November 8, 2012
Post-Election Reflections on the JStreetPAC Agenda
Already, many of us are hoping that after President Obama’s inauguration and Israeli Elections this January, President Obama will make a visit to the Middle East, meet with Israelis and Palestinians, and bring a strong proposal for a new round of negotiations leading to a two-states for two-peoples resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Given the strong support that J Street’s 2012 election night poll of Jewish Americans found among American Jews for President Obama’s policies overall and for his approach to the Middle East, Iran and Israeli-Palestinian peace, the President should feel confident that American Jews support him as an honest broker.
J Street commissioned three polls to assess the American Jewish vote in 2012 examining voting preference and priorities, as well as opinions on Israel. One poll focused on the national picture. Another focused on the Ohio Senate race, where Senator Sherrod Brown faced numerous attacks on his pro-Israel credentials and affiliation with J Street. The third poll focused on the state of Florida, where right-wing groups poured an unprecedented amount of money into dishonest ads and attack campaigns to try to turn support for Israel into a partisan wedge issue.
The American Jewish community remains a solidly Democratic voting bloc despite tens of millions of dollars spent to move their votes. In 2012, American Jews remained overwhelmingly supportive of President Obama, of Democratic candidates, and of US leadership to achieve a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The J Street Poll found the following:
“Jews hold progressive views on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.
• Strong support for U.S. playing an active role to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, even if it means publicly stating disagreements with the Israelis and the Arabs (69 percent support)
•76% support the U.S. putting forth a peace plan that proposes borders and security
• 72% percent support comprehensive agreement along the lines of the Clinton parameters
It has been suggested that President Obama appoint former President Bill Clinton as a special envoy to the Middle East to help resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. No one has the authority and knowledge that the former American President has, and I, for one, hope that Obama will invite President Clinton’s active involvement and leadership. For a persuasive argument on this point see Bernard Avishai’s recent blog.
As some of my readers know, I am a strong supporter of J Street, the national home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans who believe that a two-state solution is the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I serve as a national co-chair of the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet because I believe in J Street’s vision and strategic approach to the Middle East conflict. J Street understands (reflecting the views of a majority of Israelis themselves) that unless Israel and the Palestinians find a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Jewish state will lose its Jewish majority and democracy.
This 2012 election showed exceptional success for the J Street vision in the polls. Here are the main results:
All 49 JStreetPAC-endorsed incumbents in the House were elected.
All 7 JStreetPAC-endorsed Senate candidates were elected.
JStreetPAC's challengers and candidates for open seats – elected in 13 out of 15 races (Ami Bera hanging on to a razor thin lead in his race for a Congressional seat in Sacramento would make it 14 of 15.)
Contributors gave over $1.8 million to these 71 pro-Israel, pro-peace candidates for Congress, and, consequently the 113th Congress will have 50 percent more JStreetPAC-endorsed members than are in Congress today. JStreetPAC efforts helped elect Tammy Baldwin (WI), Martin Heinrich (NM), Sherrod Brown (OH), and Time Kaine (VA) to the Senate, and for the first time in its four years of existence, JStreetPAC moved aggressively AGAINST candidates who are “One-Staters” (i.e. against a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and supporters of full annexation of the West Bank by Israel). Come January the House of Representatives will no longer have One-State Caucus members Joe Walsh, Allen West, Bobby Schilling, Frank Guinta, or Ann Marie Buerkle.
Given the success of the above endorsed candidates, it is clear that J Street chose well and that those candidates enjoy broad support for their positions generally.
It is also clear that the J Street vision is increasingly being embraced at the highest levels of Congress and that both House and Senate candidates and office-holders happily accepted endorsements from J Street.
No longer is the right-of-center policies vis-à-vis Israel and within Israel itself the only legitimate pro-Israel position embraced within the American Jewish community. In this regard, it is time that the 8-10% of the American Jewish community for whom Israel is their number one voting issue – the outspoken, emotional, passionate, right-wing, and deliberately intimidating – be understood as the small minority that it is.
It is clear that it is time that we in the moderate-left of the American Jewish community become equally passionate advocates of our positions.
The polls have clearly said in this election cycle that the majority of the American Jewish community supports the J Street position vis-a-vis the Middle East.