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...

  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    Biography Sheds New Light on David Ben-Gurion’s Place in Jewish History

    JNS.org – There is one sentence in “Ben-Gurion: Father of Modern Israel” that made me sit up in surprise. I thought that I knew the basic facts about how Israel came into being, but while describing what it was like in the days and hours before the state was declared, author Anita Shapira provides one important anecdote I was not aware of. On the 12th of May, the Zionist Executive met to decide what to do. Moshe Sharrett had just returned [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.