October 25, 2012
15 short comments about politics
Say what you want about Netanyahu the statesman, or Netanyahu the politician – Netanyahu the magician, the man that always has a surprise up his sleeve, has done it again. The decision to merge the Likud Party with the Yisrael Beiteinu Party – Netanyahu and Lieberman dancing together – will once again reshuffle the political deck. In the coming days a lot of (virtual) ink will be expended by the experts charged with analyzing the implications of this move. Read them all but remember: Not one of them knew in advance this was going to happen. They – we – are all experts on things that have already happened. Predicting the future is something we do on demand, but the rate of success is hardly impressive.
As readers of our House Jewish Projection know, the number of Jewish legislators in Congress is going to take a serious blow. But there’s a chance - slight as it might be - that the number of Jewish Republican House members will finally climb – from one to two, or even three. That is, if both Randy Altschuler (NY) and Adam Hasner (FL) win their very tight races. Now a question: If you’re a tribal Jew – but also a Democrat like most Jews – would you be happy about two more Jews joining the House on the other side of the aisle?
President Obama has been trying hard to convince voters that he is staunchly pro-Israel – but Israelis themselves never really bought into it. Our new Israeli Opinion on Obama tracker has the details and the numbers. Take a look.
I tend to agree with Jonathan Tobin: “That the president would so emphasize Israel in the debate spoke volumes about Democrat fears about his vulnerability” regarding the Jewish vote. I also agree with former congressman Wexler that “Jewish voters will stick with Obama”. The Jewish vote is not about the vote – a Democratic majority, no doubt – but about expectations. Lower expectations, and Obama wins, raise them, and he could look like a loser (but we’ll have to wait and see).
For our last Israel Factor survey before Election Day we asked the 10 panelists to rank eight previous presidents on the good-for-Israel question. We are still crunching the numbers for this survey, but I can already tell you this: George W. Bush will not be the highest ranking. Jimmy Carter will be the lowest ranking. Survey results, early next week.
There’s a new update of the ongoing Taglit-Birthright study – an update that generally confirms previous findings: Birthright makes Jewish youngsters more Jewishly engaged in many ways. But since this post is about politics, I’ll postpone other issues related to the new study for later, and focus on one political nugget from it: a total debunking of the Birthright-makes-participants-more-right-wing claim – one that has appeared in the writings of some former participants.
Here’s what the study says: Taglit participants and nonparticipants did not differ in their likelihood of having an opinion about the future of the West Bank or Jerusalem. Among those who had an opinion on Jerusalem, Taglit participants and nonparticipants are equally likely to think that Israel should compromise on the status of Jerusalem. Among those who had an opinion on West Bank settlements, Taglit had a small effect, with participants slightly less likely than nonparticipants to say that they favor dismantling “none” of the settlements in the West Bank as opposed to “some.” As the authors conclude: “Specific views on Israeli politics appear to be largely unrelated to Taglit participation”.
Gary Rosenblatt of the New York Jewish Week writes about my most recent JPPI study:
I don’t usually recommend articles from Open Zion, the blog edited by Peter Beinart. But I’ll make an exception – as it was refreshingly surprising for me to see how unbiased Noam Shelef was able to be as he analyzed the scandalous poll by Haaretz, according to which – well, according to the headlines attached to which – Israelis favor apartheid. Shelef wrote: “The poll actually shows that Israelis want to separate themselves from the West Bank, not even annexing the major settlement blocks [sic]. Only in a hypothetical situation - whereby their preference that Israel not annex the West Bank is ruled out by the pollster - do most Israeli Jews show a willingness to rule over non-voting Palestinians and thus tolerate apartheid”. Exactly right.
More Israeli politics: We will soon post another update of our Israel polls tracker – Prof. Camil Fuchs is working on it. One thing to remember: Early next week we will know if Olmert and Livni will be running to unseat Netanyahu. If they don’t, we have a clear map – if they do, all bets are off.
Yes, I wrote a book about the Jewish Vote (if you haven’t yet read it – get it here), but this doesn’t mean that I can’t read other works on the same topic. Herbert Hoover and the Jews: The Origins of the "Jewish Vote" and Bipartisan Support for Israel is an interesting work of history. Beware though – it is conservative in tone and conclusion. Harry Stein writes about in City Journal about why Jews are still mostly liberal:
I hope you all read my six Florida Diary posts from last week (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6). If you did, but want to know even more about the battle for Jewish Florida, try David Weigel:
I wrote about the same race:
An Israeli Reform rabbi is running for office. He is running as part of the Labor Party. Is it good for the movement to be associated with Labor, or with any party? There’s no simple answer to this question – and campaign PR aside, Kariv’s chances at getting in are not necessarily high (it will be refreshingly annoying to other parties though if he does get in). And another question: As a Knesset Member, will he be presented as a rabbi? And what happens if it’s his turn to speak, and the presiding chair is a representative of a Haredi party?
Another question our Israel Factor panel is going to answer: “On a scale of 1 (poor candidate) to 10 (great candidate), please rank the following candidates for secretary of state in the next Obama (O) or Romney (R) administration”. I can already tell you this: Susan Rice will not be the Factor’s top candidate.
If the panel were asked about Israel’s next Foreign Minister – we might do it closer to Israeli election – I suspect Avigdor Lieberman isn’t likely to be the Factor’s top candidate either. Meaning, regardless of Factor opinion, both Rice and Lieberman might end up being their respective country's top diplomat.
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