Commentary Magazine


Topic: Netanyahu administration

Will Jews Ever Part with the Democratic Party?

Eli Lake reports on the Obami’s anti-Israel bent and its impact on American Jews’ support for Democrats. On the Republican side, Lake finds an opportunity:

In the recent diplomatic rift between Israel and the United States, Republicans see a chance to attract votes and contributions from a demographic group that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats — Jewish Americans.

Meanwhile, the White House has launched a charm offensive to smooth over its relationship with the Jewish community after two of the most tense months in recent memory between Israel and the U.S. …

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said he has detected what he called “buyer’s remorse” among Obama voters. Mr. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and no Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1980 has received less than 60 percent of the Jewish vote.

“I do think there is a sense of disbelief on the part of many in the American Jewish community after this administration’s desire seemingly to pressure Israel in as forceful a way as possible while it is trying to solicit the support and friendship of countries that have not been allies of the United States,” said Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish.

The administration’s response has been a “charm offensive” with American Jews, but little sign they are reconsidering their Israel policy. For now, Jewish leaders are wary. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tells Lake that “many people will want to see what the administration does before they will restore trust.” And Abe Foxman of the ADL says, “To what extent this is cosmetic, rather than substantive, time will tell.”

But really, do the Obami have anything to fear? It seems that nothing short of a crow bar will separate the Jews from the Democratic Party. The degree to which Democrats take Jewish votes for granted is aptly summed up by Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who pooh-poohs poll numbers showing a  drop in Jewish support for Obama and points to a recent special election in Florida: “If Republicans, as they say every election cycle for at least 18 years, are correct that Jewish votes are turning to their party, you’d think they would see it in the last special election, which took place in the most heavily Jewish congressional district in the country.” Translation: we don’t think Jews will ever actually vote against Democrats, no matter what Israel policy they adopt. Another Democrat echoes that view:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who is Jewish, said there is concern in the Jewish community, but he does not think it has reached the point where Jewish voters will abandon Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party.

“I think people are watching and waiting and looking at the future, and people will be making judgments accordingly,” Mr. Engel said. “There has been a lot of angst over what is regarded in many circles as needless clashing with the Netanyahu administration and with Israel, and let’s hope this is a passing blip in an otherwise strong relationship.”

Are they right? Are Jews that indifferent to Obama’s policy toward Israel or that dense that they would continue to fund and vote for those antagonistic to the Jewish state’s fundamental interests? They grouse in private and tell pollsters they don’t like Obama’s approach, but if they write the checks and vote as they have, Obama’s gamble will have paid off. Plainly, he doesn’t see any domestic political fallout. After all, that strategy guru Robert Gibbs told him that the Jewish community wouldn’t balk. He may prove right — and the question that one sharp commentator asked wistfully remains: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

Eli Lake reports on the Obami’s anti-Israel bent and its impact on American Jews’ support for Democrats. On the Republican side, Lake finds an opportunity:

In the recent diplomatic rift between Israel and the United States, Republicans see a chance to attract votes and contributions from a demographic group that has voted overwhelmingly for Democrats — Jewish Americans.

Meanwhile, the White House has launched a charm offensive to smooth over its relationship with the Jewish community after two of the most tense months in recent memory between Israel and the U.S. …

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said he has detected what he called “buyer’s remorse” among Obama voters. Mr. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and no Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1980 has received less than 60 percent of the Jewish vote.

“I do think there is a sense of disbelief on the part of many in the American Jewish community after this administration’s desire seemingly to pressure Israel in as forceful a way as possible while it is trying to solicit the support and friendship of countries that have not been allies of the United States,” said Mr. Cantor, who is Jewish.

The administration’s response has been a “charm offensive” with American Jews, but little sign they are reconsidering their Israel policy. For now, Jewish leaders are wary. Malcolm I. Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, tells Lake that “many people will want to see what the administration does before they will restore trust.” And Abe Foxman of the ADL says, “To what extent this is cosmetic, rather than substantive, time will tell.”

But really, do the Obami have anything to fear? It seems that nothing short of a crow bar will separate the Jews from the Democratic Party. The degree to which Democrats take Jewish votes for granted is aptly summed up by Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, who pooh-poohs poll numbers showing a  drop in Jewish support for Obama and points to a recent special election in Florida: “If Republicans, as they say every election cycle for at least 18 years, are correct that Jewish votes are turning to their party, you’d think they would see it in the last special election, which took place in the most heavily Jewish congressional district in the country.” Translation: we don’t think Jews will ever actually vote against Democrats, no matter what Israel policy they adopt. Another Democrat echoes that view:

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, who is Jewish, said there is concern in the Jewish community, but he does not think it has reached the point where Jewish voters will abandon Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party.

