Why do US Jews still vote for Obama?

Despite the president’s poor record on Israel, "knee-jerk" liberals continue to view him with rose-tinted glasses.

In a recent Jerusalem Post interview, former deputy secretary of state Elliot Abrams said President Barack Obama “sees Israel as a problem,” reminding us of the question that won’t go away.
It’s a question being asked by many a political pundit, and not just on the island of Manhattan or in Israel. As an American-Israeli who is often interviewed by perplexed conservative talk show hosts, and having written extensively about this president’s relationship with Israel, the recurring question of American Jewish support for Israel has become one I can no longer avoid.
It goes something like this: – Is Obama really hostile to Israel, and if he is, why does he still have massive Jewish support? Furthermore, will there be a lateral shift in 2012? Concerning the first question, I believe the answer is clear to almost all Israelis. Three major opinion surveys taken in Israel in the past two years have posed the question, “Is President Obama pro-Israel?” The results have ranged from only four percent answering affirmatively in the first poll to 15% in the most recent one (taken at the onset of the 2012 presidential campaign).
With few exceptions, Israelis have been appalled ever since that first confrontational White House meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, when, after receiving a stern lecture from the president about the illegality of Israeli settlements, Israel’s prime minister was ungraciously left alone to fend for his dinner. Furthermore, most Jewish Israelis, whatever their views, were offended by Obama’s unprecedented political ambush this past May, when he publicly “suggested” that Israel return to its precarious pre-1967 borders just as Netanyahu was boarding his plane for a visit to Israel’s “best friend” in Washington.
BUT MOST Jewish Israelis are not Jewish Americans, and that is where the difference lies. Having lived in the United States for 35 years before immigrating to Israel almost 20 years ago, I know as well as anyone that Jews are not monolithic supporters of Israel. I wish it were otherwise, and it’s painful, but as with any American voters, there is a process of prioritization that occurs when selecting presidential candidates – and for most American Jews, Israel is not at the top of the list.
In short, the litmus test determining American Jewish support is not a candidate’s position on Israel. Liberal positions on issues such as abortion, gay marriage, school prayer and health care are what determine the vote in the core of America’s Jewish community.
Obama’s confrontational positions on Israel may be problematic for many American Jews, but are easily rationalized away by Democratic talking heads, who insist that most Israelis actually support the pre- 1967 borders, even though the undoubtedly left-leaning former foreign minister Abba Eban once referred to them as “the borders of Auschwitz.”
The reality is that most American Jews, while not necessarily economic liberals, are definitely social liberals who would find it difficult to support a staunchly pro-Israel conservative candidate like Michelle Bachmann. The term “knee-jerk liberal” or “knee-jerk Democrat” certainly applies here, and while most American Jews would decry such a characterization, the facts validate its veracity. In 1980, Ronald Reagan ran against incumbent Jimmy Carter, whose anti-Israel credentials certainly rival those of Obama.
When Reagan succeeded in capturing 35% of the Jewish vote, it was considered a major accomplishment, as many independent-minded Jews for whom Israel was a highpriority issue shifted to the other side of the aisle; but the majority remained faithful to the overall Democratic agenda and rationalized away the anti-Israel feeling that Carter conveyed.
Obama is a similar case. This president, whose sympathies clearly lie with the Islamic world, is no friend of Israel. His lack of appreciation for the Israeli narrative was obvious long before his victory in 2008. It’s no coincidence that his first major foreign policy speech was given in Cairo, during which he repeatedly proclaimed his deep respect for the religion of Islam. It’s also no coincidence that he bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Last but not least, it’s no accident that he has chosen not to visit Israel even once during his term. Ideological litmus tests aside, the time has come for American Jews who truly care about Israel to remove their rose-colored glasses and consider an alternative.
The writer is a former mayor of Shiloh, and founder and president of the Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund. He is the author of two books, including his latest, The Islamic Tsunami (Israel & America in the Age of Obama).