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What’s a Republican Jew to Do?

Matt Brooks, head of the Republican Jewish Coalition, talks to Tablet

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Tonight, D.A.R. Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., will host the 303rd Republican debate (approximately), but only the second that will focus on national security/foreign policy issues. And at the first, which was not two weeks ago, several candidates’ answers ended up raising their own questions. Gov. Rick Perry and frontrunner Mitt Romney both suggested that foreign aid should “start at zero.” Perry’s people quickly cleaned up by saying Israel was not included in this, while Romney’s people said their man was really referring to Pakistan. Many of the candidates also slammed the Obama Administration’s handling of Iran; in the interim, we’ve had only more debate on this subject due to the explosive U.N. report detailing the extensive evidence of the Islamic Republic’s ongoing, covert, illicit nuclear weapons program.

Combine all this with the genuine flux in the Republican race—with Herman Cain stubbornly sticking around the top and Newtmentum capturing the country’s imagination—and we may have the first genuinely exciting GOP debate tonight. In anticipation, a few days ago I talked to Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, about Jewish Republicans’ stake in the race and what he hopes to hear tonight.

How did you feel about the “start at zero” comments?
I think there’s a big difference between the Romney comments, which if you look back were in reference to Pakistan, not in terms of what Gov. Perry was advocating. But the thing that is important to realize is that, first of all, the attacks by Congressman Wassermann Schultz are extraordinarily disingenuous: It is absolutely false for her to assert that the Republicans want to zero-out aid to Israel. If you look at Mitt Romney’s position paper, he talks about increasing aid to Israel. What Perry said, which was probably articulated in an inartful way, is that we are giving foreign aid, to his mind, to a lot of countries that don’t further the strategic values of the United States.

Secondly, I think in a broad, general view, yeah, OK—does that mean we are giving aid to countries that are not acting in our best interests? Maybe. The reality is that in the dire economic times we find ourselves in, we don’t have the luxury as a nation to do everything as business as usual all across the board. As we’re looking to make huge sacrifices domestically, it would be irresponsible not to look at other areas. Support to Israel, though, is not one of those areas that is really threatened by that discussion.

What are you hoping to hear from the candidates tonight?
We’re looking for some clarification on some of the questions of foreign aid. I’m sure it will come up, and I think it will put to bed any question about the commitment of the Republicans on critical aid to Israel. These are very dangerous times, and I think the Jewish community will be looking to see how the Arab Spring is looking to be more like an Arab Winter. We see Syria now teetering on the edge. Libya, Egypt: The rise of radical elements there pose tremendous risks to Israel. It goes without saying the issue of Iran is critical, not just for the countries in that region, but for the United States and our allies around the world. In terms of the peace process, you will start to see from the Republicans a vision that is very different from the direction of the current administration. The contrast will be very striking.

What do you see a Republican administration doing on the peace process that the Obama administration hasn’t?
You’ve got to make very clear that you need a partner for peace. One of the things that George Bush clearly understood is that trying to force a process forward when you don’t have two parties willing to make a lasting and meaningful peace isn’t good, and by action and by deed we can say the Palestinians are not ready to be true partners for peace. They snubbed this president, they snubbed the United States by moving forward on the unilateral declaration at the U.N. The notion that we’re going to force a process forward in this climate is naive and reckless.

What do you expect these candidates to do, if president, that Obama doesn’t on Iran?
The president keeps talking about these crippling sanctions and how all the pressure of the international community is one of the achievements of his administration so far. But every day we get closer to Iran having a nuclear weapon. This administration has sent mixed messages regarding the military option, whether it’s on or off the table. I think right now because America is seen as a much weaker player globally, our ability to really impact Iran through sanctions is hindered. Clearly our ability to get folks like the Russians and the Chinese onboard is creating a safety valve for the Iranians. We can’t seem to build a unified international coalition. I think you’ll see the Republicans onstage talk about that and show a very clear and distinct difference.

What did you make of the Obama-Sarkozy hot-mic gaffe? The defense an Obama supporter would make is that Obama was having the conversation in the first place because he was persuading President Sarkozy to back him and Israel at the U.N.
I mean regardless of the context, I don’t know if that’s a defense of the comments and the feelings. What everybody got to see was really an uncensored, raw look into how the president of the United States and how the president of France truly feel about Prime Minister Netanyahu. I think the president showed his true colors. I think anybody, Republican or Democrat, would be hard-pressed to think that had that happened with George Bush or President Clinton, they wouldn’t have pushed back and responded to Sarkozy—to come to Netanyahu’s defense or at least take issue, not agree with the president calling him a liar. I could very easily see Bill Clinton coming to his defense, as many in the Jewish community could see him doing.

The RJC doesn’t endorse primary candidates, correct? But it does in the general?
Correct.

Earlier: GOP Debate Prompts Clash on Israel, Iran
Iran Report, Gaffe Provide GOP Opening

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Marc Annis says:

I have to disagree about the Bill Clinton remark. Bill Clinton was no fan of Netanyahu’s. In fact, he encouraged the people who ran his first campaign to come to Israel to work for Ehud Barak, who defeated Netanyahu.

