Opinion: The Wedge Issue

September 30, 2012 4:06 am 2 comments

Obama vs. Romney. Photo: wiki commons.

Given the small size of the Jewish population, the attention given to the Jewish vote is, almost by definition, disproportionate. But though the absolute numbers at stake in the battle for this small slice of the electorate is small, if Republicans can persuade a substantial percentage of Jews to abandon their traditional support for the Democrats, especially in key swing states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, it could have a real impact on the outcome of a close presidential race in November.

But Jewish Republicans and Democrats don’t merely disagree about the issues. They differ over whether it is even permissible to debate what is arguably one of the most important issues for Jewish voters: Israel.

For the last generation, but especially over the course of the last decade, Republicans have highlighted their party’s fervent backing for Israel to convince a traditionally solid Democratic constituency to back the GOP. Democrats don’t merely take umbrage at the implication that their party is any less dependably pro-Israel than the Republicans but argue that that since support for Israel is the function of a bipartisan coalition, for their opponents to try and use it as a wedge issue turns something that should be above politics into a partisan football.

This debate has heated up this year and for good reason. Most polls indicate that the Democratic share of the Jewish vote may be the lowest since 1988. The reason for this is that President Obama’s attitude toward Israel has alarmed many Jews. Constant fights marked the first three years of his administration with the Israeli government over the peace process, settlements, Jerusalem and the 1967 lines. Despite an election-year Jewish charm offensive conducted by the administration, the disagreement between the two countries over setting red lines about Iran’s nuclear weapons program has become bitter and public.

All this has given the Republicans an opening and they haven’t been shy in trying to exploit it. Republicans have longed for a candidate to lead their party who could inspire confidence in the Jews like Ronald Reagan, whose 39 percent of the Jewish vote in 1980 set a modern record. But they were wrong. What they needed was another Jimmy Carter. And in Barack Obama they hope to have found one.

Democrats have replied to GOP criticisms of Obama on Israel by rightly pointing out that he has not destroyed the alliance. But their main counter-argument is to say that even raising Israel in this manner isn’t kosher because doing so undermines the consensus. But they are being more than a little hypocritical.

They wish to silence this debate because they stand to lose in any discussion on the issue since it is the only point on which conservatives can appeal to a generally liberal constituency like the Jews.

Yet no matter whether the GOP winds up getting a significantly higher percentage of Jewish votes this year or not, the debate about Israel has still been, contrary to Democratic arguments, good for the Jews.

Though some worry the tension between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Obama that has cropped up again this month on Iran will undermine the pro-Israel consensus, those fears are unfounded. The pro-Israel consensus exists because most Americans care deeply about Israel. Backing for Zionism is baked deep into the political DNA of the country and the overwhelming majority of Americans see the alliance as based on common values that transcend the issues of the day.

Accountability is the keystone of democracy. If the Jewish community is not prepared to hold politicians accountable for their stands, it will soon discover its concerns being ignored. Indeed, if the Obama administration were not afraid of losing more Jewish votes because of a credible Republican challenge, it is more than likely President Obama would feel he had a free hand to exert more pressure on Israel and to ignore its concerns about Iran.

While there are friends of Israel on both sides of the political aisle, the debate about Israel has helped keep both parties competing for Jewish votes. And that is something that is good for Israel, no matter whether you are a Republican or a Democrat.

JNS Columnist Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY magazine and chief political blogger atwww.commentarymagazine.com. He can be reached via e-mail at: jtobin@commentarymagazine.com. Follow him on Twitter here.

2 Comments

  • Jimmy Carter is a Palestine supporter. Don’t forget that. Big mistake voting for Obama just to stay Democratic. Stupid logic.

  • Ron Lauder, Ed Koch, Alan Dershowitz , Jack Rosen, and Dennis Ross are all Obama apologists who would vote for Jimmy Carter again as the Democratic Candidate over Moses as the Republican Candidate. They must think that most Jews have a short-term memory not beyond election year politics. All of them will find out that the Jewish community remembers Obama’s own statements/actions about ”putting a distance between the US and Israel”, his Cairo speech, publicly snubbing Bibi , stating that the negotiations should begin at the 1967 borders with land swaps (Any one want to guess how much land the PA would want for Israel to retain the Old City and Western Wall?), not placing a timeframe on Iran to cease production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons, open mic comment about having ” to work with Bibi ” to the French Prime Minister, and removal of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from the Democratic Platform and the chorus of boos/nays when there were three floor votes to reinstate pro-Israel language into the platform. Any American, pro-Israel Jew with Israel as a high priority must vote for Romney given Obama’s record for the past 3 1/2 years. Obama’s record, speeches, and actions have made voting for Romney easy this year.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Sports Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    Israeli Soccer Team Faces Prospect of International Ban

    The Israel National soccer team could be facing a World Cup ban, and other soccer sanctions, unless it alleviates travel restrictions and increases field access for Palestinian players and coaches. The head of the Palestinian Football Association is pushing for international soccer’s governing body, the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), to issue a ban on Israel competing internationally, claiming Israel’s restrictive travel for Palestinians is equivalent to a form of oppression. “It’s not only the athletes,” Jibril Rajoub explains. [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    Jewish Author of ‘Eat to Live’ Dishes on Health Care, Nutrition, Disease Prevention

    JNS.org – While the national debate on “Obamacare” rages on past the recent March 31 sign-up deadline, bestselling Jewish author Dr. Joel Fuhrman says the “current disease care model of what we call ‘health care’ cannot possibly be sustained.” “There is simply not enough money available to support a system in which the lion’s share of expenditures is devoted to acute care, with virtually nothing being spent on preventive medicine, i.e. health care,” Fuhrman says in an interview. “To make [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.