Palin in Israel: is this about the evangelical vote?

During a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem this week, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told her hosts that Israel acts too contrite.

"Why are you apologizing all the time?” she asked Likud MK Danny Danon and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Excuse me for asking, but when was the last time you heard this Israeli government apologize in the face of world opinion?  Some clarification would be nice, but Palin, according to news reports, when to great lengths to avoid the press during her quick Israel visit.

Politico is reporting that Palin and her party were "turned away from a checkpoint run by Israeli border police south of Jerusalem, and she scrapped a planned visit to Bethlehem," and also that after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu she promised to return for a longer visit.

Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, both potential 2012 Republican presidential contenders, seem to be vying for the title of the settlers’ movement favorite U.S. politicians. Both are doing a pretty good job on that score, if their recent Israel visits are a measure.

But the settler vote isn’t going to mean much in Iowa or New Hampshire, and aligning themselves with the Israeli right won’t help Huckabee and Palin appeal to a still strongly liberal Jewish electorate in November, 2012 if either gets the GOP nomination.

It strikes me that what this is really about is the effort to aggressively court the evangelical wing of the Republican Party, which has become more ardently pro-Israel in recent years – and which is now far more supportive of the idea Israel should keep its West Bank settlements than a majority of Jewish voters. And that faction can make a difference, especially in the GOP primaries.

Could Israel, and hawkish support for those advocating a "not one inch" approach to dealing with the Palestinians, help Palin and Huckabee bridge the gap between the GOP’s conservative Christian and Tea Party factions?

I suspect that – along with pro-Israel campaign money, some of which comes from segments friendly to the settlers – is the real goal of the exercise, and not all those settlers on the West Bank of the Mississippi.

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.