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Obama and Israel: Tevi Troy

Israel will become a ‘stand-in’ for voters, he says, to Obama’s detriment

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President Obama yesterday.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

If you’re a Scroll regular, you’ll have noticed a pet theory of mine cropping up recently. Basically, it goes like this: Obama’s handling of Israel will be a not-insignificant issue in the presidential election, not exclusively among Jews (though certainly among them), nor exclusively among Jews and Zionist Christians (though their footprint is certainly an effective force multiplier), but among everyone. What will happen, I believe, is that the Republican candidate will point to Israel (partly because he or she won’t be able to point to experience, or Al Qaeda, or Iraq, or China, or Cuba) to paint President Obama in the same colors that every Republican has painted every Democrat since the Vietnam War: weak on America’s enemies, disloyal to America’s friends, and out-of-step with American values. That Obama has done a poor job convincing Jews otherwise—as we are soon to see when Democrat David Weprin either loses or barely wins his special election against Republican Bob Turner in large part for the sin of being in the same party as Obama—will be a crucial part of the proof the GOP candidate will build.

So this week seems like a good time to talk to a few people about this. In an hour, I’ll post an interview with Matt Duss, of the Center for American Progress, who will provide a center-left perspective on my theory. For a more rightward take, let’s talk to Tevi Troy, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of the Tablet Magazine article that predicted the contours of the Weprin-Turner race, right down to Ed Koch’s involvement.

Could we see Israel becoming an issue beyond just Jewish voters?
The Jewish vote is a very small percentage of Republican primary voters, especially in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Only a quarter of Jews are Republicans, and the Jewish population overall is small, in those states even smaller. So they’re not just looking for Jewish voters.

Israel does become a stand-in for a type of foreign policy: An America-focused foreign policy for democracy, freedom, and markets, in contrast to a European foreign policy, which is strongly critical of Israel, but also is in the direction of more deference to the U.N. and in general.

In contrast to the Bush administration, this whole notion that the Bush administration was unilateral (I don’t accept this, but still), Obama’s was that he would be more collaborative; there was the Cairo speech, reaching out to the Arab world.

The supporters of Israel tend to have a very different view of the world, a more American-focused view, pro-freedom, pro-markets, pro-democracy. It becomes a litmus test. Not unlike where you stood on the Soviet Union in the history of the Cold War.

But there are other issues. Do you think Israel will be the one that gets made a big deal of?
It’s hard for me to think of anything that is a more obvious stand-in for a candidate’s foreign policy views.

Is Obama vulnerable on Israel?
He’s certainly more vulnerable to it than Bill Clinton was, the last incumbent Democratic president. There was a—I think fair—perception that Clinton had a strong affinity for Israel. The “Shalom, Chaver” moment [at Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral, that is how Clinton closed his eulogy: “Goodbye, friend”]. He was seen as, at his heart, a close friend of Israel. Whereas Obama is someone who is not seen as a close friend. I think it’s fair.

So does this vulnerability present an opportunity for the Republican, whoever that ends up being?
I think that it’s more of an opportunity for Israel. If Israel is seen as a stand-in for a robust American foreign policy, that’s only to the good of Israel, that only makes it more stark. I think it helps maintain U.S. support for Israel.

Related: Koch Test [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Is Obama Vulnerable on the Israel Issue?
Perry’s Ascent Heralds Israel’s Rise as Issue

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Steve Bachenheimer says:

The president’s stance vis-a-vis Israel is only damaged by the cynicism of Netanyahu and the general ignorance of American Jews about the “facts on the ground”. Contrast the uproar after Obama’s call for a peace settlement based on the pre-1967 (Green line) border, with the realities of negotiating a viable Palestinian state (see yesterday’s NYT Op-Ed piece by David Makovsky
Obama said nothing that wasn’t grounded in reality, and put the lie to those who considered his position a threat to Israel’s existence: none of these land-swap models has any discernible impact on the defensibility of Israel’s borders.

There are many thousands of American Jews resident in Yesha. After reading this, it is obvious that we in Yesha (Judea & Samaria) need a group like this, that:

views its mandate as the advocate of the rights of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, its historic homeland, is dedicated to the development and enhancement of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and throughout Israel, as based on the decisions of the international bodies following World War I to reconstitute the Jewish national home, that upholds Jewish national Zionist principles and advocates the Biblical, historic and legal rights of the Jewish People to Eretz Yisrael as achieved by the Jewish People throughout the centuries and the success of the modern Zionist movement.

and, to this end, will undertake to present unabashedly the case for vibrant and dynamic Jewish community life in Judea and Samaria and throughout Israel under Israeli sovereignty. Its activities will be carried out in the United States, particularly Washington, additional diplomatic contacts and in the international media.

An action-group that

believes that a proud defense of Israel’s rights together with an assertive campaign against Israel’s detractors are in the interests of the Jewish People and the State of Israel as well as its allies and friends across the globe and is a grass-roots association that will coalesce around American-Israelis who live in Israel who are dedicated to presenting their case foremost to the U.S. Congress and Government.

It will be done.

PJW5552 says:

Obama’s problem is not his lack of support for Israel. His problem is he can’t extricate himself from Israel and continues to blindly support Israel’s failed policies.

By now it should be clear to even the most blind that continued building in the West Bank does not further any peace, but hinders it. Yet Obama supported that policy by his UN veto that should have condemned Israel. The Turkish flotilla disaster is another example of Obama blindly supporting Israel, even though Israel killed an unarmed US citizen on that flotilla with excessive force. Obama again blocked UN action against Israel.

The ME is changing and the only ones who aren’t able to deal with that change are Israel and the US. The loss of Weiner’s recent seat in Congress reflects a mood in which US citizens are FED UP with blind support for Israel. We don’t need to watch any more standing ovations to Netanyahu’s obstructionist policies by electing one more Israeli Jewish supporter to that body. Trust me, the GOP is even worse than Obama so in spite of his poor performance on Israel, he will still take the general election next year. You can bank on that.

Great description. I love to make out the print IMDB


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Obama and Israel: Tevi Troy

Israel will become a ‘stand-in’ for voters, he says, to Obama’s detriment

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