Are Democrats Deserting Israel Or Vice Versa?

A new poll making headlines lately in Israel declares that the country "can no longer claim to have the bipartisan support of America” because Democratic elites have deserted the Jewish state.

How credible is this poll?  Consider this: it was conducted by a highly partisan Republican pollster who surveyed 802 "highly educated, high income…opinion elites" – not rank and file or members of Congress — that he selected to measure partisan American attitudes toward Israel.

Not surprisingly, he also found that his fellow Republicans are increasingly enthusiastic in their backing for Israel.

True, there has not been a growing gap between Republicans and Democrats in their support for Israel in recent years, but it's not due to "hostility" toward the Jewish state. 

Luntz concedes "policy has something to do" with the drift but his prescription for closing the partisan gap is nonsense.  An "efficient, effective and unified PR campaign," as he proposes, is insultingly simplistic and useless.

Israel's problem – not just with Democrats or Americans but Europeans as well — isn't the message but the policies of the current government and the arrogance of its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has done more to isolate Israel than any of his predecessors.

"Israel has won the hearts and minds of Republicans in America while at the same time Israel is losing the Democrats," the Republican pollster told the Times of Israel.  "The Israeli government and US Jews have to focus on repairing relations with the Democrats."

This is not a simple PR problem, as he suggests.  It is much more fundamental and no amount of polishing by high priced consultants can fix that.

Luntz's findings reflect a GOP strategy designed to use Israel as a wedge issue to increase donations by wealthy single-issue pro-Israel campaign givers, not attract to the GOP Jewish voters, who remain firmly entrenched on the Democratic side of the partisan divide.

Republicans have raised a lot of Jewish money in their campaign to transform Israel into a partisan wedge issue, replete with painting Obama as an enemy of the Jewish state, and Netanyahu's prominent role in that effort has helped turn away many Democrats.

Luntz suggests the Democrats are deserting Israel, but a fair-minded analyst might conclude that the reverse may be more accurate.

Democrats voted for Obama in large numbers because he promised to end Bush's costly and futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now they see Israel's government trying to push America into another war it doesn't want and can't afford.

Luntz found that fewer than half of what he called Democratic "opinion elites" believe Israel under Netanyahu wants peace with its neighbors.  I suspect the majority of Israelis feel the same.

Republicans may be having great success with their wedge strategy when it comes to pro-Israel big givers, but their efforts are unlikely to change many Jewish votes in 2016, and that is bad news for Israel. Netanyahu cannot afford his legacy to be Israel's loss of bipartisan American support.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.