The question must be asked, Why is Mitt Romney willing to adopt the most hawkish positions on Israel, now bragging about being briefed by Israeli officials on foreign policy? Because there is no political liability. Because he knows that Obama won’t attack him from the center, let alone the left, and maybe cause the issue to hurt him, because in fact Obama is trying to run on Romney’s right on the issue.
Ron Kampeas reports for JTA:
Mitt Romney told donors attending his campaign’s Utah retreat that he is briefed on the Middle East by Israeli government officials.
About 50 of the 700 donors who attended the retreat this weekend in Park City were Jewish, according to one in attendance.
..,Romney dropped in on the session, and said he had just been briefed by the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, speaking about, among other issues, the situation in Syria, the elections in Egypt and the effort to isolate Iran.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the Republican presidential nominee, said he has such conversations with Israeli officials to be kept up to date on the region.
Such briefings are not an unusual once it becomes clear who the major party candidates are…
Addressing the U.S.-Israel session were William Kristol, a founder of the Emergency Committee for Israel which recently ran ads accusing Obama of not doing enough to stop Iran; Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary, who is Jewish; and Norm Coleman, the former U.S. senator from Minnesota, who is also Jewish.
To attend the retreat, donors either had to have donated $50,000 to the campaign or had to have raised $250,000.
The answer to my question of why Obama can’t take Romney on but actually runs to Romney’s right is that the only political community either Romney or Obama believes cares about this issue is the Jewish community (and yes, for Romney, some evangelicals) and both candidates believe the Jewish community to be reactionary on the question, as I do. So Obama won’t attack Romney on the issue because he is afraid of losing Jews. Despite J Street’s organizing, and Peter Beinart’s bravery, there is no significant fracture inside the organized Jewish community to support even the mildest criticism of Israeli expansionism or militarism.
Years ago Jeff Halper explained this best. He said that Barney Frank came over to see the settlements and was deeply disturbed and said I agree with you but I can’t go public against it unless “you bring me the names of 5000 Jews in my district that support you… If you can’t do that…. I’m not going to commit political suicide for the sake of the Palestinians… “
One of the bravest most liberal Democrats is afraid of rightwing forces inside the overwhelmingly-Democratic Jewish community on the question. As Obama is afraid.
The politics of this issue won’t even begin to shift until people in the mainstream open their mouths. Chris Matthews has to begin to actively question our Israel policy. But Matthews is afraid to open his mouth the same way tenured Nobelist Paul Krugman is afraid.
As MJ Rosenberg explained years back, When Jerrold Nadler stands up at a press conference and says hawkish things about Israel, nobody, but nobody questions him. He never faces any political price. As any public person will tell you, getting sharply questioned on something at events makes you think there’s a constituency out there that is listening. But that’s not happening on Israel/Palestine.