Going To White House Via Jerusalem

Here's one thing presidential hopefuls of both parties agree on: if you want to get to the White House plan to stop in Jerusalem for some photo ops with prominent leaders and religious landmarks.

And if you're like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was there last week, you won't wait till you get home to begin sending — Tweeting — those pictures to your friends and supporters.

And if you're a Republican, the first ones will probably go to casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and include a picture of you with his good buddy Bibi Netanyahu and another one of you at the Western Wall. In 2012 the world's fourth richest Jew spent nearly $100 million trying to elect Republicans, and he's thinking of doling out even more in 2016. 

Face it, no one spending a few days on a VIP tour of Israel is going to learn much about the place or the issues that could confront the next president.  That's what staff is underpaid for it.  This trip is not about foreign policy but about fundraising.  And no Jew is expected to be contributing more campaign dollars than Sheldon — if you're in his party.

But be careful and learn your terminology.  Bibi may be implying supports the two-state solution but Sheldon hates it, and don't do what Chris Christie did and refer to the West Bank as occupied territory. Remember that Sheldon spent a lot of money propping up Newt Gingrich who won his favor by proclaiming the Palestinians an "invented people."   

2016 promises to be the most expensive presidential campaign in history and the Supreme Court lifted all restrictions on spending, so a lot of billionaires and mere multi-millionaires are going to have a parade of ambitious politicians (is there any other kind?) coming by to kiss their rings or some other part of their anatomy as visions of dollar signs dance in their heads.

If anyone tries to tell you we're getting the best government money can buy, just smack them upside the head and demand a refund. It's all about the golden rule: he who has the gold rules.

I don't fault Israeli politicians of all stripes for taking advantage of this campaign tourism; they are making contacts they hope will benefit them and Israel in the future. And it pays off.

For the candidates, however, political pilgrimages to Jerusalem are more about campaign fundraising than foreign policy.  Read more about it in my Washington Watch column.

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.
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