Friday, April 24, 2015

Are Jews Finally Finding a New Home with the GOP? - Lauri B. Regan

by Lauri B. Regan

Thankfully, we are finding that Jews are discarding lifelong ideological motivations at the polls when confronted with politicians who threaten the survival of their people.  American Jews are finally foregoing their dedication to abortion rights and reprioritizing their voting issues as they watch the Democrats move away from support of Israel and our country’s national security.

Political analysts have been talking quite a bit about a new Gallup poll reflecting declining support of Obama among American Jews.  While 54% of American Jews still support Obama, that number has decreased from 77% in 2009 and 65% in 2013, falling to an all-time low of 50% in March.  Gallup views the implications of this as follows:
American Jews are more than twice as likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, and this partisan skew is reflected in Obama's job approval ratings. Jews continue to approve of the job Obama is doing at a higher level than the national average, although the evidence suggests that this advantage among Jews is narrowing. How much further this gap may shrink in the months ahead remains to be seen, and will depend in part on the future of the relationship between Obama and Israeli leadership. This in turn will reflect the status of the pending agreement with Iran that would restrict that country's nuclear activity in return for a further loosening of economic sanctions. Other administration actions relating to Israel, including support for a possible two-state solution to the Palestinian situation, could also affect Jewish attitudes toward the president going forward.
While it appears that Obama’s anti-Israel policies may finally be taking their toll as American Jews slowly shake off the effects of the Kool-Aid, the real question is whether that toll will lead to this demographic voting for Republican candidates who understand the moral imperative of unconditional support for Israel and her relationship with the United States.

There appears to be some hope in this regard.  Two recent fundraisers in New York City perhaps represent a growing trend due to Obama’s divisive politics and partisan gamesmanship over Israel.  Last week, a bipartisan group of Jewish business leaders attended a fundraiser for Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) who serves as the chairman of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee.  Hosted by Manhattan real estate developer and hotelier Ian Reisner, the fundraiser attracted both Republicans and Democrats concerned about the long-term implications of Obama’s domestic and foreign policy failures.

Reisner, who has supported Jewish causes since his first trip to Israel in 2000, explained, “We are not too far from history to be wary of politicians who make bad decisions that threaten our lives. The deal with Iran concerns me. Anti-Semitic murder in Paris and Copenhagen concerns me. Bringing Senator Johnson to New York to discuss foreign policy and security will help educate my close friends about these very real issues.”

Earlier this week, the Endowment for Middle East Truth, a non-partisan Washington-based think-tank unapologetically pro-America and pro-Israel, hosted a luncheon for Representative Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) that was also attended by both Republican and Democratic Jews.  Calling Israel a “profound miracle” and recognizing that it is “at the fulcrum of the human universe,” the congressman spoke at length about his support for Israel and his concern for her safety as well as the national security of the United States, which he understood as being integrally tied to Israel’s survival.  “I believe that Israel helps America more than America helps Israel. I believe when America steps away from Israel, we’re hurting America profoundly.”

When asked whether Obama has successfully turned Israel into a partisan issue, Rep. Franks noted that “Republicans are by and large pro-Israel. The Democrat party is starting to fall off in a bad direction…it frightens me.”  He added, “If it becomes a partisan issue, that becomes very dangerous.”

Like Reisner, I have attempted to educate American Jews about the anti-Israel positions of the Democratic Party.  Perhaps this uphill battle is beginning to have an incremental impact on Jewish voters.  A liberal Jewish friend who celebrated Obama’s 2008 win with champagne voted for Romney in 2012.  He explained how difficult that was for him, since he had never before voted for a Republican and had been emotionally invested in Obama’s success.  Thankfully, we are finding that Jews are discarding lifelong ideological motivations at the polls when confronted with politicians who threaten the survival of their people.  American Jews are finally foregoing their dedication to abortion rights and reprioritizing their voting issues as they watch the Democrats move away from support of Israel and our country’s national security.

Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a prominent New York businessman, Republican, and staunch Israel supporter, recently sent out an appeal asking for individuals to donate to the legal defense fund of Democrat Senator Robert Menendez.  Menendez was targeted by Obama’s Justice Department at the exact time that he was pursuing legislation that would stem Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons – something that is at odds with Obama’s desire to allow the Islamic Republic to in fact do just that.  Wiesenfeld stated:
[L]ife has very few genuine coincidences. The idea that a man like Senator Menendez, who has a liquid net worth of under $100,000 and lives in a house valued at less than $500,000 is targeted just one week after defending our ancestral homeland - Israel - from dangerous and foolish Iran policies of the president is an abuse of our justice system.
While Republicans have no issue crossing the party line in order to support politicians who defend Israel, Democrats have been reluctant to do so.  Even the fiasco at the Democratic National Convention in 2012, at which the delegates booed the inclusion of a unified Jerusalem in their party platform, did not scare the vast majority of American Jews away from voting for Obama and his anti-Israel agenda.  EMET’s founder and president, Sarah Stern, observed:
At this point, Jews who do have some sense of Jewish history, Jewish identity and Jewish consciousness are beginning to wake up and smell the hummus. They are realizing that although there are some Democrats who still care about Israel’s survival, they are the exception to the rule. The vast majority of Republicans understand that there is a distinction between a fellow democracy with a respect for human rights and the rule of law and the vast majority of its Arab neighbors, while the Democratic Party has mostly been high-jacked by the extreme left. One would hope that now that Obama has so clearly thrown Israel under the bus, more Jews have finally begun to wake up.
Perhaps hearing an Iranian military chief announce (in the midst of Obama granting concession after concession in order to reach a deal that would allow Iran to go nuclear in the coming years) that “erasing Israel off the map” is “non-negotiable” has jarred some of these Jewish Democrats into an awakening of sorts.  But the question remains whether these same Jewish Democrats who are beginning to support Republican congresspersons will vote for the 2016 presidential candidate who most supports Israel and strong American national security.  That will not be Hillary Clinton or any of the other current possible Democrat candidates.

There is a scene in the movie Woman in Gold, currently in theaters, in which two Austrian Jewish brothers discuss leaving just prior to the Nazi invasion.  One brother explains that it is time to go, while the other puts his head in the sand, believing that the imminent evil will not arrive in his beautiful and safe homeland.  American Jews are at a crossroads.  They can support Democrats and remain members of the National Jewish Democratic Council, the Jewish group that recently denounced Senator Marco Rubio for supporting Israel.  Or they can give up their ideological blinders, reassess their values – both as Jews and Americans – and vote for the political party home to Israel’s staunchest supporters.

Republicans have laid out the welcome mat and will receive American Jews with open arms, just as Israel will provide a home for Jews when the world threatens their survival. The choice is stark for those who understand just how dire a situation the Obama administration has created for Israel and the Jewish people.  Thankfully, American Jews have begun to take their heads out of the sand and are opting for survival by moving to the right side of the aisle – both literally and figuratively.

i I serve on the board and am of the New York chapter president of EMET.

Lauri B. Regan


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