Saturday, July 2, 2011

Obama & Israel – the Anecdotes Keep Piling Up On Jewish Vote Erosion

Greg Sargent of the Washington Post takes his turn to explain away rumblings of Jewish reactions to our increasingly gelid official relationship with Israel.  There is increasing talk about problems for the Obama administration (more particularly the campaign – but I repeat myself) from the bank of typical Jewish support that Democrats in general receive.  (The bloc of Jewish voters is exceeded only by Blacks in their loyalty to the Democrats; e.g., 2008 presidential vote: Jewish – 78%; Black – 95%).  The contentious reaction of Prime Minister Netanyahu to Obama sand-bagging him just prior to his arrival in the US for his most recent visit was only the most public example of the erosion of relations with our closest Middle East ally, which leads one to expect (and see) the same erosion of Jewish voter support for Obama.

Not so much

So what is the reaction of the White House?  Should they try to patch things up with the Jewish bloc?  Of course not!  The Democrats are instead going on the offensive! 

Obama’s top presidential campaign advisers are putting together a plan to go on the offensive against critics of his stance on Israel, I’m told, and are assembling a team of high profile surrogates who are well respected in the Jewish community to battle criticism in the media and ensure that it doesn’t go unanswered. 
Obama’s supporters say the plan is in effect an acknowledgment that conservative attacks on Obama’s Israel stance have made defections among Jewish voters and donors a possibility they must take seriously. Obama’s advisers see a need to push back even harder on the attacks than they did in 2008, in part because Obama now has a record on the issue to defend — a record that even Obama’s supporters concede has not been adequately explained. 
So it’s not Obama’s policy, it’s the pesky critics – with those “conservative attacks” – who are the problem.  Obama’s record hasn’t been “adequately explained” – as in the same mien as “Shut up, he suggested”.

Obama undercuts Netanyahu to the extent that Bibi chews him out in the Oval Office in front of the press, then Netanyahu goes on to deliver a stem-winder of a speech to Congress assembled, with a resounding reaction from both parties.  Obama cops to a key point of the Palestinian negotiating position without consultation with the Israelis (America acting as the mediator has conceded a point that we have not held before, and have even denied, as in the letter written by George W Bush to that effect), and yet expects it to have no effect here at home?

Sargent continues with the excuses: 
Politico reported this week that many Jewish Dems and donors are privately expressing doubts about Obama’s Mideast policies. But the piece was largely anecdotal . . .
And yes, in arguing a statistical angle, I agree with the statement of “The word ‘data’ is not the plural form of the word ‘anecdote’.”  But with political arguments, anecdotes have some sway, particularly when they start adding up.  For example, toss this one on the pile:
In an implicit admission that Israel is so threatened by terrorism that it is not only surrounded by countries and territories that produce terrorists but also unwillingly harbors terrorists within its own territory in a way that most other nations in the world do not, the Obama administration is currently listing Israel among 36 “specially designated countries” it believes “have shown a tendency to promote, produce, or protect terrorist organizations or their members. 
Also included on the list – separately from Israel – are the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the four nations bordering Israel.
The statement demurs that Israel is not being singled out, only its citizens:
ICE Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told that the U.S. also considers Israel, as well as some other countries on the “specially designated countries” list, as partners in the struggle against terrorism.
“The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism,” Christensen said in a written statement. “Countries may have been included on the list because of the backgrounds of arrestees, not because of the country’s government itself.”
There is, however, this tidbit toward the end of the article, concerning the previous list of March 2008:
There are only two differences: North Korea was on the list proposed in 2008; it is not on the May 2011 list. Israel was not on the list proposed in 2008; it is on the May 2011 list. [emphasis in original]
No matter how you cut it, adding Israel to a list involving terrorism while removing North Korea beggars an adequate explanation.

But remember, it’s not the list of anecdotes piling up that is contributing to the erosion of Jewish voter support for the Democrats.  It’s the conservative critics.  One can almost hear the voice of Alec Guinness intoning “These are not the droids you are looking for.”

Update: After a few days of reaction to the news, ICE discovers that it was in error for putting Israel on the list.  Maybe a typo?

Update:  A new poll finds further slippage.

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