JERUSALEM (JTA) – We believe John McCain will end up winning overwhelming support among the 250,000 Americans in Israel, for whom U.S. foreign policy can be a life-or-death matter – even from those who have never voted Republican.
There are good reasons to expect Barack Obama will prove unpopular in Israel. Just look at the primary race between Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Democrats abroad – especially in Europe – voted overwhelmingly for Obama over Clinton, giving him a crushing 66 percent to 33 percent victory. Israel, however, was one of only two countries in the world in which Democrats preferred Clinton.
Obama managed only 45 percent of the vote among Democrats in Israel, compared with 54 percent for Clinton – and that was before the revelation of Obama’s 20-year association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, which certainly did not help the candidate’s popularity here.
We expect many of Clinton’s supporters will be voting for McCain in the general election Nov. 4. Given the candidates’ differences on issues that could impact America’s Middle East and Israel policies, there are many reasons for them to prefer McCain over Obama.
There is a deep wellspring of positive feeling in Israel toward McCain, who has been a reliable supporter and a friendly and frequent visitor to the Jewish state over the past three decades. He made his first visit with the late Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson and his most recent trip with Sen. Joe Lieberman.
Many in Israel are Scoop Jackson Democrats – people who understand that the United Nations is not a trusted friend of Israel or the United States, and do not believe in outsourcing U.S. military and foreign policies to U.N. and European diplomats.
Jackson would be hopelessly out of place in today’s dominant Obama/Carter wing of his party. Lieberman already has been exiled by the Obama Democrats and is supporting McCain.
Obama, of course, pays plenty of lip service to how great a friend of Israel he would be. Yet it is McCain who not only pledged to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem upon taking office – a pledge Obama pointedly has refused to make – but was an original co-sponsor of the legislation requiring the embassy move.
And while Obama condemns terrorism and rocket attacks against Israel, he refuses to hold the Palestinian Authority responsible for its failure to meet its fundamental obligations under the “road map” peace plan to curb terrorism and stop incitement.
Obama, however, has no such reservations about criticizing the Likud Party (just how good a friend of Israel will Obama be if, as is likely, Likud wins the next election?). He also allows for the possibility of redividing Jerusalem and backs a contiguous Palestinian state free of all Israeli roads and security roadblocks.
The candidates also differ on the worldview issue of whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the cause of the rest of the Middle East’s woes or vice-versa.
In an interview with The Atlantic, Obama described the conflict as a “constant sore” that “infect[s] all of our foreign policy” and “provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists.” That is a formulation that leads to pressure for heavy Israeli concessions and appeasement as a means to a wider regional “peace.”
McCain, on the other hand, sees the opposite – that Islamic fanaticism is the obstacle to Mideast peace.
“[I]f the Israeli-Palestinian issue were decided tomorrow, we would still face the enormous threat of radical Islamic extremism,” he said.
McCain has not indicated a willingness to apply greater pressure on Israel. But the long list of Obama’s foreign policy advisers has included the likes of Daniel Kurtzer, Samantha Power and numerous Oslo-philes who cause alarm in the pro-Israel community.
What direction would Obama’s Israel policy take? Earlier this month, according to the New York Post, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Obama would bring “fundamental changes” to U.S. Mideast policy.
“Decades of putting Israel’s interests first would end,” he said. “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades would lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House.”
Jackson claimed his statements were taken “out of context” but did not deny making them. Though he has no role in the Obama campaign, his son, Jesse Jackson Jr., is the Obama campaign’s co-chair. The younger Jackson has attempted to distance the campaign from the remarks, but this father-son association is not so easily ignored.
Voters in Israel are very much aware that Hamas chief political adviser Ahmed Yousef endorsed Obama. And that Obama had to return $33,000 in donations when it was revealed they had come from Hamas-controlled Gaza. And that there is an independent, Gaza-based call center calling Americans to promote Obama’s candidacy. And that the speaker of Iran’s parliament last week said his government favored Obama because “he is more flexible.”
Voters in Israel are aware that, according to the nonpartisan National Journal, Obama has the Senate’s most liberal voting record. Close behind is Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, who came in third. Lieberman, by the way, came in a respectable 44th.
Voters in Israel are aware that for 20 years Obama worshiped in and drew inspiration from the church of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a man noted for his race baiting, and his extremist and caustic criticisms of Israel and America.
Voters in Israel are aware that Obama was friends with the likes of PLO defender Rashid Khalidi. And that he had a symbiotic relationship with unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers, who held a fund-raiser for Obama and with whom Obama served on foundation boards that gave grants to Ayers’ educational projects, Khalidi’s anti-Israel organization and the infamous left-wing activist group ACORN. And that so many elements hostile to Israel are in Obama’s corner.
American voters in Israel are acutely aware. And that is why they are overwhelmingly supporting John McCain.
(Kory Bardash, an American-Israeli, is the co-chairman of Republicans Abroad Israel. Abraham Katsman, an American currently living in Israel, serves as counsel to Republicans Abroad Israel.)