As I wrote last week, the fact that about a fifth of Congress will have visited Israel during the August recess is a massive statement about the strength of the bipartisan coalition that supports the Jewish state. The buzz coming from these trips is that both Republicans and Democrats are making it clear to the Palestinian Authority that if they go ahead with their plan to ask the United Nations to recognize their independence without making peace with Israel, a U.S. aid cutoff will be inevitable. They are also telling the White House that the United States must veto this resolution in the Security Council.
Though some worry about the president’s resolve when it comes to vetoing the Palestinian ploy, a failure to do so isn’t likely. It is just as much the concern of the United States to prevent the chaos that allowing the UN to destroy the peace process in this matter as it is in Israel’s interests. But the real question on the minds of many of the Democrats is whether or not Obama will pick another fight with Israel before the next election.
Politico reports that the two leaders of the Congressional delegations to Israel, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democrat Minority Whip Steny Hoyer are sounding similar themes about the importance of the alliance with the Jewish state. But as the piece states, you don’t have to go very far beneath the surface to realize that many Democrats who are staunch backers of Israel like Hoyer are nervous about the administration’s predilection for spats with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Right now, Democrats are worried that Republicans will be able to turn the special election to replace Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th district into a referendum on Obama’s bad attitude toward Israel. While fears about holding that seat for the Democrats might be exaggerated, if the GOP candidate is able to pull off an upset win in that heavily Jewish district then that will be interpreted as a sign that Democrats are losing their stranglehold on the Jewish vote.
But just as worrisome for the Democrats is the fact that their candidate in that race is working hard to distance himself from the president, even going so far as to say that he is undecided about endorsing Obama for re-election in large measure because of the administration’s attitude toward Israel. As one source told Politico, a Democrat conceding that Obama is bad on Israel will lead to all Democrats being seen in the same light. This prompted a vow to make sure that such wavering Democrats were “snapped back into line” behind the president this fall.
But the problem with that is that Democrats know very well that if Obama picks another fight over Jewish homes in Jerusalem as he did in 2009 and 2010 or tries to ambush or pressure Netanyahu on the question of the 1967 lines as he did this past May, even the leaders of the Democratic caucuses will abandon the president as they did then.
Though Democrats have far bigger problems in 2012 than the possibility of losing some Jewish votes, they know that the potential for a major dustup with Israel will always be a possibility so long as Barack Obama is in the White House.