October 13, 2008 | 6:19 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
I’m tired of all the political pandering to religious voters. Jeffrey Goldberg, surprisingly, is sick of the non-stop mentioning of Israel on the campaign trail. Last week in Slate, Shmuel Rosner explained why it would be better for Israel is American politicians stopped name-dropping the small sliver of the Levant every time they wanted some Jewish support. A snippet:
Loving Israel, and making it known time and again, is still a litmus test for any American politician. Barely can a presidential debate go by without the mentioning of this tiny country in a distant region. Last week in the vice-presidential debate, Israel’s name was mentioned 17 times. China was mentioned twice, Europe just once. Russia didn’t come up at all. Nor Britain, France, or Germany. The only two countries to get more attention were Iraq and Afghanistan—the countries in which U.S. forces are fighting wars.
And the Biden-Palin debate was not the exception but the rule. A week earlier, in the first McCain-Obama debate, Israel was mentioned seven times, fewer than Russia but still more than China or Japan or any country in Europe, Latin America, or Africa. In the second presidential debate, on Tuesday, Israel was on the table again. “Would you commit U.S. troops to defend Israel if Iran attacks it?” they were asked. In the first two televised debates of the primary season, one could see the same trend: Republican candidates mentioned Israel 18 times, as compared with only one mention for Russia and three for China. Democrats, more modestly, mentioned Israel only three times—still more than Great Britain, Egypt, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, or Canada and almost the same as those of neighboring Mexico.
But if they really care for Israel, they should at least try to resist the temptation. The constant mentions, the high visibility in every election cycle, the overwhelming attention—all do little to serve Israel’s interest. They create the impression that Israel’s problems, and especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should be the highest priority for an American administration. They make Americans think that important and costly governmental actions, like the war in Iraq, were done for the sake of Israel, thus turning Israel into a nuisance rather than an asset. They mislead voters to think that dilemmas facing the next president—Iran is the most notorious example—would disappear had it not been for Israel.
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