Republicans are salivating over the thought of a huge influx of Jewish voters in the wake of new friction between the Obama administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the wake of this week’s Israeli election.
The outcome of the election was deeply disappointing to most American Jews and most Democrats (most Jews are Democrats by a wide margin). Not just because Netanyahu won but because of how he won, with racist campaign tactics and flip-flops on the two state solution.
The day before the election, Netanyahu reversed his prior commitments to the two-state approach and promised supporters there would never be a Palestinians state as long as he is prime minister. On Tuesday he warned them, “The right-wing government is in danger. Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.”
That warning struck a painful chord just days after the commemoration of the 1965 Selma March for voting rights, which had the broad support of American Jewry.
Two days after his stunning election victory, Netanyahu seemed to reverse himself when he said he never stopped supporting the two-state approach and that he is "proud" to be leader of "all Israeli citizens."
Which Bibi to believe? Neither, would be a safe bet.
Republicans see the criticism and displeasure as an opening.
CNN reported Republicans see an "opportunity to peel Jewish voters away from their historic home in the Democratic Party." All the 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls rushed to congratulate Netanyahu on his victory Tuesday and some 200 Republican House members are sending him a mazel tov letter – and all are taking a few digs at Obama for not sharing their enthusiasm.
Some groups on the right even blasted the President for waiting two days to call Bibi with a hearty mazel tov – conveniently ignoring that Bibi waited two days after calling his congratulations to Obama after his 2012 victory over Bibi’s candidate, Mitt Romney.
But the call wasn’t enough; Obama was criticized for having the temerity to express some concern over the PM’s commitment to peace with the Palestinians.
AIPAC chose to ignore Bibi’s campaign promises on Monday to prevent Palestinian statehood and declared the PM had “clearly reaffirmed” his commitment to the two-state solution, which was clearly NOT reaffirmed. The lobby lost all credibility on that one and came out looking like just another Bibi flack.
Once again Republican operatives were predicting a sea change in Jewish voting.
Fuggedaboutit. Won't happen. Simple reason. Republicans, when it comes to the Jews, are one issue party and Jews are multi-issue voters.
If the Republicans thought Netanyahu, the self-anointed leader of the world’s Jews, was the Moses who would lead a Jewish exodus from slavish devotion to the Democrats to the promised land of the GOP and Tea Parties, they’re in for disappointment of biblical proportions.
That’s because Republicans, for the most part, take a single-issue approach to Jewish voters while Jews are multi-issue voters. In fact, polls consistently show that Israel is around fifth on the priority list for most Jewish voters and is the deciding issue for fewer than 20 percent.
The real movement will not be to the GOP but toward indifference on supporting Israel, an Israel that many see as moving away from democracy and peace and farther to a right dominated by settlers and the ultra-religious interests that most American Jews cannot relate to.
For more discussion of why the talk of a Jewish exodus is not realistic, read my Washington Watch column.