A dead on editorial from the New Jersey Jewish News characterizes the intra-Jewish community debate perfectly.
In a series of ads appearing in Jewish newspapers and elsewhere, the Republican Jewish Coalition has been thanking President Bush for his support of Israel and accusing the Democratic Party of “antipathy toward Israel” and “indifference to anti-Semitism.” It is a preelection strategy honed last year, when Republicans hammered home the message that the president was “the best friend Israel ever had.”
Perhaps it is even a good election strategy, although we won’t know for sure until November. What is clear is that it is a worrisome pro-Israel strategy in that it puts a deeply partisan spin on an issue that should and must remain nonpartisan, for Israel’s sake and the sake of American Jewry.
For more than 60 years, the goal of the pro-Israel leadership has been to ensure that Israel enjoys support across the political spectrum. Presidents come and go, majorities shift from blue to red; Israel has enjoyed nearly unwavering support in the White House and on Capitol Hill because politicians from both parties appreciate that the alliance with democratic Israel transcends ideology.
The thrust of the RJC ads is that Israel is no longer a bipartisan issue and that the pro-Israel feeling in this country has become a Republican monopoly. The claim is, first of all, misleading. There is no doubt that in recent polling, Republicans generally express stronger support for Israel than Democrats. That is worrisome, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the vast majority of Democratic officeholders are firmly pro-Israel in their voting and campaigning. As for the far Left, who are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican, they no more represent the mainstream of the Democrats than Pat Buchanan Israel-phobes represent the GOP.
The claim may also backfire on Israel itself. In these deeply partisan times, is it really wise advocacy to tie Israel’s cause so inextricably to Bush’s? Who knows how many Dems who revile Bush for so many reasons that have nothing to do with Israel might see all those ads and say, “If Bush is for it, then I must be against it.” That’s the risk of polarizing the Israel issue — if you make it a party trademark, the other party may naturally skew the other way. (Ironically, it was the Republican Jews who argued this for years, when the Democrats were seen as the pro-Israel party.)