Jewish Democrats doubt Republicans’ Israel support

NJDC calls for Romney, Priebus to distance themselves from Paul; "He is certainly anti-Israel," says former aide

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jeff Haynes )
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jeff Haynes )
A day after Republican presidential nomination candidate Ron Paul attempted to defend his record on Israel, Jewish Democrats used Paul’s perceived anti-Israel sentiments to pummel the Republican Party.
Jewish voters in America are perceived by both parties to be a key demographic in the 2012 presidential elections, and Republicans other than Paul have vied with each other to sound most supportive of Israel.
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The National Jewish Democratic Council used support by key candidates for Paul to call into question the conservative party’s support for Israel.
The NJDC rushed to post comments by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, when he said in a CNN interview that he would vote for Paul if he won the nomination.
When pressed on Paul’s isolationism, Romney clarified, “I don’t agree with a lot of the things that Ron Paul says,” but added that “I believe we would be able to move [Paul] in a direction that’s more productive.”
Shortly thereafter, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum also said that he would vote for Paul if he became the GOP’s nominee. During a CNN interview, the former senator said that he would “absolutely” vote for Paul.
“I also hope that enough pressure can be brought to bear on him, if he becomes president, that he won’t make these horrific decisions,” Santorum added, referring to Paul’s isolationist stance, which includes removing foreign aid for all countries, including Israel.
“I don’t think [Paul] will be markedly different than Barack Obama,” Santorum explained.
The NJDC hurried to highlight Santorum’s willingness to support Paul, sending out a video of the interview.
Earlier in the week, the NJDC urged voters of both parties to contact both Romney and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus asking them to distance themselves from Paul’s perceived anti-Israel statements.
In the 2008 election, between 70-80% of Jewish voters supported Obama, and Democratic strategists are busy trying to make sure that that support does not enter a free fall of as many as 20 percentage points.
Republicans, however, have everything to gain by emphasizing support for Israel, a key issue among both Jewish voters and Evangelical Christians, a strong Republican demographic.
One prominent Republican who did step out against Paul this week was former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, who slammed Paul’s foreign policy on Wednesday, calling it “worse than the Obama administration.”
Bolton, who served in the administration of George W.
Bush, told Fox News that Paul, calling for an isolationist foreign policy, was living in “fantasy land.”
“The rest of the world is not going to leave us alone, and we need a commander-in-chief who understands that a Ron Paul president would simply not address the challenges we face,” he said.
Right-wing contender Newt Gingrich has said that should he win the race for the presidency, he would appoint Bolton to serve as secretary of state.
Gingrich last week became the first major Republican candidate to take a strong stand against Paul’s Israel policy.
Under fire, Paul defended his record on Israel Wednesday after a former aide said the congressman favored abolishing the nation.
“Dr. Paul is the most pro- Israel candidate in this race,” campaign spokesman Gary Howard said in an e-mailed statement.
“He is the only leader who will stop sending tens of billions of dollars in aid and arms to her Arab enemies, cut off subsidies to companies who do business with Iran and allow Israel to defend herself as she sees fit, without the permission and interference of the US or the United Nations.”
Although a longshot to win the Republican presidential nomination race, Paul is a leading contender for next Tuesday’s Republican caucus vote in Iowa, the first nominating contest in the nation. Paul previously drew fire for anti-Israeli and racist, anti-gay messages contained in newsletters published under his name two decades ago. Last Friday, a spokesman for Paul said the congressman apologized for not paying enough attention to “ghost writers” that he said were responsible for the remarks in question and repeated the congressman’s disavowal of those views.
But in a lengthy statement posted earlier this week on the blog site, former congressional aide Eric Dondero said his one-time boss had long harbored stridently anti-Israel opinions that he often expressed privately. Dondero, 49, who said he served as Paul’s senior aide in his Gulf Coast district from 1997 through 2003, denied ever seeing evidence that Paul was anti- Semitic.
“He is, however, most certainly anti-Israel,” Dondero wrote.
“He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations.”
“His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the American taxpayer,” Dondero continued.
“He sides with the Palestinians and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.”
A leading Jewish human rights organization had called on Paul on Wednesday to address Dondero’s assertions regarding the candidate’s position on Israel.
“We hope that [Paul] would confront this issue,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Reuters on Wednesday. He noted more than 60 years of bipartisan US support for the Jewish state.
“If he says that his principal aide was mistaken and that he never said that, that’s one thing. But if he adheres to such a position, that he believes there ought not be an Israel, that should be a wake-up call to America.”
The Wiesenthal Center is not the first Jewish group to express consternation with the Texas congressman over Israel. The Republican Jewish Coalition declined to invite him to its December 7 candidates’ forum, citing what it called his extreme views following a debate in November in which Paul argued that the United States should be less involved in Israeli affairs.
“They can take care of themselves,” he said then. “Why do we have this automatic commitment that we’re going to send our kids and send our money endlessly to Israel?” Dondero, a Navy veteran, acknowledged that Paul’s supporters previously dismissed him as a “disgruntled former employee,” and said he parted company with Paul in early 2004 over sharp differences on foreign policy matters.
Speaking to Reuters on Wednesday, Dondero, who publishes his own Libertarian- blog and earns a living gathering petition signatures for ballot proposals around the country, stood by his assessment of his former boss. He said he wrote about Paul in response to requests from other conservative blog writers seeking greater insights into the congressman’s views.