Is Obama Vulnerable on the Israel Issue?

New ad campaign, pegged to special N.Y. election, suggests he is

By Marc Tracy|September 2, 2011 12:00 PM

If Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Democratic-leaning seat goes to Republican Bob Turner rather than Democrat David Weprin on September 13, as a new poll shows [1] it may, the lesson won’t actually be [2] that Jewish Democrats are turning on President Obama. After all, Weprin himself has gone out of his way to criticize Obama’s Israel policies. And Weprin is a poor enough politician—earlier this week, he skipped [3] a debate with Turner—that his own incompetence would be the obvious culprit in his loss.

However, what the Weprin-Turner race is demonstrating is the wider resonance of the Obama administration’s political vulnerability on the Mideast issue, which could see non-Jews turn on the president in 2012 for being too hard on Israel. A case in point is this new video from the Emergency Committee for Israel, the Republican Jewish group that is happy to cast the yarmulke-clad Democrat Weprin (frozen, below) as a friend to Israel because it makes Obama seem that much more out-of-touch:

The video, reports [5] Ben Smith, is part of a six-figure campaign in New York. But don’t let that fool you: newspaper ads in the Hamptons, a YouTube, and the like aren’t designed primarily to get a few Jews in various corners of Queens and Brooklyn to vote for Bob Turner; they’re designed to affect Jewish money and organizational talent, as well as to start a conversation in the country’s media capital about how Obama is not even in line with his own party when it comes to Israel. As I’ve written [6], this is where the eventual Republican nominee—whether it’s Perry, who talks Israel non-stop (and can back up [7] that talk); Bachmann, who touts her time on a kibbutz; or Romney, who just happened to stop by [8] an AIPAC confab in Florida last night—will gain traction on Obama, and where they will be able to accuse Obama of not standing up for America’s friends or against its enemies: the same story that every national Republican candidate in the past four decades has tried to tell about his or her opponent.

Oh, and as for the line, “Obama: a uniter not a divider—except of Jerusalem”? In his controversial May speech [9] in which he cited the “1967 borders,” Obama specifically emphasized that those territorial negotiations would leave “the future of Jerusalem” unresolved; as Tablet Magazine contributing editor David Samuels wrote [10] at the time, “Essentially, what Obama is proposing is an arrangement in which Israelis and Palestinians negotiate a map from which Jerusalem is excluded.” I’m not saying you couldn’t argue that Obama’s policies now aren’t endangering the future status of Jerusalem; but the guy has left himself some plausible deniability when it comes to whether he’ll be the one to divide it. As for whether Obama is “not pro-Israel”—that will be up to the voters. All voters.

Republicans Sniff Upset in Weiner District [1] [Hotline On Call]
GOP Israel Group Launches New York Campaign [5] [Ben Smith]
Related: Pulling Out of a Debate, Over a Storm Long Gone [3] [NYT]
Obama’s Mideast Speech [9] [NYT]
The Acrobat [10] [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Lieberman Backs Dem Against Koch’s Guy [2]

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