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Will Israel-Based GOP Attacks Get Through?

Speech, designed to help Israel with Europe, could hurt Obama at home

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President Obama yesterday at the G-8 summit in France.(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, I argued that some Republicans’ attempts to turn President Obama’s Israel diplomacy—specifically, the objectively false narrative that he requested a return to the 1967 borders and the polemical accusation that he sold Israel out—into a partisan wedge issue against Obama and other Democrats would prove futile and short-lived. I argued that the anti-Obama argument was unconvincing since he took the pro-Israel positions on Iran, on Hamas, and, most importantly, on the United Nations; that Democrats, which routinely win overwhelming majorities of Jewish support and have many, many more powerful Jewish politicians than the Republicans, are in a structurally secure place in terms of the Jewish vote; and that many of Israel’s strongest supporters (to say nothing of Prime Minister Netanyahu) do not want Israel to become a partisan issue—they would prefer U.S. support for Israel to be as unquestioned, and therefore as bipartisan, as possible.

All of those premises remain true. In fact, it seems increasingly clear that Obama made his 1967 “concession” precisely in order to convince Europe to oppose Palestinian statehood at the United Nations—that is, to try to help Israel. Yet when it comes to Jewish voters and especially to Jewish donors, I think I was somewhat mistaken. I think we will hear Republicans “singing from the mountaintops for the next 17 months,” as the Republican Party head Reince Priebus classily put it, about some Democrats’ wavering on Israel, including Obama. And while some of this will be well-intentioned, early indications are that much of it won’t be (I’m thinking of the Republican congressman who lectured, “too many American Jews aren’t as pro-Israel as they should be”).

In terms of voters, it is useful to define victory downward, realistically. “Republicans do not suggest that they can soon break the Democratic Party’s long hold on the loyalty of Jewish-American voters,” the New York Times reported yesterday. Rather, they aim “to diminish the millions of dollars, volunteer activism and ultimately the votes that Mr. Obama and his party typically get from American Jews—support that is disproportionate to their numbers,” in part because of their concentration in swing states.

Speaking of Florida! The microcosmic battle right now is between Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is head of the Democratic National Committee, and Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. The two feuded in front of Bibi earlier in the week, after which Schultz asked Brooks to agree that Republicans would not introduce Israel as a political issue in the 2012 campaign. His refusal is a fascinating combination of honesty—he praises Schultz’s personal voting record, and condemns members of his own party, like Ron Paul, who do not sufficiently support the Jewish State—and near-Orwellian spin, to wit: “In order to maintain bipartisan support for Israel, the RJC will continue to publicly point out the records and statements of public officials who stray from this bipartisan position.” Essentially, Shultz asked for a truce and was told to come back heavy (and she has, going on the offensive and arguing Obama has nothing to fear).

Much more risible, of course, are the politicians—of both parties—who have blatantly (and one can only assume deliberately, unless they are stupid) misrepresented Obama’s views. Rep. Robert Andrews, a Democrat from New Jersey, accused Obama of “tilting toward Hamas” (last Thursday, Obama said, “Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection”). Tea Party favorite and possible Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michelle Bachmann released an ad stating, “President Obama today announced his support of returning Israel and Palestine to the pre war borders of 1967” (which is a lie: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” Obama said).

And then, of course, there was Rep. Joe Walsh, Republican of Illinois, telling the Jews that he knows what’s best for them, as some Catholics have for millennia.

So, votes? I think enough American Jews are smart enough to see through this—and I also think a lot of the voters whose most important issue is Israel are not Jews—that Obama need not lose sleep over the nearly four-fifths of Jewish voters he won in 2008.

Money-wise, though? There have been a number of reports (here’s a typical one; here’s another) of once-friendly Jewish donors getting cold feet over Obama’s latest moves. One thing these reports have in common is none name actual Obama supporters who have actually decided no longer to support him because of this; the oft-cited Democratic funder Haim Saban actually never liked Obama. And it was with the donors that I predicted last Friday Obama may have issues. Apparently the date to circle on your calendar concerning this issue is June 20, when Obama will meet about 80 donors for a dinner that will be private until after it’s over and the donors’ dissatisfaction is leaked. Til then, don’t let the bastards get you down.

