Romney vs. Obama: Who Loves Israel More?
Tue, 07/31/2012
Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

Isn’t it nice to see Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama fighting it out over who is Israel’s greater friend and ally?

My advice: sit back and enjoy it while it lasts, but don’t take it too seriously.

Here’s Romney at the Western Wall on Tisha b’Av, the most somber day on the Jewish calendar, outdueling Obama in the rhetoric department, first by calling Jerusalem “the capital of Israel,” which no U.S. president has done since the Palestinians began demanding it be the capital of their state. And the presumed Republican presidential candidate asserted that thwarting Iran’s nuclear aims would be his “highest national security policy,” coming just short of endorsing a military strike.

He seemed to take Israel’s position that Iran must be stopped before it has the capability to develop a nuclear bomb; the current administration has said Iran must be stopped before it has a nuclear bomb. Big difference because Jerusalem argues that once Iran has the ability, the game is lost.

Not to be outdone by his Republican rival, Obama chose last Friday to announce an additional $70 million in military aid for Israel’s short-term rocket defense system and signed a bill increasing cooperation with the Jewish state, underscoring America’s “unshakable commitment to Israel.”

And so it goes.

Romney has said during the campaign that the current administration has “thrown Israel under the bus,” and he has vowed to do “the opposite” of whatever Obama is doing regarding Washington’s policy on Iran.

(I don’t think the opposite of close strategic U.S.-Israel ties is a good thing, but I assume Romney meant he’d warm up the relationship in ways that Obama has cooled it down, especially on the Bibi front, which would certainly be a plus.)

Obama in recent days has been shuttling his top cabinet officers, and others, to Israel for discussions on Iran strategy, with time for some high-level hand-holding and assurances. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a rare trip a couple of weeks ago to meet with the leadership, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Jerusalem this week.

Granted, even Obama critics (at least the rational ones) note that strategic and military cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem has never been higher than during this administration. But these recent visits have been meant to highlight and make visible the strong U.S.-Israel connection.

For all the talk about the diminishing clout of the Jewish vote in presidential elections, both parties are pushing hard to please American Jewish voters and assure them that Israel’s security is a priority. That’s in part because Jews tend to go to the polls at a higher rate than any other ethnic group, and a significant percentage live in such key electoral states as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. But a major, if little publicized reason for all this attention is that Jews are major financial contributors to the parties — and that’s not even counting Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas-based businessman and philanthropist who plans to spend $100 million in the campaign to defeat Obama.

Another target for Romney on his trip to Israel is the Evangelical Christians, who outnumber Jews by at least 10 to 1 in this country and who are in many ways more fervent than we are about not ceding land in any Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

Interesting to note, by the way, that Romney did not mention the Palestinians once in his Jerusalem speech, and Obama has had little to say about the prospects for renewed negotiations, which are at a standstill. That is not to say that things are calm in a region where the status quo is a sign of danger.

Rather, what this silence suggests is that neither man has a clue as to what to do to get the two sides together for meaningful talks, so they avoid the subject.

But there is no shortage of rhetoric from Obama and Romney when it comes to their commitment to keep Israel safe, so what are we to make of it all?

Not much — or at least not much in the way of changing voters’ minds.

Like most Americans, Jews seem pretty sure about which candidate they’ll be voting for in November. That would be Obama. At this point it’s highly unlikely he’ll get anywhere near the 78 percent of four years ago, but probably in the mid-60s, still high. The Republicans know that, but feel they have a shot at chipping away at the numbers enough to make a difference in those pivotal states, and Israel policy is a major selling point.

I feel like I am one of a dwindling number of undecideds in this race, trying to keep my options open as the campaign heats up.

I appreciate Romney’s open willingness to align himself with Israel, and I sense that he scores high in The Kishka Factor, feeling an emotional kinship to the Jewish state that may come from his religious faith, his politics or his personality — and maybe all three.

Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had it; Obama doesn’t. But then emotions only go so far. Neither Bush nor Clinton succeeded on the Mideast peace front. They just made some of us feel they cared more about Israel than Obama did in his failed efforts.

