Say the Right Thing

Recent administration pressure on Israel may boost the Republican party’s prospects with Jewish voters — as long as GOP candidates learn to say the right things on Israel and moderate their language on social issues.

07/03/98
Washington Correspondent
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Say The Right Thing Recent administration pressure on Israel may boost the Republican party’s prospects with Jewish voters — as long as GOP candidates learn to say the right things on Israel and moderate their language on social issues. That was one conclusion of a major study by Republican pollster Frank Luntz for the National Jewish Coalition, the central group of Jewish Republicans. The Luntz study, based on focus groups instead of large-scale polling, also showed that First Lady Hillary Clinton’s recent comments supporting a Palestinian state added to what the veteran GOP consultant predicts will be a significant Jewish backlash against the Democrats. “The Clinton ultimatum to Israel had a much deeper impact within the Jewish community than most people realize,” according to the report, which added that respondents likened the ultimatum to “apostasy” and “blasphemy.” On social issues, the report predicted a resurgence of Jewish “Reagan Democrats,” pushed by growing frustration over welfare waste, high taxes and racial preferences in hiring and education. Jews, according to Luntz, are receptive to the moral concerns emphasized by conservative Christian groups, but only if those issues are addressed with words such as freedom, responsibility and accountability. The researchers pointed to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani as an example of how GOP candidates can talk about moral issues without raising the specter of the Christian Coalition. “There are words Republicans can use to sell a pro-life pro-family message that don’t turn off the Jewish community,” said NJC executive director Matt Brooks. “What this study represents is a road map on how best to sell our policies, themes and positions to the Jewish community. Frankly, the way we’ve talked to the Jewish community in the past has sometimes turned people off.” But Republicans will get their best Jewish boost, he said, by zeroing in on Israel and on criticisms of the Clinton administration’s Mideast policies. “The results in the groups were dramatic, and much more than you’d expect from listening to the leaders of the Jewish organizations,” he said. “Some of these responses should send shivers up every Democrat’s spine.” Luntz is producing a 25-30 page document which the NJC will then take to Republican candidates around the country. Brooks declined to say how much the study cost, but said it was “by far the most expensive project of its kind we have undertaken.” Jewish Democrats, naturally, saw the Luntz study in a different light. “There’s no question the Jewish community is overwhelmingly and deeply committed to the security of Israel,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. “But there’s also no question that the community identifies very strongly with the Democratic party, and that it is concerned about the radical religious right elements that have taken over the Republican party. Anybody who suggests that just saying the word ‘Israel’ is going to change that is wrong.” Preserving Embassy’s Role Zalman Shoval hasn’t even arrived in Washington for a reprise performance as Israel’s ambassador, but he’s already engaged in the usual infighting over the embassy’s role in U.S.-Israel relations. Israeli sources confirm that a struggle is underway between officials in the prime minister’s office and the incoming ambassador, who will take up his duties in several weeks. The cause? The prime minister’s office wants to shift responsibility for public affairs in this country from the embassy in Washington to the office of United Nation’s ambassador Dore Gold in New York. That shift began a year ago when the American-born Gold was appointed to the UN post at a time when ambassador Eliyahu Ben-Elissar, who is leaving this month to take up diplomatic duties in Paris, was out of favor with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. More and more, the government turned to the articulate Gold, who is closer to Netanyahu’s inner circle, to get its message out to the American public, bypassing the unpredictable, outspoken Ben-Elissar. According to some reports, the prime minister’s office recently proposed transferring funding for some public outreach programs from the embassy to the UN office. But Shoval, Israeli sources say, went ballistic. The ambassador-designate, a Likud veteran, has pushed to retain control over the PR operation and its funding. This week, Washington sources were betting on Shoval — a skilled political infighter who also won high marks as a spokesman during his tenure at the embassy during the Gulf War. Court Boosts Nazi Hunters Government Nazi-hunters got a big boost from the Supreme Court last week when the justices ruled 7-2 against a suspected Nazi collaborator who invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions about his past. The case involved Aloyzas Balsys of the Woodhaven section of Queens, who refused to answer questions by investigators from the Office of Special Investigations because he feared prosecution in his native Lithuania or in Israel. The Court ruled that the constitutional protection against self-incrimination does not apply to those who refuse to speak because they fear prosecution in other countries. “We hold that concern with foreign prosecution is beyond the scope” of the Fifth Amendment, Justice David Souter wrote for the majority. Balsys was questioned in 1993 about his alleged wartime role in the Lithuanian Secret police, but refused to testify, citing his Fifth Amendment rights. The OSI investigation centered on whether Balsys had lied when seeking entry to this country, which would be grounds for deportation. Last week’s high court decision overturned a ruling by a New York appeals court. The decision may also aid the Justice Department’s prosecution of terrorists, drug smugglers and other international criminals, officials here said.

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03/06/2012 - 22:35

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