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Bibi, Perry Move In on the Jewish Vote

New ‘New York’ story has the goods on where Team Obama stands

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President Obama last May addressing AIPAC.(Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

In the shetlsphere today we’ll be discussing John Heilemann’s New York cover story on President Obama, Israel, and the Jews. It is a nice summation of where we are on the eve of the United Nations action, with some nice scenic overlooks involving new reporting, including about potential problems Team Obama will have with Jewish donors. Toward the end, Heilemann discusses the Jewish vote, and how it could prove important in states like Florida and Pennsylvania. Then he quotes one writer to the effect that Israel may prove the battleground the Republican presidential candidate chooses on which to mount his or her attack of Obama’s foreign policy record, and … hey … that’s me being quoted!

Heilemann cites my case that Gov. Rick Perry and other Republicans fervently and frequently proclaims his support for and love of Israel because Israel (and Iran) are where Obama is most vulnerable, national security-wise—among not only Jews but everyone. He calls this “perfect bullshit,” and just in case it’s not clear enough, I’m pretty sure—I hope!—he is referring to the Republican argument that Obama’s Israel policy reveals him to be a blame-America-first ultra-dove, and not, er, my argument that the Republicans will try to use Israel to pin that label on Obama. (Here is the post Heilemann quoted from. I also made it clear here that I consider Obama’s policies to be pro-Israel. And I interviewed Tevi Troy and Matt Duss about it.)

Heilemann’s piece surely went to press before Perry published his op-ed chastising Obama on Israel; and before Perry announced a $2500-a-head kosher fundraiser in New York; and before (yikes) Perry announced he would be holding a press conference Tuesday in New York with MK Danny Danon, the politician most closely associated with the plan to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank; and before (yikes!) Netanyahu’s people mentioned the prime minister might make a side trip to New York’s ninth congressional district, site of last week’s Israel-heavy special election. Stuff like that vindicates people like him and me, and I’d like to submit a corollary: Israel’s relevance in the United States is going to embolden the right on both sides; they are feeding off of each other at this point, and the thing is going to take on a momentum all its own.

That rumor about Netanyahu is a good segue back to the article, which contains plenty of evidence that Bibi’s chief concern is and has always been Bibi, at the expense, certainly of the U.S.-Israel special relationship and, arguably, at the expense of Israel itself. You should read the whole thing. What follows are a few things that especially caught my attention:

• Heilemann defends Obama: “His role here is not that of the callous assailant but of the caring and sober brother slapping his drunken sibling: The point is not to hurt the guy but to get him to sober up.” Americans can know what’s better for Israel than the Israeli government: this is exactly the J Street line. J Street is not mentioned in the piece. To me, that is a sign that J Street has not succeeded in making itself prominent enough to be an effective “blocking back” for Obama.

• A man named Barack Hussein Obama received four percent more of the Jewish vote than John Kerry did. That tells you that the 78 percent Jewish-vote figure was unusually inflated, likely by both the general decisiveness of Obama’s victory and the presence of Sarah Palin on the other ticket. It would be insane to expect Obama to get 78 percent again, eve if he hadn’t pissed off the Jews.

• Obama has pissed off the Jews. “The perception of Obama as harboring antipathy to Israel, they argue, makes 2012 a ripe opportunity for the right Republican to swipe a larger than usual share of Jewish votes and/or pick the Obama campaign’s pocket,” Heilemann argues. “Skeptical? I would be, too, except for one thing: the sight of the Obamans scrambling to make sure it doesn’t happen.” Hiring Ira Forman as the new director of Jewish outreach, he adds, “is a tacit acknowledgment that the White House has badly handled the continual care and feeding required to keep major donors sweet.” Heilemann is especially worth listening to here: he wrote the seminal early story about how Obama was outraising Hillary Clinton.

• “Within the Republican donor class, Romney is the strong favorite.” Makes sense.

• “Regarding the call for a settlement freeze, the Obamans defend the decision without a trace of apology.” That is disturbing. The settlements are illegal and an obstacle to peace; they also weren’t the prime problem, and from a pragmatic perspective, were exactly the wrong thing to bring up.

• A crucial line from former chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel, one of the few former Obama officials to go on the record (which tells you he also helped shape the story): “We had an obligation—and this is where we deserve a yellow card—to explain what we were doing with the Palestinians or Arabs, to put more air in the tires on that side. Not tone down what we said on settlements, but work harder so there was more recognition of the parity that existed with the Arab violations.” It’s a great point, except I believe he means that they deserved a ten-yard penalty, because we do not make soccer metaphors in this country.

• Obama should have gone to Israel when he was in Cairo. “‘We made a mistake,’ admits one senior administration foreign-policy adviser. ‘Nobody thought of it as a big deal at the time, but, I mean, you’re in the neighborhood, you’re right down the street, and you don’t stop by for coffee?’” We already knew this, of course. But now the Obama people know it. It may, however, be too late for them.

