early and often

Obama, Israel, and the Jewish Vote: More Interesting to Read About Than You Might Think


So a black guy, an Israeli, and an American Jew walk into a bar…”Photo: Getty Images

As demonstrated by his visit to the Western Wall this morning, Barack Obama isn’t taking the Jewish vote for granted. Nor should he: Though polls show he’s getting nearly twice the support of John McCain among American Jewish voters, his support still trails that of recent Democratic presidential candidates. Jewish concerns run the gamut from his positions on Iran to his association with Reverend Wright to his Muslim-y name and background. With his trip to Israel fresh in everyone’s minds, the debate has reemerged over how good Obama will be for Israel and, consequently, how attractive he will be to the American Jews who hold that country as a priority.

• Nicholas Kristof thinks that a true friend of Israel would show it more “tough love” than it’s used to from American politicians, like telling them a strike on Iran would be “crazy.” [NYT]

• Aluf Benn writes that while “the Israeli establishment is warmer to McCain,” Obama offers “a more exciting — albeit more challenging — vision to Israelis.” However, most Israelis “see little difference between American presidents in terms of the U.S. relationship with Israel.” [Salon]

• Jennifer Rubin contends Jews mistrust Obama because he “doesn’t wish to fulfill our obligations in a war (i.e. Iraq),” he “parrots the myths about poverty creating terror,” he “tells both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict what he imagines they might want to hear,” and he “receives advice from those who believe either (or both) that unconditional engagement with Hamas is a good idea or that Israel monopolizes too much of our attention and affections.” [Contentions/Commentary]

• On Rubin’s last point: Charles Hurt notes that “for many pro-Israel supporters, Obama’s increasingly tough talk doesn’t square with some of the top advisers,” who advocate “opening dialogue — with U.S. involvement — between Israel and enemies sworn to her destruction.” [NYP]

• Jonathan Weisman and Michelle Boorstein write that Israel “was the most sensitive and the most meticulously planned” stop on Obama’s global tour, a “testament to the presidential candidate’s ongoing concerns about the Jewish vote this November.” Although Jews make up 3 percent of the electorate, “Obama aides think their vote may be key in a few swing states where the margin in November could be razor thin,” like Florida, Nevada, and Ohio. [WP]

• Ben Smith says out that the Jewish swing vote is kind of a myth. Most Jewish voters are “committed partisans” and only about “20 percent switch between the parties in presidential elections, only some of them on specifically Jewish issues.” [Politico]

• Michael Finnegan and Richard Boudreaux find it remarkable that Israeli leaders didn’t express reservations about Obama’s “openness to dialogue with Iran.” In contrast to McCain, Israeli leaders don’t think Obama holds a “weak” position on Iran. [LAT]

• Kory Bardash and Abraham Katsman compare Obama’s outlook on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to “the peace-process-above-all approach we saw during the Oslo years,” which ended up “unleashing the bloodiest non-wartime period in Israel’s history.” Obama will continue in this failed mind-set, as he has “so far refused to hold the feet of the Palestinian leadership to the fire to fulfill their most basic anti-terror obligations, but already has Israeli concessions all mapped out.” [Jerusalem Post]

• The Haaretz editorial board contends that both Obama and McCain are doing more to “assure potential Jewish voters at the expense of promoting the peace processes in the region.” Obama especially is “putting extra effort into allaying the suspicions of the Jewish community.” But a friend of Israel won’t be afraid of insulting American Jews or the Israel lobby, whose interests “do not always jibe with the interests of the State of Israel.” A helpful president would be someone who “brings Syria and Israel to the negotiating room, and pours some real substance into Bush’s statement about wanting to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” [HaaretzDan Amira

Related: We Have Obama’s Western Wall Note

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.

Obama, Israel, and the Jewish Vote: More Interesting to Read About Than You Might Think