Israel and the Jewish vote have moved front and center as part of the 2012 electoral battle. Not only has the special election in a heavily Jewish district in New York scared the bejesus out of the White House, but Rick Perry of Texas has weighed in, right on cue, to accuse the Obama administration of sacrificing Israel to placate Arabs and Muslims.
This is more than your standard electoral fuss. Perry’s angry op-ed in the right-wing Jerusalem Post has laid down a challenge to the White House, which meanwhile is working to sabotage the Palestinians’ bid for statehood at the United Nations later this month as a concrete demonstration of its fealty to the Jewish state. If anyone’s ox is to be gored, it will be the Palestinians’, not Israel’s.
As the New York Times pointed out breathlessly, the Tuesday vote in former Representative Anthony Weiner’s district is taken by some observers as a sign that the Jewish vote is ready to abandon Obama. Never mind that Jews vote Democratic overwhelmingly, or that the particular district in question had been moving in a conservative direction for years and that many voters were disgusted with the Democrats because of Weiner’s wiener-influenced scandal. Says the Times:
Republicans see a chance to change that in 2012, with President Obama locked in a tense relationship with Israel’s leaders and criticized by many American Jews as being too tough on a close and favored ally. Tuesday’s Republican upset in New York’s Congressional election, they say, is a sign of bad things to come for Mr. Obama.
And it adds:
Republican groups are determined to make Israel a wedge issue. In recent days, billboards went up around New York City showing Mr. Obama smiling and shaking hands with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and declaring that the president is “Not Pro-Israel.”
Perry, in his op-ed, sounded like the apocalyptic Christian Zionist that he is. He combines boilerplate support for Israel with accusations that the Obama administration has encouraged Israel’s adversaries, not just the Palestinians but Iran and Syria, too:
Unfortunate errors by the Obama administration have encouraged the Palestinians to take steps backward away from peace. It was a mistake to inject an Israeli construction freeze, including in Jerusalem, as an unprecedented precondition for talks. Indeed, the Palestinian leadership had been negotiating with Israel for years, notwithstanding settlement activity.
When the Obama administration demanded a settlement freeze, it led to a freeze in Palestinian negotiations.
It was a mistake to agree to the Palestinians’ demand for indirect negotiations conducted through the United States. And it was an even greater mistake for President Obama to distance himself from Israel and seek engagement with the hostile regimes in Syria and Iran.
The Obama administration is doing everything it can to head off the UN showdown over Palestine, warning the Palestinians that it will veto a pro-Palestinian resolution on a Palestinian state at the Security Council and telling the Palestinian Authority not to go to the UN General Assembly, either, where the United States can’t block the vote. The White House is doubling down on its outreach to American Jews, Ambassador Susan Rice at the UN is going out of her way to meet with Jewish groups, and the Times notes that Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, is buzzing around Florida with Israel’s ultra-right deputy foreign minister.