With his stunning denouncement of Israel and his call for Israel to move back to pre-1967 borders as an American objective in restarting the stalled Israeli and Palestinian peace talks, President Barack Obama has alienated Israelis, and more importantly, American Jewish voters.
The truth is that the Jewish vote does matter. Though the Jewish population in the United States is roughly six million (about 2.3 percent of the total U.S. population), 89 percent live in 12 key Electoral College states.
These states have enough electoral votes to elect a president. Therefore, a shift in the Jewish vote can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of presidential elections. By example, a Democrat candidate cannot be elected president without carrying New York.
Since Orthodox Jewish voters, heavily concentrated in New York, are increasingly likely to vote Republican (60 percent voted for George W. Bush), more-liberal Jews are starting to think twice about supporting Obama after his stance on Israel.
The trend toward Republican voting by Orthodox Jews really took hold when President Bush, alone among major world leaders, refused to send an American delegation to the 2001 U.N. Conference on Racism in South Africa, which quickly degenerated into an anti-Israel hate fest.
It may surprise you to learn that American Jews were primarily a Republican voting block from that party’s first victory in 1860 under Abraham Lincoln until the Progressive Era, when many Jews followed Theodore Roosevelt (who had appointed the first Jewish cabinet secretary, Oscar Straus) into his doomed third-party run in 1912.
In 1916, Republican presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes won 45 percent of the Jewish vote but lost the election. Four years later, Warren Harding won 43 percent of the Jewish vote and the presidency.
Since then, Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 is the only Republican who has won more than 40 percent of the Jewish vote. On average, Republicans have received less than 25 percent of the Jewish vote since 1916. That could all change this year with Obama’s missteps on Israel.
While Jewish voters are typically aligned with the more progressive, or liberal political stances, when it comes to support of Israel, the tide can quickly turn. From 1990-2002, pro-Israel PACS contributed nearly $20 million while other Jewish organizations donations totaled another $28 million to presidential campaigns, the majority of the money going to Democrats. That may explain why after Obama threw Israel under the bus, he hastened to the Jewish PAC gathering to plead his case. The reception was tepid considering Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008.
I wish the solution to the tragic situation between the Israelis and Palestinians was as simple as Israel withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders. If it were, there would already be peace in the region and two great men, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, wouldn't have met such horrific deaths.
I recently had dinner with a well-educated and successful Pakistani businessman. Before much time elapsed, he asked me the burning question on his mind: “Why doesn't America force Israel to give back the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians? As a result of America’s support for Israel, you are hated by the majority of the Muslim people and this will never change until Israel withdraws from Palestinian lands.”
I responded that even if we assume that the United States has the power to influence, others it should never request any sovereign state to take actions that ensured the demise of its people. I then asked: “If Israel did withdraw to pre-existing borders and if the Palestinians had complete control over the West Bank with East Jerusalem as its capitol, what percentage of the Muslim world would be satisfied with this outcome?”
My friend's answer to this question explains the complete folly of Obama. He thought for a brief moment. “I believe more the 60 percent, perhaps more than 70 percent, will still be calling for the complete destruction of Israel,” he said.
I then framed the obvious: “Israel’s withdrawal to indefensible borders for the vast majority of Muslims would only be a step closer to pushing the hated Jews into the sea?” He nodded his head in the affirmative.
Just as the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE, Israel is at grave risk once again. With the Arab Spring among us, with Arab leaders that is more beholden to the will of the people and with the vast majority of the Arab people wanting nothing less than the eradication of Israel, why would the U.S. president be demanding a close friend and ally take actions whereby the region will be less stable and the Jewish nation and its technologies be wiped from the earth?
The election in 2012 will be historic. What remains to be seen is what side of history the American-Jewish vote will choose.
The Republicans have an unprecedented opportunity to attract Jewish voters for the first time since Eisenhower garnered 40 percent of the Jewish vote.
The cornerstone of a responsible policy in the Middle East starts with a strong and secure Israel. Not only does this generate support from Jews, it resonates with Christians and others who recognize that a defensible Israel is required for the security of all the people of the Middle East and is in the national interest of the United States.
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