GOP Jews are Clear: Israel is an Election Issue

May 25th, 2011 at 1:24 pm | 23 Comments |

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must have scored a big win in his speech to Congress.  In a Monday meeting at the Blair House between Netanyahu and  Jewish political leaders from both parties, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz pressed Matthew Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), to “pledge to refrain in 2012 from using Israel as part of the issues in campaigns.”

Yesterday, Brooks issued a full response in a letter to Wasserman Schultz:

May 24, 2011

The Honorable Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Chairman
Democratic National Committee 
430 S. Capitol St. SE 
Washington, D.C. 20003

Dear Chairwoman Wasserman Shultz:

It was a pleasure to be with you at yesterday’s bipartisan meeting involving the Republican Jewish Coalition and representatives from the National Jewish Democratic Council. It is always an honor to be with an Israeli Prime Minister and I know you are as grateful as I am for the time he gave us so we could discuss matters that involve Israel’s security.

I also commend you personally for your pro-Israel record as a Congresswoman. There is no question that when it comes to how you vote, you have always been strong for Israel. Not everyone in Congress is like you and that’s why it is important for both of us to continue to speak out freely when individuals in our parties break from a position of support for Israel. I did so just two weeks ago when Congressman Ron Paul announced his candidacy for President.

In order to maintain bipartisan support for Israel, the RJC will continue to publicly point out the records and statements of public officials who stray from this bipartisan position. I hope you will do the same and not feel pressure to sweep under the rug or whitewash the positions of anyone in your party whose positions represent a threat to Israel’s security.

I hope you agree with me that no one – in either party – whether it’s the President of the United States, a candidate for President or a rank and file member – should be shielded from criticism if their positions are harmful to Israel’s well being. Covering up anti-Israel positions by gagging debate about them doesn’t help anyone; instead it only protects those who hope to get away with their anti-Israel positions. The Jewish community has a right to be informed about people’s records and people should be answerable for the positions they take. That is the essence of democracy.

Indeed, several leading Democrats have exercised their right to free speech when they criticized President Obama’s controversial statement that, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”

Former New York City Mayor and lifelong Democrat Ed Koch responded, “If President Obama does not change his position, I cannot vote for his reelection.”

According to a story in today’s Politico, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in his remarks to AIPAC, rebuked President Obama for his remarks.

However, in our meeting with the Prime Minister, you appealed to us, in front of the leader of a foreign nation, to pledge to refrain from any debate about these matters. I do not think that the timing or the venue you chose for raising this issue was appropriate.

I recognize that now, as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, you are in a position where you must support candidates whose positions on Israel are different from yours.

To that end, I understand why you would like to shield and provide political amnesty to those Democrats whose positions undermine Israel’s security.

For example, in Wisconsin, your party is likely to nominate a signer of the Gaza 54 letter, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, to replace Senator Herb Kohl.

In New Mexico, the Democrats are likely to nominate Congressman Martin Heinrich, who refused to join 344 colleagues in condemning the Goldstone report.

And in Connecticut, your party is likely to nominate Congressman Chris Murphy, who accepted major financial support from J Street in two different election cycles.

I understand that you would like to stifle debate in the Jewish community on these issues, but the RJC believes they are legitimate issues and part of a healthy and vigorous debate. Indeed, the best way to avoid debating them is for Democratic candidates not to hold positions that weaken Israel’s security, in which case both parties would be fully joined together in strong support of Israel.

Sincerely,

Matthew Brooks 
Executive Director

Wasserman Schultz’s cynical attempt to silence debate about Israel’s security comes at a time when congressional Democrats, as well as President Obama, have found themselves vulnerable to attacks from the pro-Israel community.  Republican presidential candidates have jumped at the chance to accuse  Obama of weakness on Israeli security.  Mitt Romney recently attacked Obama for “throwing Israel under the bus,” and Tim Pawlenty has called Obama’s position “very naive and very dangerous.”

Even as Democrats in Congress step back from Obama’s Israel policy, considerable damage has already been done to the party’s support among Jewish Americans.  The combination of Obama’s recent remarks and his continuing refusal to visit Israel has left donors frustrated.  Robert Copeland, a developer from Virginia Beach, VA and a frequent Democratic supporter told the Wall Street Journal, “I’m very disappointed with him.  His administration has failed in Israel.  They degraded the Israeli people.”  It remains to be seen to what degree Republicans will be able to make Israel an issue in 2012. But in Pennsylvania and Florida, battleground states with relatively large Jewish populations, Democrats will have some explaining to do.


