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Newt Gingrich at AIPAC Conference
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Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League with the Editor of the Winnipeg Jeiwsh Review

Former Democratic Congressman (Florida),Robert Wexler
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, May 25,2011





Washington- Although President Barack Obama delivered a speech about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process at the the AIPAC [American  Israel Public Affairs Committee] conference on Sunday May 22, 2011 to "clarifiy"  his earlier speech of May 19, 2011 many in the AIPAC crowd were not  convinced about the degree of Obama's support of Israel.This was the case  notwithstanding that Obama recieved a standing ovation and notwithstanding that his speech to AIPAC was an improvement over his original speech. [Both Obama's speeches of May 19 and May 22  are reprinted at the end of this article.]

The failure of the crowd of 10,000 people to be won over in their heart of hearts by Obama's clarification speech is important because most of the AIPAC delegates voted for Obama in the last elections.

Before analysing the changes in Obama's two speeches, let me state at the outset that assuming that I am correct in my observation that a noticable proportion of AIPAC delegates have serious doubts about Obama's committment to preserving what they see to be Israel's vital interests, this means that it should not be assumed that Obama will sew up the Jewish vote like he did in the last election. 

Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary  for President  George W. Bush made one of the most important observations at the conference. Fleischer said that if Jews vote 4 to 1 in favour of the Democrats in Florida, the Democrats win Florida-- but if  Jews vote only 3 to 1 in favour of the  Democrats, the Republicans take Florida. Florida is a key state, as are a few other states (i.e. New York) where there is a large concentration of Jewish voters.

I had assumed that Obama needed to keep Jewish financial support intact. But until Fleischer made this statement, I figured that Jewish votes as a bloc are not that important to him. But that's not necessarily the case - Obama needs both Jewish financial contributions and votes as he looks towards his 2012 re-election campaign.

And speaking of Obama's need of  financial contributions, one of the most important words in Obama's speech at AIPAC was the word "Rosy", the name he uses to refer to his  long-time  friend and President of AIPAC since 2010 Lee  Rosenberg (who also happens to have contributed money to Obama's campaign last election). Here's the way Obama referred to "Rosy", who got mentioned three times in the first paragraph of Obama's speech:

"Thank you, Rosy, for your very kind introduction. But even more, thank you for your many years of friendship. Back in Chicago, when I was just getting started in national politics, I reached out to a lot of people for advice and counsel, and Rosy was one of the very first. When I made my first visit to Israel, after entering the Senate, Rosy – you were at my side every step of that very meaningful journey through the Holy Land. And I want to thank you for your enduring friendship, your leadership and for your warm welcome today."

After being  mentioned three times in the opening paragraph of Obama's speech, I began wondering just how important Rosy is to Obama. Founder and CEO of LRS media, founding shareholder and managing director of Kettle Partners, and founding shareholder and director of New York-based GRP Records, Rosy must be one of the reasons Obama made sure he got to AIPAC at the very beginning of the conference to "expand" on his last Thursday's speech. (Note that "expand on " is the diplomatic term used in AIPAC's newsletter I read at the conference as oppposed to the more accurate term  "change", "retreat from", "adjust", "backpedal", etc.)

A correspondent based at the White House that I met told me that Rosy wasn't just any old contributer to Obama's campaign--but rather he was a key financial campaign organizer who was pivotal in bringing in other donors.

The Washington Post's  "Who Runs Government " website describes Rosy under the title "Why He Matters" as follows: "Chicago entrepreneur Rosenberg was one of President Barack Obama's staunchest Jewish allies during his 2008 campaign. He advised the President on foreign policy in the Middle East and Israel and delivered speeches to Jewish groups around the country."

Now I  would venture a guess (and it is only a guess) that after Rosy heard Obama's speech last Thursday about Israel, that he may have put in a call to his "enduring" friend and told Obama that the Jewish reaction to the speech wasn't so rosey. 

What follows is my analysis of the problems in Obama's original speech, his clarifications and, finally what I think the AIPAC crowd made out of Obama's clarifications. Before getting to the nitty gritty, let me state unequivacably that the real story of the AIPAC conference is how Republican Eric Cantor, Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives (and the highest ranking Jewish politician in U.S. history) upstaged Obama in his speech, the key elements of which I shall touch upon.

If the Republicans have any sense in 2012 they will fly Cantor in to Florida to knock down the margin of Jewish votes from 4 to 1 for the Democrats to 3 to 1 over the issue of Israel. If they do that, then according to Ari Fleischer, the Republicans will take Florida. Moreover, if the Republicans are really smart they will begin consulting with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper as to how to win over the Jewish vote, since if a segment of  Liberal Jewish voters can become Conservatives in Canada because of the "Israel factor", then arguably the same trend can happen in America.

That's not to say that  I am in any way predicting that Obama won't win the next U.S. election--If I had to guess today, I'd guess that he will, but after being at the AIPAC conference I think he will  get less than the 78% of the Jewish vote he got last time.

Newt Gingrich, who is a Presidential hopeful for the Republicans, held a reception after Israeli Prime  Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to AIPAC delegates on May 24. Now, what I gathered at the conference is that Gingrich does not have much of a chance at gaining the Republican nomination, but  both he and  Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who also wants the Republican Presidential nomination, were smart en

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.