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Bachmann the Kibbutznik

The rising GOP candidate has a history with Israel

Marc Tracy
June 30, 2011
Rep. Michele Bachmann on Monday.(Steve Pope/Getty Images)
Rep. Michele Bachmann on Monday.(Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Well, if an increasing proportion of Jews really are going to vote for the Republican candidate in 2012—and there is heated discussion over whether that’s the case—then we should consider who that person is likely to be. In the past weeks, Rep. Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota, a relative newcomer to the national scene, has enjoyed momentum. She is a darling of the Tea Party, and some conservatives have already cast her as Palin-with-substance, which seems to be fair. And Jewish voters will be interested to know she is a member of Christians United For Israel—a group that columnist Lee Smith has profiled—and actually found herself, after high school in the mid-‘70s, on a kibbutz! Reports Matthew Continetti,

She wanted to see the land for herself. What she found wasn’t a high-end vacation destination. She remembers the hurly burly of Ben Gurion airport, 1974: heat, soldiers with guns, customs officers at card tables on the tarmac. Chickens were everywhere. “It was pretty grubby,” she said.

The youth housing on the kibbutz was called the ghetto. Lizards climbed the walls. She would wake up at 4 a.m. and get on a flatbed truck that was pulled by an old diesel tractor. Occasionally Michele operated the rig: “It was my first time driving a clutch.” They would drive out to cotton fields to pull weeds. Armed soldiers escorted them wherever they went.

Bachmann has been accused—most deliciously by Christopher Hitchens (“All politics is yokel?”)—of the sort of foreign policy isolationism in vogue with the Tea Party. (In the New York Times today, David Greenberg traces isolationism’s remarkable hardiness in the Republican Party over the past century; it ususually finds its base, he notes, in the Midwest.) While in cases like that of Rep. Ron and his son Sen. Rand Paul, this has led Jewish Republicans (including the Republican Jewish Coalition) to back away due to concerns over the commitment to Israel, in Bachmann’s case her specific bona fides when it comes to the Jewish state should be more than enough to compensate for a foreign policy that generally would like to see the United States play a less active global role. Her biggest applause line at an event in South Carolina last night, reports The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza? “I stand with Israel.”

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.