If Benjamin Netanyahu hoped to sway American voters in his speech at the UN last month, he can take heart.
But first, let me tell you about two sisters.
My Aunt Rivke is 93-years-old and my mother – her sister Jenny – is 91. They are both a little frailer now, but their minds are still as sharp as if they were serving on the Sayeret Matkal (Israel Special Forces.) Nothing slips past them, and they are up on all the news.
Yet the two sisters could not be more different, and their political leanings reflect that. My Aunt Rivke will be a Democrat until she breathes her last, and she cannot even consider pulling a lever for a Republican in any race. My aunt believes in strong teacher unions, gay rights, and a host of other women’s and social issues. Needless to say, my Aunt Rivke voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. He was very intelligent and eloquent, and she liked that.
Bibi didn’t have to try and change her vote. My mother stepped up to the plate for him.
My mother is extremely blunt and forceful, and she fought hard to change her sister’s mind. How could her sister vote for that man, my mother wanted to know? Didn’t she know Obama was a Muslim? He was going to sign up everyone he could on welfare and bankrupt America. And, he was no friend of Israel. She had heard him herself, when he was speaking in a private room at AIPAC in Washington, D.C. in 2008. “The people who have suffered the most are the Palestinians,” my mother said she heard Obama say while campaigning for the election.
Now my aunt is a woman of tempered reason. Someone who tries to be happy and find the silver lining in every situation. She sticks to middle-of-the-ground positions and avoids talking too much about politics, with its passioned emotions. Her sister, on the other hand, is the complete opposite.
In fact, there are two words one should never discuss with my mother on any condition, and one of them is the O word.
For if my mother cares deeply about the economic well-being of America, she is equally as passionate about Israel and will defend it to friend and foe. She had a friend, Rosemarie, who was a German-Jewish refugee whose family frantically tried to find visas to any country to escape the Nazis after their home was ransacked on Kristallnacht. Yet Rosemarie would criticize Israel, which my mother could never understand. How could she, my mother wondered? If there had been an Israel, Rosemarie’s Tante Johanna and Uncle Philippe would not have been deported to Auschwitz and Theresienstadt and killed.
“So, have you spoken to my mother?” I would ask my aunt whenever I called her.
“Yes,” she said, “and I hung up on her. She was going on and on about Obama.”
Which brings us to Netanyahu’s speech to the U.N.
When I called up my Aunt Rivke this time, she wanted to know if I’d heard his speech, and she said she had been doing some thinking afterward. If Israel was in grave danger of being destroyed by an Iranian nuclear bomb, then why wasn’t Obama concerned about this precious American ally, and the six million Jews who lived there?
Why didn’t Obama care enough to meet with Netanyahu when he was in New York? Why was it more important for Obama to appear on Oprah and Letterman?
“So what are you going to do?” I asked my Aunt Rivke.
“I decided I’m not voting for Obama this time around,” my aunt said. “In fact, I’m just going to stay home. I’m not voting at all.”
For those of you who are political pundits, let me tell you where my aunt lives.
A crucial swing state in the 2012 American presidential election.