miller, a Mideast policy advisor in
several administrations and currently a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. He
isn’t an enemy of Israel, but “he’s not in love with the idea of Israel”
THE ADMINISTRATION’S Mideast policy has been a failure, poorly
planned and explained. On settlements, borders and other issues Obama has
undercut the confidence of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Even Bush’s
national security advisor said there is no real difference between his old boss
and Obama on the border issue – in fact, Bush publicly spoke of the need for
land swaps across the pre-1967 lines in a 2008 appearance with Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas and no one complained – but Bush expressed it much
And Obama would be well advised to publicly endorse Bush’s
refugee policy: Palestinians go to the Palestinian state and Jews to the Jewish
Aggravating Obama’s problem is his failure to visit Israel as
president. He’s flown over Israel on his way to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq,
Turkey and elsewhere, but never bothered to stop in and say shalom.
of the problem is that the insecure Israelis need constant reassurance, but it
goes much deeper; Obama missed an invaluable opportunity to go over the head of
the foot-dragging Netanyahu and speak directly to the Israeli people about his
commitment to Israel’s security, and to help bring peace with its
Republicans are enjoying the Democrats’ discomfort but they
shouldn’t get too complacent. Jews haven’t been single-issue voters for at least
two generations, and the GOP’s love of Israel isn’t enough to make Jewish voters
overlook the influence of the religious Right and the tea partiers in the
MOST VOTERS see both parties as equally supportive of
Israel, although Democrats generally favor a stronger push for it while
Republicans tend to be more reluctant, with some even suggesting that to be
propeace is to be anti-Israel.
The real name of the game is
Jews are about two percent of the voting population and shrinking,
but we make up a significant proportion of contributors to both parties. That’s
why Democratic operatives are scurrying about reassuring big Jewish givers of
Obama’s commitment to Israel, and Republicans are trying to lure them away. JTA,
however, reports it finds no evidence of any dramatic partisan shift in
Prime Minister Netanyahu can get more votes in the US Congress
than in the Knesset, but don’t confuse the enthusiasm of American lawmakers with
their Jewish constituents.
Polls by and for Jewish organizations in
recent years have shown that Israel is diminishing as a determinative issue for
Jewish voters. A survey this spring for media watchdog CAMERA showed only 6% of
Jewish voters consider Israel the issue “which matters most to them” in the 2012
election. For most, it’s fifth or sixth on their priority list. Many Jewish
voters say they are turned away by the GOP emphasis on what have been called the
3 Gs – guns, God and gays.
Israeli leaders have another
The president and the congress are negotiating trillions in
budget cuts, and Israel’s annual $3 billion-plus is a tempting target as
resources are stretched to the breaking point. Explaining why they cut Social
Security, Medicare and local projects while protecting foreign aid to a
prosperous Israel is not a job any of them would firstname.lastname@example.org