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Isi Leibler

Obama and the Jewish vote

by Isi Leibler, posted August 3, 2011

[This  article  first appeared in the Jerusalem Post and is being reprinted with permission]

The recent Dick Morris opinion poll demonstrates that traditional long-standing Jewish support for the Democratic Party has eroded dramatically.

It was an extraordinary demonstration of loyalty to the Democratic Party that notwithstanding Barack Obama's questionable attitude toward Israel, long-term association with a despicable anti-Semitic pastor and close relationship to prominent Arab-American PLO activists and far-Left ideologues, 78 percent of American Jews still voted for him. Admittedly, Obama subsequently dissociated himself from and zigzagged around some of his initial anti-Israeli policies. But had a conservative candidate with such dubious political associations stood for office, the vast majority of Jews would certainly have blackballed him.

Obama overcame this because of the profound attachment of American Jews to liberalism, which, for many, almost represents a secular religion. Historically - and particularly since the Franklin Roosevelt era - the Democratic Party has cultivated and welcomed Jews and other minority groups into its ranks, whereas the Republican Party had been inclined to snub them. In relation to the Obama presidential candidature, there was the added Jewish reluctance to vote against the first African-American candidate.

However, more than any of his presidential predecessors, Obama is perceived by many as radiating hostility toward Israel's prime minister while remaining reluctant to condemn Palestinian extremism and intransigence.

Yet the media insist that the majority of American Jews steadfastly continue to support him. Only last month, the JTA reported a Gallup poll with the headline: "Jewish approval of Obama is unaffected by Israel tensions."

Meanwhile, another poll by Luntz Global on behalf of CAMERA confirmed that Jews regard Palestinian incitement - the "culture of hatred" - as a major obstacle to peace, and concurred that Israel "should refuse to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority until Hamas renounces terrorism and officially recognizes Israel's right to exist." Eighty-five percent believed that the Israeli government was committed to establishing a genuine peace with the Palestinians, and that Israel was "right to take threats to its existence seriously."

An earlier American Jewish Committee survey also found that 76% of American Jews believed that "the goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories, but rather the destruction of Israel." And 95% endorsed the proposal that in any final peace agreement, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

That Jewish voters stood by Obama despite this exemplifies the intensity of American Jewry's attachment to liberalism and provides credence to suggestions that in determining political allegiances, most regard Israel as a low priority.

However, it would seem that the confrontation between Obama and Netanyahu and the bipartisan support Israel then received in Congress did have an impact.

The tough resolutions subsequently carried overwhelmingly by the House of Representatives (407 out of 435) and the Senate, warning the Palestinians that they risk losing US aid if they persist in their intransigent approach, would have reinforced this.

THE CHANGE would also have been spurred on by the Obama administration's recent decision to engage with the jihadist and violently anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood, creator of Hamas, whose spiritual head, the 84- year-old Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, calls on the faithful "to kill Jews to the very last one."

The poll undertaken by Dick Morris and published on his website, The Hill, reflects a seismic Jewish shift away from Obama. While the majority would still vote for him, his 78% support from 2008 has declined to 56%.

The poll disclosed that Jewish Democrats are now evenly divided as to whether Obama "is being too tough on Israel."

Morris maintains that the principal catalyst for this was Obama's recent demand that Israel accept the '67 borders and swaps as a benchmark for the opening of peace negotiations. In the poll, 83% of all Jews opposed his proposal.

Furthermore, 67% of Jewish Democrats agreed and only 13% opposed the proposition that "if the Arabs lay down their weapons, there would be no more war. It is just their desire to destroy Israel that creates a conflict."

THE BELIEF that many Jews are deserting Obama was echoed by noted political analyst Ben Smith, who wrote in Politico that even enter-Left Jewish supporters of Obama were "fearful for Israel at a moment of turmoil in a hostile region where the moderate PA is joining forces with Hamas" and "say to their astonishment that they will consider voting for a Republican in 2012."

This suggests that, contrary to the liberal chatter that downgrades Israel as a major contributing factor it obviously remains a key issue to many Jews, and does influence voting patterns, especially if the Jewish state is perceived as facing genuine existential threats.

That Jewish support for an incumbent president can decline from 78% to 56% over the course of just two years signals a dramatic change in lifelong voting behavior and suggests that if Obama continues to pressure Israel, he may lose Jewish support in a number of key electorates. More importantly, if Jewish Democrats, whose DNA inhibits them from supporting a Republican candidate become sufficiently outraged with Obama's policies, they will be inclined to curtail their crucial financial contributions toward his reelection.

Much will depend on the extent to which Jewish leaders find the courage to criticize their president on this issue, instead of remaining silent out of fear of losing access to the White House.

Of course, the political orientation of the Republican candidate will also have a major impact. He/she may be totally supportive of Israel, but if perceived as a radical right-winger, many lifelong liberal Jews - even if they despise Obama's policies - will either continue voting for him or simply not vote. Reagan obtained a record 39% of the Jewish vote because he was perceived as a moderate.

Sarah Palin is utterly committed to Israel, but many liberal Jews are unlikely to vote for her under any circumstances.

That extends beyond the Jewish vote and represents the dilemma currently confronting the Republican Party.

A Tea Party candidate would enjoy enthusiastic support from devotees, but may alienate the ‘swing' voters who often determine the outcome of elections.

The Morris poll should overcome the prevailing feeling of helplessness nurtured by the liberal media, which trivialize the impact that Obama's selective bullying of the Jewish state is having on Jews, and mistakenly suggest that nothing can deter Jewish voters from supporting the Democrats.

It demonstrates that, whereas more than half of American Jews continue to support Obama, many committed and younger Jews have shifted their allegiance. Furthermore, there is every likelihood that unless the administration adjusts its policies, the swing away from Obama will intensify, and could be highly damaging to the Democratic Party.

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