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23 Comments so far ↓

  • Graychin

    If Israel is an issue in the 2012 elections, the issue will be one more phony one. Obama’s stated policy towards Israel is no different from that of the conservative hero George W. Bush. Netanyahu and Congressional Republicans know that very well.

    Netanyahu would LIKE for there to be a U.S. president who would help him to hold the status quo and avoid a settlement with Palestinians. Republicans are happy to play along for the sake of disagreeing with Obama. Romney’s silly knee-jerk reaction about Obama “throwing Israel under the bus” is a good example.

    • ram6968

      lawrence odonnel claims it’s posturing…palistine would never accept a plan acceptable to the jews so it has to be percived that bibi is being pushed in a direction he doesn’t want to go (but does, which is why obama and bibi said the same thing) in order to get the palistinians more flexible….and the republicans dimwittedly enhance that perception by attacking the president…politics, gotta love it

  • wileedog

    8+% unemployment and the GOP is going to run on cutting Medicare, tax cuts for CEOs and defending the rights of Israel to tell us what to do.

    Is there a more tone deaf group of politicians than this group of clowns in history?

  • JimBob

    When it is all said and done The Chicago Street Hustler Barry Hussein will get 70-75 percent of the Jewish vote.

    • LFC

      Yes, because most Jews are reasonably intelligent and understand that the current path that Netanyahu is pursuing could destroy Israel. The other 25% are rib-rocked Republicans, which means they already live in a fantasy world that has little to do with reality.

    • rbottoms

      Don’t fudge words, say nigger when you mean nigger.

      Don’t be a punk about it.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    “To that end, I understand why you would like to shield and provide political amnesty to those Democrats whose positions undermine Israel’s security.”

    Yes, because continuing expanding West Bank settlements to the point that any kind of land swap becomes impossible due to security concerns with regards to these settlements is so necessary for the long term security of the Israeli state and to suggest that Israel not be able to forever deny West Bank Palestinians their rights is akin to calling for the destruction of Israel. Oh, and no Democrat must ever criticize Netanyahu’s policies because that is the same as killing babies.
    The RJC is anti-Israel. Kadima and Livni had no problems whatsoever with Obama’s speech and they got the most votes in the last election. Why is the RJC so anti-semitic against Livni?

  • hisgirlfriday

    Obama “constantly refuses to visit Israel”? Except that one time he visited the Wailing Wall and someone took his note out of the wall? Was that whole visit faked along with the moon landing or something?

  • Fozz

    It is good to know that commenters of this blog are much more sensible on the issue of Israel than David Frum and his ilk.

  • nuser

    “GOP jews are clear” Are GOP jews not Americans?

  • MrSimon

    Well, if Jews want to look at how much respect the GOP actually accords them, lets look at all of the Jews in elected positions within the GOP:

    Jewish Representatives: Eric Cantor
    Jewish Senators: None
    Jewish Governors: None

    Perhaps it is hard to feel welcome when we are treated as a campaign prop or worse. Ask Joe Straus how welcoming the GOP is to Jews.

    Regarding Israeli politics, the majority of American Jews are far to the left of the governing coalition. The combination of Cheneyites (Likud), neo-fascist soviets(Yisrael Beiteinu), and unemployed haredi zealots (Shas) have much more in common with the social and political views of John Hagee or Pat Robertson than to the median Jewish American. It’s a shame that Israel’s future has been sold off to people who have never been real friends of the Jewish people and wrap their longing for its destruction in aggressive philo-semitism.

  • Thanos316

    Too bad for teh GOP that the large majority of American Jews are still liberal, secular, and vote Democratic. While most Jews are probably deeply concerned about Israeli issues, they also seem to have long memories of the old school country-club sort of Republicanism that treated Jews as poorly as blacks were. And also I highly doubt that most American Jews want anything at all to do with the apocalyptic Christian radicalism (cue Beck, Palin, and Bachmann) of the social conservatives that pretends to be such staunch allies to Israel, contingent of course on all the Jews converting (or else) to Christianity when the Second Coming arrives. Add in the TeaBirchers, who brought all the openly anti-Semitic conspiracist nutcases in from the cold, and it gets very hard to see what, if any, appeal the current GOP has for Jews. Except maybe for Jews like Lloyd Blankfein and Bernie Madoff, of course.

    American Jews are more like blacks, Hispanics, most Catholics, women, and voters under the age of forty. These are all demographics that are permanently lost to the GOP and will remain centre-left and Democratic in perpetuity.

