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Is Israel an Appropriate Political Issue?

Brouhaha over ADL pledge sets stage for heated election year

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President Obama yesterday.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

There are two bits of internecine warfare currently joined in the insular American Jewish political community. One is small bore and involves incendiary comments made by an Emergency Committee for Israel board member, which J Street said were basically genocidal, and it’s become a Thing; here is the reporting you need and, perhaps, desire.

The other strikes me as a bigger deal, especially as we enter an election year early next month. The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee jointly issued a “National Pledge for Unity on Israel” in order “to encourage other national organizations, elected officials, religious leaders, community groups and individuals to rally around bipartisan support for Israel while preventing the Jewish State from becoming a wedge issue in the upcoming campaign season.” The Republican Jewish Coalition responded to the statement with a strong rejection. “Allowing the American people to see where candidates stand, pro and con on critical issues, is the hallmark of our free and democratic political system,” said head Matthew Brooks. “For this reason, the RJC will not be a signer to this pledge. This effort to stifle debate on U.S. policy toward Israel runs counter to this American tradition.” Yikes!

Given President Obama’s political missteps when it comes to Israel, it seems undeniable that a call to prevent Israel “from becoming a wedge issue” is pro-Democratic in effect, and so likely in intent. The last time somebody prominently played the “Israel should be nonpartisan” card, it was Democrats bickering with Republicans in front of Prime Minister Netanyahu in May.

At the same time, much of the statement reads as “politics stops at the water’s edge”-type boilerplate, and indeed the Jewish establishment has historically been especially adept at instilling a view of Israel that crosses party lines; even Commentary, which takes the RJC’s position (and which, I can’t resist adding, was for most of its life published by the AJC), admires much of the pledge’s sentiment for that precise reason.

Moreover, the AJC and especially the ADL are not the first two organizations you would peg as Democratic or Obama shills. The ADL is a group seen as centrist or even center-right on Israel and likely has funders that reflect that. If this is the sort of thing it is calling for, then it could reflect a genuine backlash at the recent hyper-politicization of the Israel issue at the hands of groups like ECI that surrounded events such as the U.N. General Assembly and the special election in New York.

For pro-Israel Americans of a right-wing, Republican bent, the conundrum is this: You don’t want to so successfully cast President Obama as Israel’s foe and then have him win re-election. Because then the American people will have elected an anti-Israel candidate; in that scenario, the president owes you nothing; worse, he would have been elected despite being who you say he is, and therefore his mandate, if anything, would be to do all the things the right says he secretly wants to do, like divide Jerusalem, support the terrorists, etc.

I sense the pledge is a warning shot: At some point, it says, politicization of Israel could cross the appropriate line. At the same time, the RJC’s easy dismissal of the pledge proves that we haven’t even approached that point yet. If and when it’s AIPAC pushing the “water’s edge” line, that’s when you’ll see GOP backtracking.

UPDATE: After J Street Declares War, ECI Punches Back [Washington Jewish Week]
National Pledge for Unity on Israel [ADL]
RJC Rejects ADL/AJC Pledge: ‘We Will Not Be Silence’ on Israel [RJCHQ]
Earlier: Why Israel Makes For a Lousy Partisan Issue
N.Y.-9 Voters Think Obama ‘Not Pro-Israel’

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What a great idea from the ADL! We should eliminate the “Israel” issue from our national political debate. Perhaps we should also eliminate discussing the the progressive vs flat tax question,the national debt, unemployment, income disparity, keeping our troops in Afghanistan, drone bombing in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Cuba and abortion. We should also do away with televised debates once the candidates are chosen, and use the Miss America interview format instead.

For many Jews, Obama’s positions on Israel was a reason for voting against a Democrat in NY 9th Congressional election – and it will be an issue for voting against Obama – and for almost anyone else – in the 2012 Presidential election.

No matter what Marc Tracy says, the ADL and Foxman, as well as the AJC, are seen as part of the Democrat establishment, supporting the Democrats no matter what the terrible consequences of their foreign policy.

Ira Glunts says:

You are correct to identify “The National Pledge…” as pro-Democratic party.

However, I disagree with the implication of the final sentence in your article. “If and when it’s AIPAC pushing the “water’s edge” line, that’s when you’ll see GOP backtracking.” The Republicans would have never have attempted to make Israel a wedge issue without the tacit support of AIPAC.

I also disagree with your conjecture that O can be elected while being a branded as anti-Israel. The Republican attacks will make O back down so fast and completely, the Prez. will make Golda Meir look like Amira Hass.

Barry Meislin says:

Forget about his record on Israel.

Focus on his record on America.

(A.K.A. It’s no accident—with “apologies” to Walt and Mearsheimer—that America’s first anti-Israel president is also America’s first anti-USA president.)

So basically according to the ADL, we should just eliminate issues to discuss. Especially those that make a Democratic president look bad.

What a grand idea. Why even have an election in 2012? Let’s just have a coronation.

