October 17, 2012
The American election and Israel
Americans who care deeply about Israel have to make two decisions regarding the upcoming election.
The first decision is whether a candidate’s or a party’s level of support for Israel should be the most important consideration in determining their vote.
If the answer is in the affirmative — or even if support for Israel is but one of a number of important considerations — Americans who care deeply about Israel then need to determine whether there is a significant difference between candidates or parties.
Let me begin with the first question.
From any perspective, an American voter ought to be preoccupied with issues other than, or at least in addition to, Israel. Even the voter for whom Israel is the greatest priority needs to be preoccupied with America. If the United States weakens in any way — economically, militarily, in international stature, morally — it affects its ability and/or its will to support Israel.
So it would seem to be myopic to vote solely based on the question of which candidate or party will more strongly support Israel.
But note that I write “would seem.” Because a legitimate case can be made for seeming to put the cart (support for Israel) before the horse (other American matters).
The reason is this: The attitude of a party or candidate toward Israel tells you more than perhaps any other issue about that party or candidate. Treatment of and attitudes toward the Jews and Israel is an almost perfect indicator of a party’s, a country’s or a candidate’s values.
Support for Israel does not guarantee a person will be a great leader. But apathy, not to mention hostility, toward Israel guarantees a bad leader (of any country).
As ironic as it may appear, therefore, even an American who is not interested in Israel has every reason to be quite concerned with a party’s and a candidate’s attitude toward Israel. I cannot come up with an example of a great, moral leader anywhere who was weak on Israel.
The Jews and the Jewish state are the world’s canary in the coal mine. This is a role that Jews play in the world. Even miners who have no interest in canaries know that if the canary dies, it is a signal that noxious fumes are present and must be fought — or the miners will die.
This is not a role that Jews or Israel have ever asked for. But it has always been true.
It is therefore very important for voters — again, whether or not they are greatly concerned with Israel — to ascertain which party and candidates are pro-Israel.
Many supporters of Israel in the Jewish community (for the record, most American supporters of Israel are Christians) maintain that there is little that distinguishes the Democratic and Republican parties generally or Mitt Romney and Barack Obama specifically.
If only this were the case.
While I never believed that Obama was personally hostile to Israel, it takes a willful disregard of inconvenient truths to argue that he and the Democratic Party are as supportive of Israel as are Romney and the Republican Party.
First, virtually every observer of contemporary international relations believes that President Obama dislikes the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Supporters of the president contend that this is Netanyahu’s fault. But fault-finding here is irrelevant. Whatever the cause, this hostility remains a fact. And that is bad for Israel.
If there is a modern precedent of a president of the United States refusing to meet the prime minister of Israel when the latter was already in the United States, and had requested such a meeting (either in New York or in Washington), I am unaware of it. And this was how Obama treated the Israeli prime minister just weeks before a national election when Jewish votes matter. Imagine how Netanyahu — Israel’s democratically elected leader, let’s remember — will be treated if Obama is re-elected.
As reported in the Guardian, the major left-of-center newspaper in the United Kingdom: “The chairman of the House of Representatives intelligence committee, Mike Rogers, described attending a ‘very tense’ and argumentative meeting between Netanyahu and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, in late August at which the pair had ‘elevated’ exchanges.
“Rogers described Netanyahu as at his ‘wit’s end’ over Obama’s refusal to set red lines for Iran.
“It was very, very clear that the Israelis had lost their patience with the administration,’ Rogers told a Detroit radio station. ‘We’ve had sharp exchanges with other heads of state and other things, in intelligence services and other things, but nothing at that level that I’ve seen in all my time where people were clearly that agitated, clearly that worked up about a particular issue, where there was a very sharp exchange.’ ”
And as regards the Democratic Party, one need only recall the vote of the Democratic delegates at their national convention in Charlotte, N.C., regarding the omission of any mention of Jerusalem (and God) in the Democratic Party platform. As anyone could hear, there were at least as many votes against mentioning Jerusalem as there were for it, and there was sustained booing after Jerusalem and God were reinserted into the platform.
The fact is that throughout the Western world — take Canada today, for example — conservative parties and leaders support Israel far more than liberals and leftists do.
When all this is added to President Obama’s goal of sharply reducing American military spending, it should be clear to any honest observer that a Romney and Republican administration would be far more supportive of Israel.
None of this will matter to most American Jews.