Obama’s 2008 campaign slogan was “Change.” One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the last four years is his own approach to foreign policy. He came in convinced that every problem had a solution, and that dialogue was the answer.

But he has toughened up, from carrying stepped-up drone attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan to stepped-up economic sanctions on Iran to ridding the world of Osama bin Laden.

He stumbled badly from the outset on the Israel-Palestinian front, thinking a settlement freeze would lead to ending the stalemate. But he seems humbled by the blunder, more cautious now and moving closer to Israel’s position on dealing with Iran.

These assessments won’t change the minds of readers convinced that Obama is a disaster for Israel and that his second term will be worse. Nor will it change those who feel Romney is ill-prepared for the White House and far more willing to say what he won’t do than what he will.

I have grown cynical about empty campaign promises. One pro-Israel staple, the pledge to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, for example, garners applause in some quarters but, based on past promises from presidential hopefuls, doesn’t mean a thing.

The question isn’t who loves Israel more but who will make America stronger and Israel more secure.

I’ll try to keep an open mind until November.

Gary@jewishweek.org
 

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I am not a jewish person but a heathen, rejected by some of you I guess. I am part of the "evangelical group" as you claim in America. Voting to stand by and protect Israel is my number one priority because my God is Jewish and Israel is very important to Him. Republican candidates ( though I dont agree with Romney's morman beliefs) are always under pressure to stand by Israel because of the evangelical pressure as well as the few percentage of Jewish voters who support them. The Jews in this country are mostly pro democrats because they dont like Christianity.
They rather go with someone who says there is no God than someone who is openly pushing christian values like the 10 commandments ( though it is common). But I do understand their stance.
I just want to say that every true church here has prayers for Israel. Not a single christian ( true) would be against going to war with Iran, cause we all know whose side God is, - with Israel. Christians understand and see that ANY country that aligns with israel is prosperous. Any country that is against israel is chaotic. Have you taken a vacation to Iraq lately?!. I wish that the Jewish people in America, would see that the evangelicals's top priority is to protect Israel, to stand by Israel, to support Israel ( and we know that Israel has the biggest support of all - which is from Almighty God). So its okay if you continue to think evangelicals are out to get you and vote democratic. You will see the truth one day. Obama never supported israel. Only the past two months he is desperate to get the votes and promising things. He went on an apology tour to all of Israels enemy countries. He took the name Jerusalem out of the democratic platform. After pressure from republicans he put it back and the entire democratic convention booed ( you can see it in youtube). He has the highest support from Militants and Israel haters from within the US and around the world - like the muslim brotherhood gangster group. Any muslim country that hates Israel would much rather have Obama than Romney. I hope you all will remember America in your prayers during this crucial time and may God's will be done. Sometimes He rises pharaohs so that He could be glorified - But His will is always for our good.

I have been working to try to get the Republican Jewish Coalition to create rabbis for Romney. I think we give the wrong impression to the public when there are rabbis for Obama and none for Romney. I don't represent an organization and my views are personal. Having been involved in political elections and worked with many candidates as a media coach I can assure you that the media is interested in hearing if there are rabbis willing to put their names on list for Romney. If you are interested join me in speaking out. Please connect with other rabbis from other movements and have them contact me.'The “Rabbis for Obama” announcement came out of the Obama campaign. SOME want to support Romney, but won’t sign unless we get some cooperation from the Romney people, not the RJC. The Romney people have to match the Obama people to some extent. Those of you who feels this way are asked to speak out to the Republicsan Party. I am one lonely individual who will get no where without your help. we need money for ads.Maybe Mr. Adelson can help.
I have no illusions concerning Romney. As president, he will do what he believes is in America’s national interest. Nevertheless, if Israel does attack, I am convinced his response will be more like that of President Bush than anything that President Obama would be likely to utter.

Some of those who have signed on with Rabbis for Obama have indicated that they do not object to the State of Israel but to Israel’s occupation of “Palestinian land.” When will they learn? Every time Israel has ceded territory, that territory has been turned into a base from which to attack her-Gaza, South Lebanon, and now Sinai. Nothing that Israel surrenders will bring peace. On the contrary, it will facilitate her enemies destructive promises. It was Albert Einstein who once defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.

