In her primary, Democrat Jane Harman prevailed against Marcy Winograd, an avowed Israel-hater and great supporter of the terrorist flotilla. Her website proclaimed that she wanted to pursue “war crimes” prosecutions in Gaza and southern Israel, end the Gaza blockade, and remove Israeli settlements. She favors a “one or two state solution.” OK, pretty far out there, right? She got 41% of the vote. And to be clear, her Israel-bashing was not an incidental part of the campaign.
Elections like this and ample polling concerning the partisan divide in support for Israel should provoke some soul-searching in mainstream Jewish organizations. It would be swell to maintain a bipartisan pro-Israel coalition. It flourished for decades, to the benefit of our and of Israel’s national security. But that requires two parties fully committed to that coalition. With a Democratic president summoning an international inquiry to investigate Israel and slow-walking toward “containment” of a nuclear-armed Iran – and a Democratic Congress unwilling to cross him — this is quite hard.
It’s admirable to strive for bipartisanship to provide the widest possible support for Israel. But with a Democratic Party that has a significant number of Israel-haters (remember that 54 congressmen signed on to the Gaza letter) and others who cheer the lowest common denominator in every situation to avoid annoying their leftist colleagues and base (fake sanctions, wish-washy letters to the president), the result is not a robust bipartisan coalition but an ineffective one, which merely legitimizes the Obama assault on the Jewish state. In less than two years of this administration, “Israel’s last line of defense against false claims and promises—the United States—has made itself indistinguishable from the United Nations and Amnesty International and all the other NGOs and religious denominations that have declared virtual war against the Jewish State.” That’s a statement on Obama’s mendacity and on American Jewish leaders’ impotence, if not irrelevance.
I can attest to the schizophrenia this causes among Jewish leaders. Publicly and in the presence of Obama or other members of his administration, they are restrained, polite, even enthusiastic about the president’s actions. In private they grouse and fret — why did he carve out Russia from sanctions? How in the world could he support an international inquest of Israel? Perhaps they think they are doing good, working “behind the scenes,” they say, to persuade and cajole the administration. But look at the results. Obama’s behavior toward Israel is getting worse, not better, even as he tries to “charm” the Jewish community. If the result of “working behind the scenes” is a Swiss-cheese sanctions agreement and administration support for an international inquest on the flotilla, it’s time to concede that the strategy is a failure. And those who argue that it could be “worse” delude themselves. It is not their good offices but rather the financial and electoral support that Jews afford Democrats that provides the only restraint on the administration. And that isn’t much considering the Jews’ “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party, which Obama exploits to the hilt.
Mainstream Jewish organizations have to decide: lose their patina of bipartisanship (most are avowedly Democratic in membership) and their insider status (which comes with never rocking the boat all that much) – or risk losing their souls and their mission. They are there to promote a robust Israel-U.S. relationship, not to work against Israel’s interests for the sake of comity. If they can’t fulfill their mission, it is time to either drop the “bigger the bipartisan coalition, the better” mentality or frankly to close up shop. “Never annoyed Barack Obama” is not a legacy to be proud of, nor is easing the consciences of lawmakers who can’t bring themselves to give full-throated support to the Jewish state.