“I think people are watching and waiting and looking at the future, and people will be making judgments accordingly,” Mr. Engel said. “There has been a lot of angst over what is regarded in many circles as needless clashing with the Netanyahu administration and with Israel, and let’s hope this is a passing blip in an otherwise strong relationship.”

Are they right? Are Jews that indifferent to Obama’s policy toward Israel or that dense that they would continue to fund and vote for those antagonistic to the Jewish state’s fundamental interests? They grouse in private and tell pollsters they don’t like Obama’s approach, but if they write the checks and vote as they have, Obama’s gamble will have paid off. Plainly, he doesn’t see any domestic political fallout. After all, that strategy guru Robert Gibbs told him that the Jewish community wouldn’t balk. He may prove right — and the question that one sharp commentator asked wistfully remains: “Why do they despise their familiars and love The Stranger who hates them—and hates them all the more for their craven pursuit of him?”

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Obami’s Latest Israel Gambit Flops

Once again, the Obami’s bullying has come to naught. Bibi Netanyahu and his government are not amused nor persuaded by the Obami onslaught over Jerusalem housing permits or the suggestion that an imposed peace deal might be in the offing. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said it would reject any moves by the Obama administration to set its own timeline and benchmarks for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, potentially establishing a new fault line between the U.S. and Israel. … Senior White House officials, such as National Security Adviser James Jones, have also discussed recently the prospects of Washington proposing its own Mideast plan, though U.S. diplomats stressed this past week that such a move wasn’t imminent or agreed upon.

These developments have rankled Mr. Netanyahu’s government, which is already at odds with Mr. Obama over the issue of Jewish building in disputed East Jerusalem.

“I don’t believe this will be accepted by the administration because it will be a grave mistake. … The solution has to be homegrown,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal late Sunday. …

“The longstanding Israeli position, not of this government only, but of successive Israeli governments, is that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to live together in peace and that an agreement has to be negotiated between them directly,” said a senior Netanyahu administration official.

Of course this was entirely foreseeable. So once again one must ask of the Obami Israel policy: what is the point? Rather than absorb the lessons of 2009 — that the Israeli government cannot be strong-armed and that Bibi’s government can’t be toppled by the likes of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, and Obama — the Obami have repeated and intensified their efforts to squeeze our ally. Yes, maybe this time we can use Jerusalem to pry them loose! Ah, the threat of an imposed peace — that’ll do it! But alas, all we’ve done, apparently is create a wedge between the U.S. and our ally, communicated to the Palestinians that they should just hold firm, and telegraphed to Israel’s neighbors that we are flaky friends.

The Obami now have two options. First, as they did with the settlement gambit, they can simply fold up their tents and go back to endless, fruitless rounds of shuttle diplomacy. Alternatively, they can try out their latest, already rejected brainstorm and see if maybe, just maybe, the Israelis will finally cave. In all of this, the Obami have set themselves apart from every prior administration, both in the degree to which they would willingly damage the U.S.-Israel relationship and in the inanity of their diplomatic efforts. It is proof positive that dramatic, even “historic” change can be a very dangerous thing.

Once again, the Obami’s bullying has come to naught. Bibi Netanyahu and his government are not amused nor persuaded by the Obami onslaught over Jerusalem housing permits or the suggestion that an imposed peace deal might be in the offing. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said it would reject any moves by the Obama administration to set its own timeline and benchmarks for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, potentially establishing a new fault line between the U.S. and Israel. … Senior White House officials, such as National Security Adviser James Jones, have also discussed recently the prospects of Washington proposing its own Mideast plan, though U.S. diplomats stressed this past week that such a move wasn’t imminent or agreed upon.

These developments have rankled Mr. Netanyahu’s government, which is already at odds with Mr. Obama over the issue of Jewish building in disputed East Jerusalem.

“I don’t believe this will be accepted by the administration because it will be a grave mistake. … The solution has to be homegrown,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal late Sunday. …

“The longstanding Israeli position, not of this government only, but of successive Israeli governments, is that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to live together in peace and that an agreement has to be negotiated between them directly,” said a senior Netanyahu administration official.

Of course this was entirely foreseeable. So once again one must ask of the Obami Israel policy: what is the point? Rather than absorb the lessons of 2009 — that the Israeli government cannot be strong-armed and that Bibi’s government can’t be toppled by the likes of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, and Obama — the Obami have repeated and intensified their efforts to squeeze our ally. Yes, maybe this time we can use Jerusalem to pry them loose! Ah, the threat of an imposed peace — that’ll do it! But alas, all we’ve done, apparently is create a wedge between the U.S. and our ally, communicated to the Palestinians that they should just hold firm, and telegraphed to Israel’s neighbors that we are flaky friends.

