Commentary Magazine


Contentions

It Is Certainly an Emergency

Politico has the scoop:

Leading conservatives will launch a new pro-Israel group this week with a scathing attack on Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, the first shot in what they say will be a confrontational campaign against the Obama administration’s Mideast policy and the Democrats who support it.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s leadership unites two major strands of support for the Jewish state: The hawkish, neoconservative wing of the Republican Party, many of whom are Jewish; and conservative Evangelical Christians who have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Israel. The new group’s board includes Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol and Gary Bauer, the former Republican presidential candidate who leads the group American Values, as well as Rachel Abrams, a conservative writer and activist. Former McCain aide Michael Goldfarb is an adviser to the group.

“We’re the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community,” said Kristol.

This group is not affiliated with COMMENTARY but in the interests of full disclosure, we note that Noah Pollak, who has contributed to this blog as well as to COMMENTARY, will be the ECI’s executive director. Pollak explained that the ECI will be entering the fray in this year’s races:

“We want to be hard-hitting — we want to get into the debate and shake things up and make some points in a firm way,” he said. The group will target races for the House and the Senate, but there’s little doubt the larger target is the Obama administration, which Bauer told Politico is “the most anti-Israel administration in the history of the United States.”

To say that the ECI fills a niche would be a gross understatement. There is a gaping hole in the Jewish community’s response to the Obama administration and in its defense of Israel. In the past, these groups’ close relationship with incumbent administrations has served them well. But as I have written for nearly a year, that tactic is not suited to the current challenges and has proven counterproductive in the Obama era. The need is great to expose, confront, and challenge the administration when it, for example, eggs on an international flotilla investigation or excepts Russia and China from sanctions on Iran or mindlessly pursues engagement with Syria.

The establishment groups’ reaction was predictable, if restrained:

One official at an American Jewish organization welcomed the group to the degree that it would make “mainstream” criticism of Democrats, but also expressed concern that a group with such Republican origins would contribute to a deepening partisan cast to the debate over Israel, with Republicans lining up behind the Israeli government while some Democrats align themselves with Netanyahu’s American critics.

But the partisanship is a function not of the GOP’s rabble-rousing but rather of the stark decline in support for Israel on the left. The decades-old bipartisan coalition in support of Israel has become lopsided because one political party’s support has eroded. This was evident in polling on the Lebanon war, long before Obama got to the White House. But this administration, of course has exacerbated the problem. Many Democrats have placed party loyalty above support for the Jewish state, biting their tongues in the face of enormous provocation by the most anti-Israel administration in history. That may change as Obama’s political fortunes decline, but it has been at the root of mainly Jewish organizations’ dilemma in responding to the Obama administration.

Actually, the ECI has the potential to repair that bipartisan coalition by calling it straight on Israel and not letting ostensibly pro-Israel lawmakers avoid the dilemma: partisan loyalty or full-throated support for Israel:

I encourage our Democratic friends to have a competition with us on who can be more pro-Israel, because I think it’s in the interests of the United States and not a political party,” [Gary Bauer] said. “I’m really hoping that people like Senator [Chuck] Schumer and others will aggressively speak out for Israel at a time like this.”

And there is also the task of keeping neo-isolationists from gaining a foothold at the very time that Obama seems eager to withdrawal from our historic role as guarantor of the West’s security.

There is much to be done — take on the Obama administration’s lackadaisical approach to Iran, expose those who style themselves as pro-Israel but plainly aren’t, confront the administration’s refusal to stand up to Israel’s delegitimizors in international bodies, and keep the mainstream Jewish groups honest. That’s a tall order. In fact, it’s an emergency.