  • llbroo49

    You guys are confused. The GOP support of Israel has nothing to do with garnering American Jewish support/votes. It is meant to solidify the Christian Right Wing of the Republican party (a wing that relies on a Jewish homeland for the end time prophecies to come in to fruition).

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    Every goddamn election, right-wing hacks try to claim that John Kerry or Barack Obama or whoever else is just too damn scary for the Jewish vote. “Who knows what’ll happen this year!”, they write.

    Here’s a classic of the genre, from David Bernstein at the wildly uneven-in-quality Volokh Conspiracy blog: http://volokh.com/posts/1211329437.shtml

    Obama is probably the most liberal candidate the Democrats have fielded since at least Walter Mondale, perhaps since George McGovern. Contrary to popular belief, very liberal presidential candidates make a substantial percentage of Jewish voters nervous

    And here’s what happens, every damn time: “2008 exit poll: Obama 78%, McCain 21%, Other 1%”. In 2004, it was 74%-25% for Kerry.

    This is the same old lying BS. Or maybe, as with the Ryan plan, GOP voters have their heads shoved so far up their epistemically closed bubble that they manage to convince themselves and each other that this Democrat is really gonna scare the Jews this time. Either way, it’s always the right-wing talking point, and it’s always wrong.

  • Rabiner

    Mr. Simon,

    The reason Jews don’t feel welcome in the Republican Party excluding economic policy is their cultural positions which have a strong basis on Evangelical orthodoxy. Jews aren’t pro-life, they aren’t for prayer in school, they aren’t for creationism, they aren’t for the 10 commandments being everywhere, they don’t care about a war on Christmas (which means something completely different to them), and they are for a 2 state solution for Israel.

  • MrSimon

    Rabiner,

    I know all too well about our social views in the jewish community. What I should have clarified is that there was once a time when jews were welcome in the party. Jacob Javits was a liberal, pro-civil rights new york jew. In the 1960′s and 1970′s, my parents were proud Rockefeller Republicans. They campaigned for him and were strong supporters. The reason that the republicans cannot garner more than 25% of the jewish vote is because the party became increasingly orthodox in the past 30 years. The moderate Republican is no longer welcome to the party. Many of the jews who did serve in the senate as republicans were eventually pushed out the back door. There are orthodox jews (such as eric cantor) whose views skew much closer to that of the republican party, but most of the continuum of political thought among american jews can be found on the left of center.

  • Alex 0_0

    Fred can I just say respectfully that Republican Jews are “all Chief and no Indians” in reality. GOP Jews is like 10 rich dudes and some prominent intellectuals and pundits, but no mass support among actual Jewish voters. Also Israel is only like #4 or 5 on priorities for most Jewish voters (excpet maybe FL).

    For example: my boyfriend in Jewish and his parents belong to a “Conservative schul.” They are educated, affluent people who should vote Republican for taxes etc. But they will never vote for a party that rejects their gay son, that is just unimaginable in that family, no matter if they can save 30k/yr or not. They love Israel and even own a vacation place there, but like all American Jews they love their kids and America more than they love Israel. No way in hell are these people voting for the GOP as it currently exists.

    American Jews voted 80+% for Obama and he’ll do fine with 70% of Jewish voters too. Jewish Republican is like Gay Republican, a fringe odd cerebral and delusional group. If only you knew what Baptists like where I grew really think about Jews, you’d cringe. And you’d never vote Republican again, ever.

  • Rob_654

    It is funny watching so many non-Jews getting all worked up over an issue while so many Jews are in agreement with President Obama.

    And then watching Netanyahu give a speech that essentially lined up with Obama’s plan – that is gaining peace through redefining the borders – which is what Obama said (starting with the 1967 lines with swaps) – which is another way of saying what Netanyahu said.

    This is just another story where Obama’s critics just immediately attack anything Obama says or does because they suffer from Obama Derangement Syndrome.

    • wileedog

      This is just another story where Obama’s critics just immediately attack anything Obama says or does because they suffer from Obama Derangement Syndrome.

      And I think you can include Netanhayu as one of those critics. It’s no accident he stirred up an uproar against Obama’s speech and then turned around and quietly said the same thing.

      He very much wants to get the GOP back in the White House so he can go back to having carte blanche say in Israel’s actions. In fact his entire strategy right now is wait it out 2 more years and hope that happens.

  • ottovbvs

    Is this guy trying to demonstrate that American Jews attach more importance to loyalty to Israel than the US? It’s all bs of course American Jews aren’t going to vote for right wing christianists to keep Bibi happy (Wasserman Shultz is Jewish for godsake) but if this guy want to feed anti semitic perceptions about loyalty to the US he’s going the right way about it.

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