Jewish Democrats have been trying to sound two themes simultaneously this year. On the one hand they have been saying what they have repeated for the past few election cycles: that Israel is not a major issue for most Jewish voters and that their party — and its presidential candidate — has nothing to worry about in the fall. Yet out of the other side of their mouths come equally fervent assertions claiming Barack Obama is Israel’s best friend ever to sit in the White House and that those who observed the endless fights he picked with the Jewish state during his first three years in office should not pay any attention to the man behind the curtain. While the claim about Obama’s status as Israel’s buddy is risible, it’s true that the majority of Jews will vote for the Democrats no matter what the Obama administration has done — or might do in a second term.
But though the discussion about the implications of the administration’s attitude toward Israel on the Jewish vote is not without substance, the issue may have far greater implications for an entirely different demographic: evangelical Christians. Support for Israel is a key issue for many religious conservatives and with Mitt Romney needing to be assured that this generally reliable Republican voting group will turn out in force for him in November, the GOP candidate is making it clear that the next administration will look and sound very different on the Middle East. That was the message Romney was sending yesterday when he told the Faith and Freedom Coalition, an evangelical Christian group, that he would do the “opposite” of Obama on Israel. The loud applause he garnered for his statements showed that there is an eager audience for a strong Republican stand on Israel even if those interested in hearing it aren’t Jewish.
Mitt Romney was roundly mocked in March by the mainstream media and many so-called foreign policy wise men for saying Russia was America’s top “geopolitical foe.” He was accused of attempting to revive the Cold War and an derided for his lack of understanding of international nuance by those who preferred President Obama’s much cooler approach to the regime of Vladimir Putin which has included a failed “reset” and a hot microphone promise by the president that he would be able to be more “flexible” in his second term in dealing with Russia’s demands. But three months later, with Russia sending missile defense systems to Syria, it would appear that Romney’s evaluation was right on target.
The announcement on Friday that Russia would be sending advanced missiles to the beleaguered regime of Bashar al-Assad was a body blow to those who have been trying to convince the world that Putin was prepared to play ball with the West. The missiles are intended to help Assad fend off any Western intervention in Syria as the dictator continues to repress dissent and slaughter his people. The move is troubling in of itself as it will embolden Assad to stand his ground against international pressure and make any intervention to stop the humanitarian crisis there much more difficult. But it also reveals what has long been obvious to anyone paying attention to Moscow’s foreign policy ambitions in the last decade. Putin’s goal is to reconstitute as far as possible the old Soviet sphere of influence in the Middle East. As far as he is concerned, the discussion about human rights in Syria is irrelevant. Syria is his client state, and like his Soviet predecessors, he is determined to preserve it at any cost, something that will also have serious implications for the West’s attempt to stop Iran’s nuclear program. If that isn’t a geopolitical foe for the United States, then what exactly would one look like?