Does Obama have the kishkes for the job?


Andrew Silow-Carroll, the editor-in-chief of the New Jersey Jewish News, says he can think of “a few reasons why Barack Obama will struggle for the pro-Israel vote,” including racism and a perceived lack of experience.

And then there is the “Kishkes Factor.”

Maybe they’ve grown spoiled, but you hear in the pro-Israel, anti-Obama rhetoric the notion that Obama’s spotless Senate voting record on Israel and meat-and-potatoes speeches to AIPAC are not quite enough. “Window dressing,” as someone dismissively described it to me. A certain kind of pro-Israel voter wants to know that candidates feel for Israel in their guts — their kishkes — and not just in their heads.

Ten years ago, Ester Kurz, AIPAC’s director of legislative strategy and policy, lamented the unseating of Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House. “He understood [Israel] in his kishkes,” she told an Arizona audience. …

Facing Obama is the question whether a) he can develop kishkes to the satisfaction of his critics and b) he can do it between now and November. Hillary Clinton showed that it can be done. After her ill-fated smooch with Suha Arafat in 1999, Senate candidate Clinton did everything to establish her pro-Israel bona fides short of resurrecting a distant Jewish relative (oh wait, she did that, too). She brings to the presidential race an eight-year education in the language and nuances of the New York-area Jewish community, the nation’s largest and most influential. …

I’m sympathetic to the idea that with the Mideast on eggshells, we can’t afford a president who doesn’t bleed blue and white.

But it’s curious, and troubling, that a good record and good rhetoric are no longer enough to establish a politician’s pro-Israel credentials.

I worry that by shifting the goal lines and disparaging our friends, we risk alienating pro-Israel politicians in both parties.

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