Clinton, like his wife, was a friend of Israel’s when Israel was willing to make dangerous sacrifices, for a “peace” of paper.

When Israel is willing to slice its own throat, Obama will come around and “love” its leaders too.

Matt Brooks is such a great guy. Even as a democrat I’m happy he’s where he is, working overtime for both the welfare of the Jews as well as the nation as a whole(even if I disagree with some of his policy convitions). He’s a true patriot – for both America, first and foremost, but also Israel.

Everytime I see Debbie Wasserman-Shultz I shudder.

Bill Clinton gave Netanyahu a square deal and a square chance for peace and Netanyahu responded by squarely squirming away from fostering a good faith peace deal with the Palestinians. The importance of remembering and noting history of key importance to a better endeavoring to the achievement of peace which must in all eventuality happen.

What the Republican said. all foreign aid to go to zero. Then you look at the country. And decide about the foreign aid. The last time I looked we were giving aid to Saudi Arabia. If that isn’t silly what is. I believe most foreign aid is a waste of money. In the Third World crooked politicians become wealthy. Except for medical aid. It should stop. American people should keep their own money. If they wish to give it away so be it. the government should do Very little of it .

Republicans enable wars. It’s what they want to get what they flaunt.

What’s a Republican Jew to do? This one will vote for whomever the GOP nominee is and supports the best candidate running in either party–Mitt Romney.

Other than Ron Paul all other 7 candidates would be excellent friends to Israel. Christian Evagelical conservatives regard Israel as the front lines to the war against terror and believe that God rewards those who Bless or help Israel, cursing those who don’t.

We know why Arafat spurned peace and what the hold-up is. Arabs want “right of return” voting Israel out of existence as a Jewish state. Ain’t going to happen. All these other deals like settlements, capitals, “returned land,” etc… are political issue ‘straw dogs.’

Country, and Israel, need Mitt. Smartest most electable conservative running.

Downtown Ronny says:

This so called Jew needs to Convert to a greed monger and is not Jewish faith-The only politicians that ever accepted Jewish Americans with the Most Open Arms were and will be DEMOCRATS. Starting with FDR and President Truman!

neal sturman says:

fdr didn’t do anything in ww2 until it was too late. Truman recognized Israel period. No president has been totally supported of israel. Has anybody moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Newt says he will. When it happens i’ll believe it.

ALOHA …. and the comments re: netanyahu were SPOT ON!… he is the BIGGEST obstacle to peace!…. only recently, has he been willing to even recognize the palestinians’ right to their own nation….. israel will need to take some major chances for peace…. the “all or nothing” approach will not work!… having said that, until the radical arab nations finally ACCEPT israel’s right to existence, NOTHING is going to happen with the peace process. TWO nations, not one, will be the ultimate solution. the moslems and hindus finally accepted that with india, pakistan and, eventually, bangladesh….

Jeffrey says:

The RJC doesn’t endorse candidates in the primary my tuchus! They are clearly endorsing Romney. They are honoring Sam Fox at their big GOP 2012 event and Fox is one of the biggest Romney supporter. Most of the RJC’s board are Romney supporters. Every one knows the RJC is endorsing Romney so Brooks can shut his lying big fat mouth. If brooks has any brains he would start criticizing ROmney on Iran and foreign aid, that is if he ever wants another dime from me to go to the RJC!

What’s being a jew got to do with anything? Are you that ethnocentric that you feel the need to bring up the fact at every possible time? Seriously, if you are that obsessed with your jewish ethnicity, move to Israel; stop hijacking american politics for your special jewish interests.

The comments here make me sick. Are you really so selfish that you would sacrifice the well being of the american nation and people to prop up a state in the middle east? The american people are suffering north of 9% unemployment, and you think that the pressing issue of the day is the ‘state of israel’ and whether this state can maintain it’s policy of an ethnic jewish majority fantasy?

Well here is news from what Americans really want: We want Ron paul for president because he would end all foreign wars, cut foreign aid to all foreign nations and give Israel back its autonomy.

Stop hijacking the american people for your ethnic fantasies; move to Israel if you disagree.

Israel offers no strategic benefits to the US. None..Maybe during the cold war it offered a few benefits but the Cold War has been over for 20 years now. Israel needs to realize that it is going to be cut a drift soon from the the US and they are going to have to be responsible for their own actions. If anythiing, the country is a burden that leaches tax payers money and starts fights with everyone.

“Leeches?” “Parasites?” “Ron Paul?” “Move to Israel?” “No strategic value to the US?”

Ron Paul is living 225 years ago–delusional To him, after 2012 comes 1787. He’s certifiable. if he’s the nominee I’d vote for him, but that’s about it.

Israel allows the US to use her air space, shares Middle East Intelligence with the US, is the only Democracy in the Middle East sharing our values, on the front lines of our war on terror with the Muslims, and our most reliable friend in the world voting with the US roughly 90& of the time in the UN.

And Israel “taking a chance on peace giving the Arabs a country?” That’s a red herring issue. If a “peace deal” doesn’t include ‘right of return’ the Arabs aren’t interested.

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What’s a Republican Jew to Do?

Matt Brooks, head of the Republican Jewish Coalition, talks to Tablet

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