The Tsuris [NYMag]
Earlier: Perry’s Ascent Heralds Israel’s Rise as Issue
The Problem With Perry

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I’m curious. Why do you think that Obama knows better what is good for Israel than Israel? Your drunk who needs sobering up is a poor analogy.The Israeli government is democratically elected and therefore reflects the will of the people. The Israeli public lives and breathes the Israeli Arab conflict 24/7 while Obama occasionally thinks about it. Obama has also proven himself to be terrible at international relations, especially in the middle east. It is the Israeli public who will have to deal with Obama’s miscalculations while he is retired and writing his memoirs.

The UN actions and the consequences will make a difference in how Obama is perceived by Jewish voters (along with the economy and jobs picture).

And just as important will be how the US deals with or does not deal with (as has been the case up to now) with Turkey’s saber-rattling towards Israel or actions. If the “war fever” in the Middle East heats up and Obama is seen as ineffective or anti-Israel, there will be electoral consequences among those Jewish voters who now are not committed to the Republicans/anti-Obama. The Democratic party may face fall-out in 2012 both at the top of the ticket and further down.

Jews building homes in their historical homeland is not illegal. If they can build in Beverly Hills why not Hebron, where Jews have been since the time of Abraham. And if Jews can’t build why can Arabs. Denying Jews this basic right is simple discrimination.

Netanyahu is making a big mistake playing favorites in the American political horserace. The most fervent AIPACers decry J Street for the this very same reason saying Jews must support every Israeli government regardless of its policies. If its okay for Netanyahu to nakedly support Republicans over the incumbent and sitting U.S. President, and lecture the U.S. President on how the Middle East really works, Israel is risking its liberal supporters. If Israel is seen as a partisan issue, the Israeli-U.S. issue will begin to founder.

As for Netanyahu, his blockheaded policies and loyalty to his crack-pot coaliation has not displayed too much understanding or finesse and Israel is more vulnerable for it.

James philadelphia says:

Since when Obama insulting the prime minister of Israel makes him a friend of Israel? This commentators are plain stupid.

Bill Pearlman says:

And what exactly was the pressure or the requests made of the Arabs? They didn’t push that because it didn’t happen.

Peter W. says:

In the Sept. 14, 2011, Wall Street Journal, Dan Senor has a piece entitled “Why Obama is Losing the Jewish Vote” and cites Obama’s policies and rhetoric as to why he is justly labeled hostile to Israel.

Obama doesn’t get it. He doesn’t “feel Israel in his kishkes.” He thinks it’s just another country in the panoply of nations, and has zero sense of the historic, special relationship. He also subscribes to a facile moral equivalence between the Jews and the Arabs. Prior to his Presidential run, Obama’s history was to pal around with PLO officials, and elements of the extreme left who are openly anti-Israel. Let’s hope enough Jews wake up so that he loses re-election.

If Obama doesn’t get the majority of the Jewish vote, I, along with most Jewish poltical commentators, will be very surprised. Obama’s policies towards Israel are not markedly different than any other recent president. As for his kiskhes, it seems he doesn’t display his passions (or pretend) as much as some others. In actuality, he is doing a lot right now to fight the Palestinian action in the UN when it is arguably in the US interest to show solidarity with the putatively democratic forces behind the Arab Spring.

Again, my main point (see above) is that Netanyahu’s seeming strategy to make Israel a partisan issue is not a good idea. My guess, however, is that most commenters on this website would rather label Obama, Democratics and those Jews who do not agree with Likuid or it nasty anti-democratic coalition partners as naive, stupid and anti-semitic. I truly hope, for Israel’s sake, that history proves me wrong and Israel can emerge from this morass in a better position, but Israel is likely to be weaker, more isolated, and with less support from liberals (including many Jewish liberals) in the U.S.

Sam Cooper says:

Americans, particularly those with big money, want what they want, don’t want to hear no, and are often not dealing with what is best for everyone. The American Jewish leaders need to sit down with Obama, be open and honest in discussing what can work best for all regarding Israel policy. Stop the stubbornness and move on to the reality. The US will always protect Israel if and when things go wrong. The Republicans are just to crazy to trust and have a horrible track record.

Beatrix says:

Of course Obama is pro-Israel. He’s also pro-American. He’s simply an inadequate President. Neither America nor Israel can survive wishy-washy.

Jews supported Obama for election because most are liberal, and Obama is black. If a black man can make it, many people thought that maybe there’s room for a Jew in the Oval Office. (Look how accepted Catholics became after JFK). I liked Hillary, but most other Jews saw her as just another white, Christian candidate, and as a woman, certainly not tough enough to lead America. (Now we see her as the tougher of the two).

Palin had little to do with any of this because no one knew her at the time.

Marc Tracy thinks Jews living in the Old City are committing an illegal act. Nice. A New Read on Jewish Life indeed!

