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U.S. elections show Israel support transcends party labels

by mervyn danker

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Whether happy or disappointed by the presidential election results, every American should breathe a sigh of relief that there was a clear-cut winner of both the popular and the electoral vote, eliminating the need for legal challenges and judicial intervention (remember hanging chads?).

In the best tradition of American politics and to the envy of countries where the verdict of the ballot box is routinely overridden, the loser congratulated the victor, who in turn graciously complimented his erstwhile opponent.

Vdanker_with_bandAnd while some observers express frustration that Election Day leaves us right back where we started, with a Democratic president and Senate and a Republican House of Representatives, the clear necessity to forge a bipartisan approach to the challenges that confront the country may prove just the incentive to break the gridlock in Washington and evoke a new spirit of compromise that will be required to deal with the “fiscal cliff” and other demanding tasks that loom ahead.

Exit polls conducted by CNN and others suggest that close to 70 percent of Jewish voters supported President Barack Obama, just about what the American Jewish Committee’s Survey of American Jewish Opinion, conducted in September, also found. This was a few percentage points lower than his share of the Jewish vote four years ago.

While some of the falloff may be due to energetic Republican outreach to the Jewish community, it must also be seen in the context of Obama’s poorer showing among white voters as a whole. Jewish leaders and organizations tend to analyze political trends with “Jewish” issues in mind, while in fact, as the AJC survey also showed, the great majority of Jews are motivated primarily by the same concerns as other Americans, which, in this instance, focused on the economy.

Of course “Jewish” issues also were prominent in the campaign, most notably the security of Israel and Iran’s dangerous program to achieve nuclear capability. Anyone watching the final presidential debate, the one devoted to foreign policy, could not help but be impressed by how often both candidates proclaimed their support for Israel and commitment to its security, and their determination to make sure, through economic sanctions and if need be by force, that Iran shall never attain the means to achieve what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described as his goal, to “wipe Israel off the map.”

President Obama hugs his campaign manager, Jim Messina, at campaign headquarters  in Chicago on Nov. 7.   photo/jta- white house-pete souza
Vdanker_obama_victory_NormalPresident Obama hugs his campaign manager, Jim Messina, at campaign headquarters in Chicago on Nov. 7. photo/jta- white house-pete souza
Amid the partisan sniping over whether President Obama was the most supportive president in Israel’s history or “threw Israel under the bus,” whether Gov. Mitt Romney possessed the required toughness to face down the Iranians or would recklessly involve us in a new Middle East war, it is easy to forget our good fortune in living in a country where support for Israel transcends political labels. That is not the case even in other Western democracies, where prominent voices in public life often take the side of the Palestinians and paint Israel as the oppressor.

Thus Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had his differences with President Obama, congratulated the president on his re-election, affirming that the U.S.-Israel alliance is “stronger than ever,” and Shimon Peres, Israel’s president, thanked Obama for his “unprecedented commitment and support for the security of Israel.”

Perhaps the kind of consensus that exists in American political life on Israel-related matters can be broadened to encompass two other key issues on the American Jewish agenda, making the U.S. independent of hostile foreign energy sources, and achieving immigration reform that would somehow regularize the uncertain status of the millions of undocumented aliens living in our country. Both major parties are on record as favoring these goals, although they disagree sharply on how they can be accomplished.

One thing is for certain: AJC, with its nonpartisan approach to solving problems, will make common cause with the administration, both parties in Congress, and all people of good will in addressing the nation’s pressing priorities.


Mervyn Danker is regional director of the American Jewish Committee.


Comments

Posted by Frank
11/17/2012  at  04:19 AM
Nonesense

Anyone watching the Democratic convention, and its vote on reinstating their recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, which originally reflected Obama’s policies, knows better.

Leftist Jews are whistling past the graveyard.  The 30% of self-described Jews whose first concern was the Jewish people will at least be able to live with themselves.

The election result may have been different if Jews voted their interests in the same way that blacks voted for Obama.

(The “American Jewish agenda” cited in this column are nonesense.)

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Posted by craven_maven
11/20/2012  at  10:19 AM
Nonesense indeed

News item in today’s “J” indicates that only 40% of Democrats, compared to 74% of Republicans, believe Israel is justified in using military force to defend itself against Hamas:

Poll shows gap between Republicans and Democrats in backing Israel in Gaza
via jta.org

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A CNN poll showed a considerable gap between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to backing Israel in the current Gaza conflict.

In the CNN poll published Monday, respondents were asked whether “Israel was justified or unjustified in taking military action against Hamas and the Palestinians in the area known as Gaza.” Among Democrats, 40 percent said Israel was “justified,” compared to 74 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents.

In all, 57 percent of those polled said Israel was justified in launching the operation in the Gaza Strip.The poll, carried out by ORC International in 1,023 phone interviews from Nov. 16 to Nov. 18, has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

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