The Obami now have two options. First, as they did with the settlement gambit, they can simply fold up their tents and go back to endless, fruitless rounds of shuttle diplomacy. Alternatively, they can try out their latest, already rejected brainstorm and see if maybe, just maybe, the Israelis will finally cave. In all of this, the Obami have set themselves apart from every prior administration, both in the degree to which they would willingly damage the U.S.-Israel relationship and in the inanity of their diplomatic efforts. It is proof positive that dramatic, even “historic” change can be a very dangerous thing.

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Oren Responds to the Obami’s Temper Tantrum

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is compelled to put the best possible face on U.S.-Israeli relations. So he tells Candy Crowely on State of the Union that the state of U.S.-Israeli relations is “great.” Well, such is the burden a diplomat must bear. But Oren was also candid and unequivocal in his reiteration of Israel’s position on Jerusalem:

Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967. This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the policy of Golda Meir. It’s the policy of Yitzhak Rabin, that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv.  And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they — an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C. That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.

And he swatted away the argument that Israel had somehow imperiled the “peace process” by continuing to allow building in the nation’s capital, as every previous government had permitted:

We understand that — we understand that we have negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, a piece treaty with Jordan. There has been 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians, including two cases where Israeli prime ministers put complete peace plans on the table, including Jerusalem. And throughout that entire period of peace-making, Israel’s policy on Jerusalem remained unchanged.

We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so.

The Obami-staged fuss over building in Jerusalem was for naught, it seems. The Obami picked the wrong fight with the wrong prime minister. The Netanyahu administration is not about to be bullied; the Palestinians have only been encouraged to dig in their heels and throw stones; and the rest of the Arab world nervously eyes the U.S. as a fickle ally. Meanwhile the real threat to peace and security — the mullahs’ nuclear program — proceeds unchecked.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is compelled to put the best possible face on U.S.-Israeli relations. So he tells Candy Crowely on State of the Union that the state of U.S.-Israeli relations is “great.” Well, such is the burden a diplomat must bear. But Oren was also candid and unequivocal in his reiteration of Israel’s position on Jerusalem:

Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967. This is not the policy of Benjamin Netanyahu. This is the policy of Golda Meir. It’s the policy of Yitzhak Rabin, that is, that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv.  And our policy is that every Arab, every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as they — an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C. That’s our policy. The policy is not going to change.

And he swatted away the argument that Israel had somehow imperiled the “peace process” by continuing to allow building in the nation’s capital, as every previous government had permitted:

We understand that — we understand that we have negotiated a peace treaty with Egypt, a piece treaty with Jordan. There has been 16 years of negotiations with the Palestinians, including two cases where Israeli prime ministers put complete peace plans on the table, including Jerusalem. And throughout that entire period of peace-making, Israel’s policy on Jerusalem remained unchanged.

We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so.

The Obami-staged fuss over building in Jerusalem was for naught, it seems. The Obami picked the wrong fight with the wrong prime minister. The Netanyahu administration is not about to be bullied; the Palestinians have only been encouraged to dig in their heels and throw stones; and the rest of the Arab world nervously eyes the U.S. as a fickle ally. Meanwhile the real threat to peace and security — the mullahs’ nuclear program — proceeds unchecked.

Read Less

Obama Isolated

More and more Democrats are stepping forward to slap down the Obami. Among the more terse was from Rep. Anthony Weiner: “The appropriate response was a shake of the head — not a temper tantrum. Israel is a sovereign nation and an ally, not a punching bag. Enough already.” Among the more eloquent was Rep. Eliot Engel from the House floor:

We should not have a disproportionate response to Israel. We need to be careful and measured in our response, and I think we all have to take a step back.

The relationship remains rock solid. The Obama administration and the administration of Prime Minister Netanyahu have been cooperating on a number of things: containing Iran, the Goldstone Report, and making sure that Israel retains its qualitative military edge in the region. And there has been good cooperation between our two administrations, the Obama administration and the Netanyahu administration. But to seem to question the very nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship and to put it in personal terms in a very public way will not contribute to peace in the Middle East. Rather, it’s the contrary. It will cause the Palestinians to dig in their heels, thinking that the Americans can just deliver the Israelis.

Last year, when there was public pressure being put on Israel not to expand settlements, there was no simultaneous public pressure being put on the Palestinians, and we saw that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas just sat back, didn’t make any concessions, didn’t say that he would do anything positively to further peace talks, and just thought that the United States would wring concessions out of Israel.