RABBI DR. BERNHARD Rosenberg

The politics of unbiased reporting.

It isn't a question of who 'loves' Israel more. It's a question of whose policies strengthen Israel's standing in the world and whose policies weakens her position. And that is just a matter of opinion. Israelis and American Jews who believe that going back to the '67 borders [with minor adjustments to accomodate large Jewish and Palestinian populations near that border] will find Obama's approach 'better' for Israel. Israel needs pressure in their view to go to the peace table and the US should be applying that pressure because its for Israel's own good. Those who believe that there are no partners on the other side to talk to as none will give up on the right of return for the Palestinian 'refugees' and none will recognize a Jewish state anywhere in the Mid-East will favor Romney's approach which affirms that 'truth' in their eyes. Let's talk about approach and policy and not about what is in their hearts. God can handle that part.

Gary,

Your analytical, insightful dialogue was well said.

I am now chuckling, at the irony--I preceded Mitt Romney to Israel and Poland.

Living in and using local ‘average’ accommodations, I spent 2½ weeks in both countries attending/presenting workshops, touring, shopping, eating and ‘gabbing’ with the locals in both countries. It also included three transfers and wait times at German airports and on several airplanes during those five weeks.

Both countries/universities had a quantitative amount of international participants--faculty, students, staff, interested citizens, etc. Inevitably, personal conversations, observations, group discussions and requisite ‘points of view’ from many other countries--friends/foes/neutral--though sometimes ‘heated’, were fascinating, ‘enlightening’ and/or encouraging.

Additionally, my July 8-20 intensive Theater Department course at Haifa University included visiting three hospitals in Haifa, participating in a local festival and touring/‘first-hand’ experiencing and enjoying a Druze village on the outskirts of Haifa. A very quick, unplanned, bus trip took me to Jerusalem to enjoy the country side, towns and the multi-faceted, blended cultures/religions along the way.

I had a FABULOUS, appreciative time ‘exploring’, experiencing, absorbing, ‘gabbing’, ‘giggling’, remembering and ‘cherishing’ those five weeks of daily OUTRAGEOUS ‘eye-opening’, endless ‘adventures’.

It was a truly ‘eye-opening’ extensive/intensive five weeks reflecting on the situations in the numerous middle-east political ‘hot bed’ countries. Far more ‘challenging’ and insightful than some of the assessment, misinterpretation and rhetoric being ‘spit’ by our Presidential candidates, the ‘politicos’ ‘supposedly’ representing our government/citizenry offices as well as the media.

THANKS for your perspective..
Mariann Martin

I wish influential American Jews would stop asking who loves Israel more when it comes to Obama versus Romney and instead ask, Who loves America more? After all, we're voting for President of the United States, not president of Israel. It has to be clear to anyone looking at the choice objectively that Romney would be an absolute disaster for the United States and its people, and that has to be every voter's first and only criterion in deciding who to vote for. Romney is not just a captive of the wealthiest 1% of Americans and of the corporations that increasingly rule us, he is a leader and avatar of the very forces that are crushing America's middle class and raising inequality in this country to unprecedented heights. The idea that either candidate would do more for Israel is immaterial when it comes to deciding who would do more for the 99% of Americans slowly losing everything they and their ancestors have worked so hard for. Only Obama can be even minimally trusted to work on behalf of the vast majority of Americans; Romney certainly can't. And that's the only possible standard for deciding who should be President of the United States. Everything else is special pleading and unacceptable hyper-parochialism.

I agree we are voting for President of the United States and not president of Israel. I couldn't disagree with you more with the rest of what you wrote. Our unemployment has not gone below 8% throughout Obama's presidency. This President has been another Jimmy Carter; at least Carter appeared to have a moral fiber which our current President does not possess. Obama loves America? What evidence do you have? The only job he cares about is his own and that will come from keeping everyone else in the entitlement class so they'll vote for him and his Chicago thugs. Lifelines are fine but eventually most of us want to get out of the water and swim on our own.

Mr. Rosenblatt, your prejudice against the Obama critics shines through with your comment about the "rational" critics of Obama. I don't appreciate that prejudice.

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