Jews and Obama
By Micah Halpern
Wednesday October 12, 2011
No one person, neither a president nor a prime minister, can destroy the relationship between the United States and Israel.
The relationship is, simply put, complicated. It is a relationship deeply connected by history and shared values. The relationship is so unique that these two countries, vastly separated by continents, have often been likened to siblings. As so often happens between older brothers and younger brothers, tensions arise some more significant, some less significant, than others.
Part of that relationship has to do with the Jewish Community that lives in the US, a community that is very well organized, very protective of Israel and while admittedly less blind to Israel's faults than they once were, still extremely pro-Israel.
Jews make up about two percent of the population of the United States and account for roughly three percent of the vote. Jewish votes are important only in a very few swing states, like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. A high percentage of Jews come out to vote each election day and historically, they have voted Democratic overwhelmingly Democratic.
So when politicians and their handlers begin to smooth over relations and lobby the Jewish community for support, it is not about getting their vote. It is about getting their money.
The Jewish community is extremely generous. They make up anywhere between thirty and sixty percent of Democrat fund raising dollars. And anyone who has been part of an election will tell you - the person with the biggest war chest, usually wins.
The Obama Administration has earned a reputation for having put undue pressure on Israel. As a result Jewish money is not as quick to flow into the president's war chest as it did four years ago. That's not to say that Jewish donors aren't giving. They are giving, but much less. Much less to the Democratic party and much less to the Republican party. No donor wants to completely shut the door in the face of a politician.
Donors want access even if they disagree with the policies, decisions and voting patterns of the politician.
They show their displeasure by not being as free with their monetary gift. They give enough to maintain access, not so much that they can be counted upon for unwavering support.
This time around, no one is certain that Barack Obama is slated to return for a second term. And since no one wants to back a losing candidate, donors are being extremely cautious in allocating their funds.
The president knows all that and his carefully worded speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations was a very important step in the proper direction for many Jewish contributors.
And then, continuing his policy of gentle appeasement of the Jews, the Obama Administration sent Vice President Joe Biden to speak to a select group of fifteen rabbis in Boca Raton. Biden has an iron clad history of support for Israel. He is the perfect choice to send to a friendly crowd of rabbis in Southern Florida, a crowd that unabashedly loves and supports him. The objective of the meeting was to smooth over differences with the White House and to secure more donors, in essence, to free up the flow of money into Democratic election funds.
Biden spoke about how the Obama Administration had made some mistakes. That's a gross understatement when it comes to Israel and the Jewish community, but it broke the ice and showed that Washington is ready for a reality check.
And then the subject turned to Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish American analyst was convicted of spying for Israel.
Biden told the group that President Obama was considering clemency for the spy who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987. And then the man of too many words said that he, Joe Biden, friend of the Jews, had advised the president, even using the term 'over my dead body" not to allow Pollard to get out before his sentence is up.
Considering that Biden was sent by the White House to smooth over issues with the Jewish community and to pave the road for campaign funds to come rolling in, this was an unfortunate admission.
The question of Pollard's actions and his early release are hot buttons within the American Jewish community. The Jewish community is very sensitive about Pollard. His early release has been on and off the table during the tenure of several presidents. While the best method of dealing with the issue is to confront it directly, Biden took it to the extreme.
The first rule of diplomacy is exactly the same as the first rule of medicine. It is the rule brought down through history by the great Greek philosopher Hippocrates and known as the Hippocratic Oath: First do no harm.
Joe Biden, though he later softened his remarks about Pollard, did great harm to the relationship between the Jewish community and the man who wants to remain president of the United States. Unlike the relationship between the United States and Israel, the relationship between a politician and the Jews of the United States can be easily destroyed.
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