ABOVE THE FOLD: US elections: Jews need both sides of the aisle

Not too very long ago, it would have been unthinkable to question the loyalty of Democrats toward Israel.

Marco Rubio (L) and Ted Cruz (R) shake hands (photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE STONE)
Marco Rubio (L) and Ted Cruz (R) shake hands
(photo credit: REUTERS/MIKE STONE)
It is essential that both Democratic and Republican support of Israel be a sine qua non. And right now, that axiom seems to be on skittish ground. 

There is a feeling among many members of the Jewish community that the once solid and unwavering support of the Democratic Party for Israel is eroding. It is not that the party platform has changed, but that there are a growing number of political figures within the Democratic Party who are openly and aggressively questioning United States support for Israel.  
Not too very long ago, it would have been unthinkable to question the loyalty of Democrats toward Israel. For supporters of Israel, both in the United States and in Israel, the Democrats were the go-to party. Over the past generation, there seems to have been a flip-flop in US politics over Israel. Democrats were considered the unquestionable, staunch, wall-to-wall supporters of Israel.
Republicans were considered wishy-washy, pareve at best. And there were even whispers among Jewish leaders that some Republicans harbored outright antisemitic attitudes. One cannot forget the comment made by James Baker, secretary of state under George W. Bush – aka Bush HaAv – that went: “[Blank] the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway.”
Today you can often hear long-time registered Democrats explain that for over a decade they have voted Republican because of the positions Democratic candidates voiced on Israel. Many Israelis agree and they too are voicing the opinion – actually the conviction – that in 2018 Republicans are the friends of Israel and Democrats are not.
And that is not good news.
This split, where one party is considered a friend and the other is considered to be – while not quite the enemy, certainly
untrustworthy – is extremely dangerous. It is dangerous for US policy toward Israel and it is dangerous for Jews in the United States. The perception of the role of Jews in politics in the United States directly impacts Israel’s security. And when Israel’s security is at stake, the stability of the Middle East is at stake.
It is crucial that Jewish leadership articulates a clear “non-party” stance when it comes to supporting Israel in the US. And that is a responsibility they have not upheld these past few years and administrations. Jewish leadership must have the ear of both Democrats and Republicans. It is not good enough to change loyalty with each incoming administration, zigzagging from political victor to victor.
JEWISH SUPPORT must remain constant – and that means remaining supportive of both parties.  It means maintaining and strengthening ties with both parties. It means cultivating relationships with politicians on both sides of the aisle. The political pendulum swings. It swings in the United States just as it does in Israel, and the issue of support for Israel is greater than party affiliation.
Young and newly elected politicians – from Congress to the Senate, from mayors to governors – need to be educated about the importance of Israel to their party and to the security of the US. Their education should be transmitted by their political mentors as well as by Jewish donors and Jewish communal leaders.
There is no reason for there to be any doubt about either party, Democrat or Republican, and their support for Israel. And the responsibility for making that happen rests squarely – rests heavily – on Jewish shoulders.   
The vast majority of Jews in America are registered Democrats. The overwhelming majority of Jews vote Democrat. Times have changed since the election of Roosevelt, who garnered more than 90% of the Jewish vote. But they are still a strong voting bloc. Today, about 75% of America’s Jews vote Democrat, while 21% vote Republican. But 21% is still a significant number, and Republicans are well aware of that significance.
The power of the Jewish community on the political level is tied to the fact that Jews come out and vote, especially in primary elections. Voter turnout for the Jews is 85%; for the rest of America it is 50%. Israel is important to the Jewish community and that’s why it should be important to the United States and that should be reflected in US foreign policy. Famous, politically active Jewish billionaires aside, contributions from Jews amount to over 50% of the Democratic war chest in election years and to about 25% of Republican contributions.
As interesting as those facts and figures are, they are independent of the real reasons for why the United States, no matter which party has wrested control, should support Israel.
Israel and the United States have a relationship unlike any other nations divided by miles and oceans and language. When working effectively, that symbiosis translates to a better world and a safer world. By virtue of shared values, shared educational foundations and a shared vision and mission, the United States and Israel provide the rest of the world with tools that advance humanity.
That should never change – no matter which political parties are in power. Political party leadership is fleeting – humanity is forever.
The author is a columnist and a social and political commentator.