Parties See Obama’s Israel Policy as Wedge for 2012 [NYT]
GOP Jews Are Clear: Israel Is An Election Issue [FrumForum]
DNC Chair Argues Obama Is Not Losing Support of Jewish Voters [LAT]
President Obama Is Not Israel’s Friend [The Daily Caller]
The Growth and Success of Post-Jewish Zionism in America [Matthew Yglesias]
Obama’s Jewish Backers On Edge Over His Mideast Peace Plan [LAT]
Obama’s Speech Doesn’t Sway Some Key Donors [Washington Times]
Haim Saban Can’t ‘Break’ What He Never Forged [Capital J]
F.A.Q.: Did Obama Say Anything for Israel to Get Excited About? [Capital]
Earlier: Why Israel Makes For a Lousy Partisan Issue
Bibi Gets What He Wants, Replies With Scorn
In Diplomatic Theater, Is Europe the Audience?

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MARTY says:

What used to be called the GOP (Grand Old Party) is or should be called the New Confederacy instead. This group of right wing Talaban groups along with very big money have taken over the real/old GOP & turned it into one big anti free people.

So far since being elected the Republican Congress in DC as well as in States controlled by the so called GOP have spent most of their time writing Talaban type laws against the freedom of females. They have spent more time writing about what you can & can’t do in bed then on creating jobs of helping education. They care more about a woman’s uterus then about her already born child being fed.

So the bottom line here is Israel, think long & hard about who you want to support you…

The sooner Obama is out of the White HOuse, the better for this country and the rest of the free world. I am amazed at how many people are so snowed by that man who is out to destroy this nation and Israel.

It’s very depressing to see anyone — much less Jews — try to characterize Obama as anti-Israel.

I wonder if Obama will escalate the issue with further frank tough-love talk. Rather than discuss Israel, an awful lot of people want to discuss Obama. Maybe with further outspoken tough love Obama can actually awaken people from a bad dream.

Peter W. says:

Charles Krauthammer has a column published in the May 26, 2011 Washington Post where he carefully explains how Obama is hurting Israel. (Alan Dershowitz, a liberal Democrat, has a very recent column that also analytically exposes how Obama is damaging Israel.) See:

As to Krauthammer: he is largely distortion.
And he is very skilled at it and able to tease out nothing into whatever K wants to say.
He is not to be trusted.

Sy Weiss says:

Why are Jews now willing kiss A*S and jump on the GOP band wagon just to demonize Obama.
Two of your previous responders got it just right,
and I quote then :

MARTY Says:
So the bottom line here is Israel, think long & hard about who you want to support you.”

David Sucher Says:
Maybe with further outspoken tough love Obama can actually awaken people from a bad dream.

Right on Marty & David !!

Sy Fort Lee NJ

Yisrael says:

Marc, since you’ve gone back to this well a few times, please tell me why Israel should be so enthused about what Obama said on Hamas? He said exactly 2 things about Hamas:

1) He asked a rhetorical question about how Israel could negotiate with them, and offered that the Palestinians would have to come up with an answer to assuage Israeli concerns; and

2) that Palestinians won’t achieve peace if Hamas chooses terror and rejection of peace.

He said nothing explicit about the Quartet principles. That raised eyebrows. He didn’t call Hamas a designated terror group. Considering what Hamas is, this hardly provides tremendous comfort to the Israelis. Think about all of the things he could have said after Abbas kicked sand in his face 3 times over the last few months, including this biggie, and then read the two statements again about Abbas and try to figure out why the Israelis might not have felt so comfortable. Of course, at the AIPAC speech he changed his tune, again refuting your entire point this last week that the Thursday speech was no big deal.

Honestly, just admit that you were wrong. You’ve been laying on the hard sell for the last week and it’s not working.

As for Joe Walsh, I see your point. Does that same logic apply to J Street? Or is it somehow less risible for American Jews, citing shared religious and ethnic identity, to try to bring pressure down on another sovereign democracy to make security decisions their own public has repeatedly rejected and for which they will not pay the price, than for a congressman to toss out a rhetorical question about a major demographic’s voting preferences? Would you ever call J Street bastards for their similar chutzpahdik?

