Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Barack's Jewish Thing

Barack is working hard to court Jewish voters, concerned over an aura of mixed feelings he may hold toward Israel.
Asked if he thought Israel was a “drag on America’s reputation overseas,” he said it was not. But, referring to tensions in the Middle East, he said: “What I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions.”
He is correct, of course, in what he says. But he's being honest about an issue that most members of Congress turn and run from - blind allegiance to Israel is required to avoid attack. Nuanced, balanced comments are seen as a threat.
On Friday, Robert Malley, who was a special adviser on Arab-Israeli affairs to President Bill Clinton, severed his ties to the Obama campaign after he learned that The Times of London was preparing to publish an article disclosing direct contacts he had with Hamas.
And, of course, at least one Hamas official says the group is excited about Barack's candidacy, as one would expect all terrorist organizations to be.
The official, Ahmed Yousef, said that “we like Mr. Obama and we hope that he will win the election.”
Considering that Barack already has a 20 point gap in Jewish support, it's not clear that this is going to help. But then again, there are only 4 million Jews in the U.S. - what's the big deal?
Jewish voters make up a small but important constituency in several states rich in electoral votes, like California, Florida, New York and Mr. Obama’s home state, Illinois.
True enough. But going unmentioned here, I suspect deliberately, is that Jewish voters are just a segment of the population that cares deeply about Israel. The others, such as religious conservatives, may be more inclined to vote for John McCain, which explains why the nurturing of the issue is targeted at Jews.

But American Jews are almost universally liberal, and opinion leaders will work hard to make sure that concerns about Barack's Israel devotion are mitigated. Among them, Marty Peretz of New Republic:
Last Thursday, Barack Obama and I had a longish telephone conversation... Last on our agenda--but longest--was Israel. He knew my historic concerns. I said that I was pessimistic about the possibilities of peace. He said he was "skeptical." That is exactly the right frame of mind for a president to bring to the 100-year dispute that has eluded the most ingenuous formulas for resolution. It is certainly better than being too optimistic.
Reaction to Barack's approach will be fun to watch. He's been very shrewd, I think, reinforcing the Obama brand by appearing to be strong, offering a nuanced opinion on support for Israel, but doing so with a group of voters who would otherwise kill to get him elected.

No comments: