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ECI Makes Private Anger Public

This segment on ECI’s opening ad and the backlash against Obama’s Israel policy from Morning Joe should be mandatory viewing:

The domestic impact of Obama’s Israel policy and the potential influence of a group like ECI comes through clearly in that segment. First is the (unintended) comic reaction of Terry McAuliffe — “Out of bounds!” But isn’t it policy, isn’t the ad just quoting Joe Sestak’s own words? Er… um … You see the problem: Democrats are none too pleased that Obama’s Israel policy will have real consequences domestically. It wasn’t supposed to work this way, according to the Obami brain trust; is was Bibi who was supposed to crumble under political pressure.

Also interesting is Politico’s Mike Allen’s and host Joe Scarborough’s take that the ad may tap into liberal Jews’ anger over Obama’s assault on Israel. From time to time, an ad breaks through the clutter and in essence gives “permission” for dissatisfied groups to holler, “Enough!” As we’ve discussed at length, the reaction of American Jewry to Obama has, to put it mildly, been conflicted. A mix of wishful thinking (he doesn’t really mean it!), partisan loyalty, and misguided strategy (if we don’t challenge him in public, he’ll be nicer to Israel!) have dampened public criticism of Obama’s Israel policy. But the underlying unease, indeed fury, has not abated. As this and other ads circulate and as the Middle East gains prominence in the campaign, even liberal Jews may come to the realization that in the privacy of the voting booth, they can finally register their objections. Call it putting some “daylight” between themselves and a disappointing president.

Finally, this video highlights the gap in the pro-Israel community that ECI fills. A pro-Israel activist not associated with either ECI or AIPAC told me, “AIPAC is great at what they do on Capitol Hill. They have their toolbox. ECI has theirs.” It is in that regard an important division of labor in the Jewish community. Established Jewish organizations have never faced a president like this and have struggled to come up with a game plan for pushing back. They are reluctant and ill-equipped to engage in confrontational public advocacy, yet their membership fumes, “Why aren’t you doing something!” Well, along comes ECI. In essence, this alleviates the pressure on establishment Jewish leaders to do what they feel their organizations cannot.

Those who bemoan that foreign policy is “politicized” really mean that they don’t want to defend their own positions. But that’s not how democracy works. Every issue is fodder for debate. We’re now going to have a rip-roaring one on Middle East policy.