Right wing groups criticism of Israel on the Shalit deal, which something like 75% of Israelis support, is ok, though. It’s only when the left does it it’s anti Israel. Weird, huh? Weirder still, 55% of Israelis approve of “anti-Israel” Obama.

And roughly 70% amount of American Jews will vote for Obama in 2012. So go ahead and make Israel a Republican issue and alienate American Jews, a stupid strategy.

Whenever the right stops being anti Jew and starts preferring the company of centrist and left wing Jews to that of right wing Christians, they will be merge successful in helping Israel.

What universe do you live in where the ADL and AJC “aren’t Obama shills”?

Obama spent 20 years in the psychotic, anti-semitic church of Rev. Jeremiah Wright (who, I understand, is still sitting shiva for his best friend and financial supporter who was shot dead last week in Sirte).

Obama has shown time and time again how much he hates Jews – both in the United States and in Israel. Any young Jew on campus knows how hate-filled Obama’s supporters are toward identifiable Hebrews. Speak to any African-American (who give BO 90% approval) for more than two minutes and you’ll see the wicked face of the American left’s antisemitism.

Stupid liberal Jews who vote for Obama DESERVE the genocide he has in mind for them. Just as Rev. Wright who said that during his 5th year in office, with the election behind him, B.O. would go to war against the Jews and Israel.

Barry Meislin says:


Not so much weird as complex. A lot more complex than some seem to want to believe.

Marc Tracy does his usual tap dance for the Democratic Party.

If Obama wins a second term, he will become even more anti-Israel than he was during his first term. This will not be the result of revenge as Tracy and ADL/AJC suggest. Rather, it’s historical precedent- all Presidents elected to a second term are prone to upping the pressure on Israel since the restraints on their actions are negated because re-election ceases to be a priority. This was true for Clinton as well as Bush and will be doubly true for Obama.

It’s important to know what politicians think and plan to do concerning Israel, and especially the two state solution. I understand the world wants peace in the Middle East, but world leaders either don’t understand or care that God says He will judge the nations that divide up the land He gave to the Jews. It is possible that those who don’t care, will have to see the judgement of God before they understand it is not a good idea to contend with Him. And, is what the United States really wanting is for things to get worse here? I don’t think so.

I want Israel to be a wedge issue.
I want it talked it about more and more.
I want every single American to get a belly full of the Israel parasite and the US Pro Israel Jews.

Israel is a foreign country. Jews who based their US vote and politics on the welfare of a foreign country ahead of America should move to Israel.

Just leave, we’re sick of it, you, the whole Orwellian US aberration of this fifth column of foreign loyalist.

Not sure what polls you’re referencing Jon, but as of 2009 only 6% of Israelis considered Obama to be pro Israel.

Dear Cal-
Go screw yourself you antisemitic piece of crap.

Beatrix says:

Jews are supportive of Israel just as Irish Americans support Ireland, Norwegian Americans support Norway, Italian Americans are proud of being Italian, Hispanic Americans feel pride in their culture, etc. America is only 235 years old. Most Americans have a connection to their heritage before America existed. Is it surprising that Jews, a people 4,000 years old feel a connection to our heritage, too?

    melanie77 says:

    except jews coordinate to further the interests of a third world toilet,and pushes americans to die invading israels enemies, treasonous filth

Beatrix says:

No American should sign a pledge. We believe what we believe until we believe something different. No one can tell us what to believe.

I don’t care if Obama is pro or anti-Israel, he’s simply a very bad President, and he’s going down.

Sorry I am late with a response. An article in the Wall Street Journal(Republican Right Wing Paper) 11/2/11 prompted my reply.In Tablet article & WSJ one the ADL & AJC want me to sign this pledge “national pledge for unity on Israel. My first pledge I ever made was Pledge Allegiance to America. As I am 81,still do.
As a Jew, Israel is dear to me, heart & soul. AIPAC thinks Israel can do no wrong, is not for me. The Republican Jewish Coalition and the WSJ just wants to defeat Obama. Read realty, see link to WSJ article & see for yourself.
“Israel Should Be a U.S. Campaign Issue
Major Jewish groups are trying to shield Obama from legitimate criticism.”

Sy Fort Lee NJ

Ben Cohen says:

If the Jewish vote went against him and he won anyway, it wouldn’t effect his support for Israel. He would still have to worry about how the democrats would do in the 2014 midterms, and in 2016. Parties tend to gradually lose voters the longer they stay in power.

Vote for whoever you want, but don’t vote for Obama because you think if he loses it will be bad for Israel.

Tarara Boumdier says:

If “Elsewhere on the Web” is paid advertising, it should be clearly labeled as such.

It essentially solved my trouble, thank you!

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melanie77 says:

traeasonous,conniving people you are, obama is going to urinate on israel firsters after the eectio


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Is Israel an Appropriate Political Issue?

Brouhaha over ADL pledge sets stage for heated election year

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