Jewish Journal


January 9, 2012

Republican love for Israel all around



How far would Republican candidates go to show their love for Israel? Here’s one version, some sarcastic punditry on this topic – from Tablet. I didn’t think it was very funny, but that’s for you to decide for yourselves. It might help you answer a question Ben Smith had asked not long ago: Would Reagan have passed the GOP’s Israel test?

I agree with Ron Kampeas that no matter what Rick Santorum says about Israel, he is a tough sell with most Jews:

Santorum’s stumbling block, they say, is his hard-line take on social issues like abortion, gay rights and church-state separation - not a huge deal when he was one senator among a hundred but a bigger factor for donors considering presidential contenders.

But we aren’t just talking here about Jewish support for Israel, we’re talking about Americans in general. This Israeli went to Iowa and concluded that:

My homeland has many true friends among the Republicans running for U.S. president this year: candidates who celebrate Israel as a cause that is religious (Congresswoman Michele Bachmann), moral (former Senator Rick Santorum), strategic (former Governor Mitt Romney) or all of the above (Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich). In the car on my way to Precinct 025, I heard one of Bachmann’s campaign ads on the radio: it opened with a pledge to defend Israel — that was the first item on her to-do list as the next President of the United States. The upshot of all this? No Republican politician can get away with being openly unfriendly to Israel, not even those who might have some reservations concerning its “special relationship” with the United States.

Haaretz pundit Chemi Shalev warned of too much love – apparently he’s one of these people who can’t just say thank you without worrying about it:

This unconditional support is undoubtedly gratifying for many Jewish voters, but in the long run, it could do more harm than good. Ordinary Americans are bound to wonder about the sway this distant country holds over American politics and about the motives of the Jews that support it. The unusually prominent place given to Israel – often at the expense of pressing domestic issues such as education, crime and poverty, as well as significant foreign policy issues such as Russia, China, the Eurozone crisis and the Arab Spring – is, one must admit, often surreal.

Noam Neusner might help him calm down a bit:

Pro-Israel worrywarts fret that all this attention is a mixed bag. Sure, they welcome the love, but they caution that all this neo-Zionism threatens the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus. Not only that, the Republicans may well be painting a policy picture that is impossible to deliver.

On the first issue, the concern is both misplaced and too late. The Republican love affair with Israel, which began in earnest with Richard Nixon, has deep roots in the 50 million-strong evangelical community. The Democratic love affair with Israel, which dates back to Harry Truman, draws its sustenance from Jews and labor unions, at least for now. That these disparate groups have not much to do with each other besides philo-Zionism doesn’t trouble me. There are plenty of strange coalitions in Washington around issues such as immigration, race-based redistricting and HIV/AIDS programs in Africa. So, why shouldn’t Israel have a motley group of fans? To put it more bluntly, why should abortion rights or gay marriage matter when it comes to who gets to support Israel?

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