The fact of the matter is that the Israelis have been welcoming peace talks with the Palestinians. The Israelis have said they would sit down and have face-to-face talks for peace with the Palestinians. That’s what you do when you have peace. Instead, the Palestinians have refused to sit with the Israelis, and Senator Mitchell is proposing to shuttle back and forth between the Palestinian side and the Israeli side to have negotiations, but not direct negotiations.

We need to be careful. If we criticize Israel for doing what we think was wrong, then we need to also criticize the Palestinians when they do things wrong. Just recently, the Palestinians named a square in Ramallah for a terrorist who killed 30-some-odd Israelis. I didn’t hear any criticism of the Palestinian side. When the Palestinians dig in their heels and say they won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state, I didn’t hear any criticism of Palestinians.

Let me say that harsh words are never a replacement for working together, but I think that harsh words can sometimes make us understand that only by working together can we confront the things that we both know need to be confronted–the scourge of terrorism, the thing that all nations understand emanates in the Middle East from radical forces, and those are the kinds of fights that Israel has every single day fighting terrorism. We learned about terrorism on this soil on 9/11. Israel has to deal with it every day.

So all I am saying, Madam Speaker, is that we need to not only reaffirm the strength of our ties between our two countries, but we also need to understand that in a relationship between friends, as in family, there will be some disagreements. We need to be careful about how we voice those disagreements in public.

Let’s put it another way: not a single Republican or Democratic official has come forward to defend the administration. J Street cheers them on, as one can imagine from the never-enough-venom-directed-to-Israel lobby. The National Jewish Democratic Council is hiding under the bed. But actual elected leaders? Not one of them. On this the administration is totally isolated.

More and more Democrats are stepping forward to slap down the Obami. Among the more terse was from Rep. Anthony Weiner: “The appropriate response was a shake of the head — not a temper tantrum. Israel is a sovereign nation and an ally, not a punching bag. Enough already.” Among the more eloquent was Rep. Eliot Engel from the House floor:

We should not have a disproportionate response to Israel. We need to be careful and measured in our response, and I think we all have to take a step back.

The relationship remains rock solid. The Obama administration and the administration of Prime Minister Netanyahu have been cooperating on a number of things: containing Iran, the Goldstone Report, and making sure that Israel retains its qualitative military edge in the region. And there has been good cooperation between our two administrations, the Obama administration and the Netanyahu administration. But to seem to question the very nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship and to put it in personal terms in a very public way will not contribute to peace in the Middle East. Rather, it’s the contrary. It will cause the Palestinians to dig in their heels, thinking that the Americans can just deliver the Israelis.

Last year, when there was public pressure being put on Israel not to expand settlements, there was no simultaneous public pressure being put on the Palestinians, and we saw that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas just sat back, didn’t make any concessions, didn’t say that he would do anything positively to further peace talks, and just thought that the United States would wring concessions out of Israel.

The fact of the matter is that the Israelis have been welcoming peace talks with the Palestinians. The Israelis have said they would sit down and have face-to-face talks for peace with the Palestinians. That’s what you do when you have peace. Instead, the Palestinians have refused to sit with the Israelis, and Senator Mitchell is proposing to shuttle back and forth between the Palestinian side and the Israeli side to have negotiations, but not direct negotiations.

We need to be careful. If we criticize Israel for doing what we think was wrong, then we need to also criticize the Palestinians when they do things wrong. Just recently, the Palestinians named a square in Ramallah for a terrorist who killed 30-some-odd Israelis. I didn’t hear any criticism of the Palestinian side. When the Palestinians dig in their heels and say they won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state, I didn’t hear any criticism of Palestinians.

Let me say that harsh words are never a replacement for working together, but I think that harsh words can sometimes make us understand that only by working together can we confront the things that we both know need to be confronted–the scourge of terrorism, the thing that all nations understand emanates in the Middle East from radical forces, and those are the kinds of fights that Israel has every single day fighting terrorism. We learned about terrorism on this soil on 9/11. Israel has to deal with it every day.

So all I am saying, Madam Speaker, is that we need to not only reaffirm the strength of our ties between our two countries, but we also need to understand that in a relationship between friends, as in family, there will be some disagreements. We need to be careful about how we voice those disagreements in public.

Let’s put it another way: not a single Republican or Democratic official has come forward to defend the administration. J Street cheers them on, as one can imagine from the never-enough-venom-directed-to-Israel lobby. The National Jewish Democratic Council is hiding under the bed. But actual elected leaders? Not one of them. On this the administration is totally isolated.

Read Less




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