As you’ve probably heard, in a special election yesterday for Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley, providing Republicans with a filibuster-smashing 41-seat minority that threatens to derail Democrats’ plans for health-care reform.
So … good or bad for the Jews?
Domestically, to the extent that (to paraphrase Norman Podhoretz) most Jews are liberals, it obviously hurts: that 41st seat dramatically weakens Democrats’ ability to pass progressive bills, starting—though by no means ending—with health care reform. As New York Jewish Week blogger James Besser notes, though, most Jewish groups were not playing much of a role in the health care fight anyway. And, of course, not all Jews are liberals: the Republican Jewish Coalition rejoiced at last night’s outcome.
As for Israel, President Obama’s newly weakened domestic position (both structurally, in the Senate, and politically, with last night’s results confirming a perception of declining popularity) will likely force him to soften his earlier position that Israel crack down on settlement construction as a prelude to peace talks. “Does anybody really think,” asks Besser, “an administration that could lose its congressional majority in November and is besieged on a number of fronts is going to pick a fight with the pro-Israel lobby over new U.S. peace initiatives that are unlikely to go anyplace, anyway?”
And Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn credits Benjamin Netanyahu’s canny playing of the U.S. domestic political situation:
No Israeli politician matches his steps to the political goings-on in the U.S. as much as Netanyahu. He dragged out negotiations over the settlement freeze and then decided it would last for 10 months and end in September—just in time for U.S. Congressional elections in which Democrats are expected to suffer heavy losses. Netanyahu understood he must withstand the pressure until his right-wing supporters recapture a position of power on Capitol Hill and work to rein in the White House’s political activities.
Benn concludes: “If Obama’s popularity continues to dive and the Republicans recapture at least one of the houses of Congress in November, Netanyahu and his partners will be able to breathe deep and continue expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”
Brown Victory in Mass., Obama’s Woes, and Capitol Hill Gridlock [JW Political Insider]
Republican Jews Hail Party Victory in Mass. [JTA]
Obama’s Lost Senate Seat is a Victory for Netanyahu [Haaretz]