News analysis: Obama and the Jewish vote


The Jewish vote and American-Israeli policy are not always exclusively intertwined, results of the 2012 presidential election show. Even though the Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign was dead set on showing it had the stronger pro-Israel policy and that President Barack Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus” throughout his presidency, Obama still retained about 70 percent of the Jewish vote in his re-election victory, according to exit polling.

“I think it verifies that for most American Jews, it’s not a single issue that determines whether they vote for the Democrat or Republican candidate,” said Robert Cherry, a professor in the economics department at Brooklyn College who writes on Israeli issues. “I think it’s more that Jews really have a liberal philosophy.”

And that rings true for most. A majority of American Jews align with the Democratic Party.  air jordan 4 Democratic candidates have been able to rely on at least 75 to 80 percent of the Jewish vote to support them. Cherry said that Jews have a fear of the “tea party-like candidates. Jews come from a tikkun olam [Hebrew for making the world a better place] perspective and see these right-wingers as having no concern for the underprivileged and not being open-minded to diversity. So they are fearful of giving power to the very regressive right-wing end of the Republican Party.”

Still, Cherry said, the Republican attack on Obama’s relationship with Israel contributed to the drop of 7 percentage points in Jewish votes for Obama, when compared to the election results of 2008. One can also take into account Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu’s unofficial endorsement of Romney. Obama also didn’t make a stop in Israel during his 2012 campaign, which some voters would expect from a candidate.

“I think you have to separate between the Israeli-Palestinian peace process issues and other security issues,” Nathan Diament, a registered independent and spokesperson for the Orthodox Union, said. “The peace process caused tensions between the U.S. and Israel. In retrospect, members of the Obama administration even said there were errors conducted [with the policy towards the peace process] and they’ve dealt with them accordingly. But when judging Obama over his efforts when combating those who try to de-legitimize Israel in the UN and the Iranian nuclear threat, I think no one can deny that Obama has stood strong for Israel.”

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, an Israel advocate who supported Obama in 2008, became concerned that some groups supporting the president were very critical of Israel. In a February statement, he assailed what he said was the Obama administration’s close tie to the liberal non-profit group Media Matters. “The Obama administration cannot have Media Matters and me or people who look to me for advice,” Dershowitz said.  “We cannot be in the same tent. The tent is not big enough to include us.”

But he continued to support Obama, saying in a subsequent op-ed article that he believed the president’s promise to always “have Israel’s back.”

But from the standpoint of many Israel  supporters, Obama’s early policy on Israel has been strained and scattered, at best. His 2010 speech in Cairo after the Arab Spring gave what Israel supporters regarded as a false hope regarding a return to Israel’s 1967 borders, without asking Netanyahu if this was an option. From that point on, Netanyahu and Obama’s relationship seemed tense to Jewish supporters of Israel. However, when issues like Iran’s nuclear program were brought to the forefront, Obama implemented the toughest economic sanctions to date, air jordan 5 while trying his best not to let the tensions lead to open warfare.

Romney pushed for Israel’s right to strike Iran in self-defense and America’s need to back it up militarily as a matter of national security. This had been Netanyahu’s backup plan if sanctions proved to be unsuccessful; he drew his  red line at the United Nations in September, as the campaign was heating up. It was clear that Netanyahu had endorsed Romney, if unofficially, by publicly stating his unhappiness with Obama and also publicly emphasizing his personal ties to Romney.

In addition, Romney’s vice presidential choice, Paul Ryan, became the icing on the cake for any pro-Israel voter, with Ryan’s track record including his endorsement of a bill recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, co-sponsoring the U.S.-Israel Rocket and Missile Defense Cooperation and Support Act, a bill condemning Iran for its threats against Israel, and a bill condemning the UN Human Rights Council for ignoring many severe human rights abuses worldwide while focusing solely and wrongfully on Israel. This, paired with the charge that  Obama was “throwing Israel under the bus,” led some former Obama supporters to believe that reelecting Obama would indeed put an unwanted space between the two allies. This contributed to the drop in Jewish votes for Obama.

Dershowitz is known to endorse liberal over Republican candidates. However, according to Diament and Cherry, he and those who turn to him for advice were more likely to just refrain from voting than to vote for Romney.

Those same liberal-minded voters were also offended by Romney’s opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage. For various reasons, many, including Cherry, did not vote on Election Day, as “a symbolic protest.” But Jews only account for about 2.1 percent of the U.S. population.

“From my individual perspective, Israel should be among the top issues [of American Jewry],” Diament said. “I believe that is the case among voters in the Orthodox Jewish community and even in a sector of non-Orthodox.”

However, he still believes a large percentage of Jewish voters were “too liberal to even entertain the prospect of voting for Romney.” Orthodox Jews account for 7 percent of the Jewish population in America, so that is barely significant when it comes to the overall vote. But this does not account for the drop in Obama’s Jewish voters, since there has been a decrease of 16 percentage points in the number of American Orthodox Jews since 1990, according to the National Jewish Population Survey.

In finality, it comes down to this. Sure, air jordan 6 to many Americans, Israel is America’s one ally in the Middle East. It also stands as the one true democracy in the otherwise tumultuous region. But when American Jewish voters are 8,000 miles away, it doesn’t always reign as their top priority. They’ll lean towards what’s familiar and safe and more aligned with their other philosophies. And in the 2012 election, that proved to be the incumbent.


Photo: President Obama meets with Benjamin Netanyahu in March. Source: White House.

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