U.S. Searching For ‘Plan B’ On Iran

08/11/2009 - 20:00
Washiington Correspondent

The Obama administration, frustrated by Iran’s non-response to its diplomatic overtures, is considering policy shifts to ratchet up U.S. pressure on the Tehran regime — while still leaving the door open a crack for negotiations.

New Caution Seen Blunting An All-Out Obama Peace Process Push

President Obama: Facing political setbacks at home, his administration may opt for a step-by-step approach to the peace process.

08/27/2009 - 20:00
Washington Correspondent

Administration plans for a sharp increase in U.S. involvement in Israel-Palestinian peacemaking in the next 30 days may be affected by President Barack Obama’s growing domestic woes and a deepening, increasingly unpopular conflict in Afghanistan.

Health Reform Backlash Seen Fanning Extremism

Obama’s faltering health care drive has touched a national raw nerve. The resulting fury, exploited by a range of extremist groups and some partisans who have said they hope health care reform will be Obama’s “Waterloo,”

08/31/2009 - 20:00
Washington Correspondent

At a Virginia town meeting on health care reform, a rabbi giving an opening prayer was shouted down by protesters claiming Democratic proposals would lead to euthanasia and more abortions.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass) became an instant YouTube hit by asking an angry town hall participant who waved a picture of President Barack Obama as Adolf Hitler, “On what planet do you spend most of your time?”

And in numerous town meetings placards have appeared with slogan like this: “Obama lies, Granny dies.”

Jewish Majority Now Backs Attack On Iran, Disagrees with Obama on Settlements

In dramatic shift, 56 percent of U.S. Jews favor military strike, according to new AJC poll.

09/29/2009 - 20:00
Washington Correspondent

No alternate text on picture! - define alternate text in image propertiesAmerican Jews have taken a sharply hawkish turn on Iran, with a majority now supporting a U.S. military strike to end that country’s nuclear weapons program, according to this year’s Survey of American Jewish Public Opinion, released on Wednesday by the American Jewish Committee.

Unanswered questions on Iran, settlements in AJC poll

The maddening thing about the American Jewish Committee’s Annual Survey of Jewish Public Opinion – this year’s edition was released yesterday – is that the list of questions seems to get shorter each time around as the answers get more interesting. (Read the Jewish Week story on the poll here, and an editorial here).

The shrinkage has an obvious cause – polls are extremely expensive, the AJC is pinching its pennies in these trying times and the list of potential questions is pretty much endless.

Still, this year’s survey once again begs for further analysis.

Take question 4: “Do you agree or disagree with the Obama administration’s call for a stop to all new Israeli settlement construction?”

You have to admire the way the question is constructed: no frills, no padding meant to skew answers one way or the other, no loaded terms.

But what, exactly, are the factors behind the surprisingly high 51 percent who disagree?

Some Jewish leaders are already saying it shows polls by Mideast advocacy groups – they really mean J Street, but don’t come out and say it – are bunk.  J Street officials have argued their data shows that the Obama administration has considerable latitude in pushing Israel toward the negotiating table.

But there isn’t enough information in that single question to draw many conclusions.  How much of that 51 percent is motivated by sympathy for settlers, or a belief that Israel’s security would be jeopardized by new pullouts? How much by resentment over the WAY the administration pushed Israel without seeming to push the Palestinians, not the fact it was pushing?

Speaking of Obama, there were strong indications of a growing skepticism about his Mideast policies, but not a single question revealing his overall standing with Jewish voters.  Yes, 51 percent disagree with his settlements tactics and 32 percent disapprove of his handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship, but those numbers don’t necessarily mean his overall support in the Jewish community is slipping, since in most presidential elections domestic factors outweigh Israel ones in Jewish presidential voting.

If Obama was running again tomorrow, would he get the 78 percent he won last November? 70 percent? Or 51 percent?  The AJC poll offers no clues, although I’m sure that won’t stop the Republicans from spinning a story of impending disaster for the Democrats.

There are interesting contradictions in the data that deserve further study.

American Jews seem to be more dubious about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations; 23 percent say they are less optimistic about the chances for lasting peace than a year ago, while only 12 percent say they are more optimistic (1 percent say they are “not sure.”  How can you be not sure on a question like this, when “no change” is also an option?).

But other questions reveal a steadily, if not dramatically, growing optimism that a permanent settlement can eventually be achieved, (question 10) and a decline in the percentage to believe the ultimate goal of the Palestinians is the destruction of Israel, not the return of territory (question 9).

The most fascinating number and the one most reporters glommed on to is in question 14: “Would you support or oppose the United States taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons?”

I like the sparseness of the question; none of this “would you support military action against the radical leaders in Iran who have repeatedly threatened Israel with annihilation” stuff.

56 percent said they’d support a military strike, 36 said they wouldn’t, and the numbers were a complete reversal from 2007.

Why the huge change? Does it mean plummeting confidence in sanctions? Does it reflect the work Jewish leaders have been doing to alert the community to the dangers? Does it reflect broader public opinion in America?  On that last point, the survey data is contradictory.

And as someone strongly interested in Jewish involvement in domestic matters, I was disappointed not to see questions about the current debate over health care.  I don’t have a clue what the Jewish community is thinking on this one, just the hyperactive spin by advocates on both sides of the debate.

Oh yes, there was one question I didn’t get to in this week’s story: party affiliation.

No big shifts here but the continuation of a longstanding trend: the Republicans are making very small gains, the Democrats are experiencing somewhat greater losses – and the number identifying as “independents” seems to be on a sharp upward course.

That’s been going on for a while now – but it appears most of those new “independents” are mostly voting Democratic.

Is Barak Losing Touch?

03/09/2000 - 19:00
Editor & Publisher
touch with the people. Indeed, he seems so focused on achieving peace on, as he says, “two-and-a-half fronts” (including Lebanon), that he may not be hearing the deep skepticism voiced by coalition partners as well as average Israelis who fear the government is on the verge of giving away too much, too soon.

Leftist Fear Of Religion Could Undercut Obama

04/29/2008 - 20:00
Associate Editor

Whatever happened to the quaint idea that people are drawn to religion because of God, not gelt, and not guilt either?
In a campaign where there’s been so much talk about “smears,” more than a few religious people have felt smeared in recent weeks by left-wing leaders who consider themselves religious, let alone smeared by one leader’s fiery pastor.

Papers Ignore Obama’s Palestinian Friends

05/06/2008 - 20:00
Associate Editor

Recent weeks have seen a considerable amount of coverage focusing on whether Sen. Barack Obama has too many friends with an anti-American bias, notably his longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright, whom Obama has finally renounced, and William Ayers, a Chicago professor who was a 1960s radical with the Weathermen terrorist group, a friendship Obama dismissed as casual.

But if Wright and Ayers have been thoroughly explored in primary debates and interviews, Obama’s other relationships with radicals have been relatively unexplored.

Jews Went With Obama; Obama Went With Jews

11/11/2008 - 19:00
Associate Editor
After two years of Zionist and Arabist scrutiny, President-elect Barack Obama united Jew and Muslim as never before - at least in the United States. Obama was supported by an estimated 78 percent of Jews, and 89 of Muslims.

Israelis Are Wary, At Best, Of Obama

06/05/2008 - 20:00
Editor and Publisher
Jerusalem — It’s understandable why Israelis are keenly interested in the U.S. presidential elections this year. One could make the case that their lives depend on the outcome.
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