Dorothy Wachsstock says:

Reporters may not do true reporting but Canada saved Israel since Pres.Obama meeting with the G8 wanted the 1967 border lines put back into their goals. Canada refused to agree with that and saved Israel. Have you heard that anywhere?

What good are you, Mr. Tracy if you do not report on that and we Jews have to read it in the Canadian Press?

As for the J Street Jews above..they never were in a concentration camp or no country would accept them to avoid being gassed so what do they know? Only what the Professors who support the Palestinians.

I blame people like you, Marc Tracy and those Jews that go on anti-semitic programs on television such as Chris Matthews who only knew the names of Jewish neo-cons.

Mica Bryzinsi’ father threatened Israel if they tried to attack Iran who got nuclear, american planes would shoot down the Israeli planes. Have you read that anywhere?

Jimmy Carter and Bryzinski are advisors to Obama. Better watch and listen to the speeches with your own eyes and hear the hatred of this country, jews and Israel by Pres.Obama’s Rev. Wright who married him, baptized his children, sat in his pew for 20 years of hatred but never heard a word he said.

How stupid are we Jews to believe Obama is not out to destroy Isael. The arabs have patience not like us Americans.

Do you still want us to give money, 65 billion to the U.N. and Susan Rice knows not how much we gave in 2010 as she goes around telling the U.N. that Israel is not a legal State.

Do we give back Ca. Arizona and Texas to the Mexicans?

Just remember when the St.Louis was turned away from every country. Anti-semitism is growing day by day in this country as the liberal Jews in all of the Universities promote the Palestinians Professors who dislike Israel and teach them that.

When one sees Jewish young girls wearing the star of David and marching with the people against Israel..it is time to wake up.

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

Be it lack of knowledge, experience, lack of expertise, naivete, or pure hostility toward Israel, its democratically elected leaders, and by extension toward the people whose nation-state Israel is, Mr. Obama has demonstrated himself many times during the past two and a half years as to where he stands. This on-going demonstration had nothing to do with bi-partisan politics:

1) No Jews are allowed in! That was Obama’s – and Clinton’s – first statement to the Jews. Jews, because they are Jews, must refrain from residing in certain villages, towns and even city neighborhoods. This was a purely racist demand of Jews. And, when applied to the Jewish people’s historic homeland of 4,000 years, this anti-Jewish form of racism has become an added insult.

2) Israel, of all the countries in the Arab Middle East and North Africa, is the only liberal democratic state. It leaders are freely elected by Israel’s citizens in free and fair elections. Yet, Mr. Obama has opted to insult time and again, in various ways, the elected prime minister of Israel, in nearly every encounter between the two, and at times by not having any encounters… He also managed to insult Israel’s ministers, as well as Israel’s institutions, including the country’s Supreme Court. The end result, Mr. Obama has managed to insult the Jewish people, whose nation-state Israel is, whether they presently reside within or without it.

3) Obama’s total disregard for Israel’s fundamental security and national interests, as defined by Israelis and their leaders, who know a bit more than Obama about their needs, is the latest added insult to the country and its people, and therefore to the Jewish people everywhere.

These are not Democratic vs. Republican matters for Jews. As Jews, I would think, we would expect both Democrats as well as Republicans to be ant-racist, and especially anti-Jewish racist; be respectful of Israel, its leaders and institutions; and be attuned to Israel’s national and security interests.

Haim says:

Obama is not a “friend” of Israel. He has no emotional attachment to the idea of the Jewish state and views Zionism through a prism of anti-colonialism. His ideas on solving the conflict (yes, Marc, including this “1967 with swaps”) are far to the left of both the Israeli and the American internal consensus. If Israel is important for you, you should not give Obama 4 more years to bash the elected government of the Jewish state. Simple.

Hello, i think that i saw you visited my web site thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m trying to find things to improve my web site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

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Will Israel-Based GOP Attacks Get Through?

Speech, designed to help Israel with Europe, could hurt Obama at home

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