Ira M. Salwen says:

Oh, come on – “more recognition of the parity that existed with the Arab violations”? What steps did they take against the PA? Anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist propaganda continues unabated in PA media, the PA has publicly pursued policies designed to embarrass the US (like the Hamas reconciliation and the whole UN gambit) and what have we said about it, what have we done about it? If we’ve done anything at all, we’ve kept it very quiet, unlike the public, high-profile confrontations with Israel.

By the way, the settlements aren’t illegal, according to many scholars of international law. But while that may be subject to discussion and argument, the question of the settlements being an obstacle to peace is not. They’re not. Remember Yamit, with its beautiful tree-lined boulevards, gorgeous beachfront and luxury homes? Well, Ariel Sharon’s troops literally dragged the Israeli residents out of there. Remember the settlements in Gaza? Guess what – they’re gone! So Israel has proven that, when an opportunity for peace comes along, they’ll vacate settlements.

Allan Leicht says:

Unless she is too exhausted, all this is adding up to an Obama graceful bow-out for the harmonious good of the country (read: party) and Mrs. Clinton taking what she and Mr. Clinton consider rightfully hers (theirs). In any case, if Israel wants nuclear katyushas in Abu Dis, trust Abbas and company to deliver. If not, let’s wait for the next generation of Arabs who might not have the sincerely held religious obligation to behead Jews.

Beatrix says:

Hillary is burned out. She’s not going to run again. But just as the right couldn’t solve the problems of the 1930s because they lived in the past, today the left lives in the past and can’t solve our problems. It’s the Republican’s turn at bat.

I just hope they leave my Social Security alone. Krauthammer, a conservative columnist said, “Yes” Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, but a humane one whose faults are easily corrected. For me, that suggests means testing and raising the cap on deductions.

But I’m closer to the end than the beginning and I don’t have any more time to waste on the ridiculous left and their inept leadership.

I know what it was like being an American Jew before there was an Israel. I don’t want to go back to that. And I don’t want young Jews to experience that even if in their naivete and inexperience, they support the left.

Ann Covington says:

Heilemann said this of Obama, “His role here is not that of the callous assailant but of the caring and sober brother slapping his drunken sibling: The point is not to hurt the guy but to get him to sober up.” It appears that the “drunken sibling” is Israel. A denigration beyond measure.
Who could possibly even imagine Obama is pro-Israel, when he told Palestinians that E.Jerusalem would be theirs? Who could have any respect for Obama upon learning his mistreatment of P.M.Netanyahu in our U.S. White House! What Jew would trust Obama when he demanded Israel should give up all land pre-1967, knowing that what would be left would be indefensible! Israel regained that land; her people did not take what belonged to others. Perry, et al., are TRUE friends of Israel, and for some to think otherwise is “bull—-.”

Ann Covington says:

Regarding where the people of Israel build homes, etc., the people are not settlers, and the premises are not settlements. To say so is akin to saying that new housing in Fargo, South Dakota are settlements and those who buy the housing are settlers. No difference.
To date, Israel still does not have all the land per the peace accord post-WWI. But that seems to be a forgotten bit of history by those who are trying to steal even more land from Israel. Israel gave up land in the Clinton and Bush so-called peace accords. In return, those who received the land have not used it for good, but use it to shoot missiles into what remains of Israel, wounding and slaughtering innocent people.
Please remember that Israel is being asked to join in a peace accord with the very ones who, over and over again, have announced to the world their plan is to annihilate the Jews. For the UN, Abbas, Obama, Clinton, et al., to even consider such an accord is a show of utter disdain for Israel and her people.

Heilimann’s dishonest piece of whitewashing is, of course, not Journalism but rather an attempt to blame Bibi and the “stupid Jews” for not understanding how great a friend to Israel Obama is. Unbelievable that something this crass gets @marcatracy endorsement. But, to be expected — first they told us that Obama had no problem with the Jewish vote, it is all lies pushed by evil Republicans. Now that it’s clear the Jews have noticed that Obama is the most hostile President to Israel in history, the palace guards are taking another tack — to make Jews hate Bibi for “blocking the peace process” and claiming that Obama’s problem is simply one of messaging. LOL.



It’s incomprehensible to me that any Jew not dropped on their head could possibly believe Obama is a friend of Israel. Those hard selling us on it have to go through contortionist gyrations trying to get us to question what we really hear and see.

And if we’re at the point where we have to honestly worry about Israel losing the American Liberal Jewish vote then the state of Israel is doomed. Appeasing Arabs to where Israel is rendered indefensible with the end result being Israelis floating face down in the Mediterranean is no way to guarantee her existence.

Does any Jew caring about Israel’s existence pay any more credence to J Street or Tikkun’s Michael Lerner than Noam Chomsky?

David King says:

Given that Mossad was arrested on 9/11 with truck bombs, why would any American support Apartheid israel?

The only people I have seen making anti-Israeli anti-Jewish statements are Democrats. And you tell me a man who goes to church for 20 years that hates Israel hates Jews is a friend of Israel. Please stop drinking the Kool-Aid


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