‘Politico’ says Jewish Democratic donors may abandon Obama, though they like Dennis Ross

Israel/Palestine
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Lest you doubt the strength of the Israel lobby, here’s a long report at Politico by Ben Smith undermining Obama on Israel inside the Democratic Party– despite efforts by Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ed Rendell to save the day. Obama is “losing the faith” of Jewish Democratic donors, Smith ventures, and then strings together the usual ultra-Zionist statements of fidelity to Israel from party activists.

The piece demonstrates the conservatism of Jewish Democrats on this issue– these are people opposed to dividing Jerusalem, though they’d never want to live there– the importance of Jewish money to the Democratic Party, and also the reason there’s been no Palestinian state for 64 years since it was promised, because American Jews with access are against it, and now have a fresh set of fears (Hamas) with which to attack the idea. Not a word here about the fearful Christian Zionists. No, on the Democratic side, the lobby is Jewish and wealthy. Also, notice how important the presence in the White House of Dennis Ross is to these Israel-backers, a policymaker who cares about Israel. Smith excerpts:

If several dozen interviews with POLITICO are any indication, a similar conversation is taking place in Jewish communities across the country. Obama’s speech last month seems to have crystallized the doubts many pro-Israel Democrats had about Obama in 2008 in a way that could, on the margins, cost the president votes and money in 2012 and will not be easy to repair.

“It’s less something specific than that these incidents keep on coming,” said Ainsman.

The immediate controversy sparked by the speech was Obama’s statement that Israel should embrace the country’s 1967 borders, with “land swaps,” as a basis for peace talks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized on the first half of that phrase and the threat of a return to what Israelis sometimes refer to as “Auschwitz borders.”…

Most of those interviewed were center-left American Jews and Obama supporters — and many of them Democratic donors. On some core issues involving Israel, they’re well to the left of Netanyahu and many Americans: They refer to the “West Bank,” not to “Judea and Samaria,” fervently supported the Oslo peace process and Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and believe in the urgency of creating a Palestinian state.

But they are also fearful for Israel at a moment of turmoil in a hostile region when the moderate Palestinian Authority is joining forces with the militantly anti-Israel Hamas….

Some of these traditional Democrats now say, to their own astonishment, that they’ll consider voting for a Republican in 2012. And many of those who continue to support Obama said they find themselves constantly on the defensive in conversations with friends….

Even Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who spoke to POLITICO to combat the story line of Jewish defections, said she’d detected a level of anxiety in a recent visit to a senior center in her South Florida district…

“There’s an inclination in the community to not trust this president’s gut feel on Israel and every time he sets out on a path that’s troubling you do get this ‘ouch’ reaction from the Jewish Community because they’re distrustful of him,” said the president of a major national Jewish organization, who declined to be quoted by name to avoid endangering his ties to the White House…

Now [Cleveland lawyer Scott] Matasar says he’s appalled by Obama’s “rookie mistakes and bumbling” and the reported marginalization of a veteran peace negotiator, Dennis Ross, in favor of aides who back a tougher line on Netanyahu. He’s the most pro-Obama member of his social circle but is finding the president harder to defend.

“He’d been very ham-handed in the way he presented [the 1967 border announcement] and the way he sprung this on Netanyahu,” Matasar said.

A Philadelphia Democrat and pro-Israel activist, Joe Wolfson, recalled a similar progression.

“What got me past Obama in the recent election was Dennis Ross — I heard him speak in Philadelphia and I had many of my concerns allayed,” Wolfson said. “Now, I think I’m like many pro-Israel Democrats now who are looking to see whether we can vote Republican.”..

A top-dollar Washington fundraiser aimed at Jewish donors in Miami last week raised more than $1 million from 80 people, and while one prominent Jewish activist said the DNC had to scramble to fill seats, seven-figure fundraisers are hard to sneer at.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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