American Jews should listen to the Israelis when it comes to support for Obama
Barack Obama received 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008. Recent polls show he won't get that percentage -- a recent survey shows the president getting 62% of the Jewish vote -- but he will still receive the lion's share of the vote from Jewish Americans.
Considering his policies toward Israel, it's hard to figure out what that is. One reason is that most liberal Jews place very little weight on US policy toward Israel when it comes to voting. Also, for many in the Jewish community, social issues are more important.
But Jews in Israel have a decidedly different view of the president - for obvious reasons as Jonathan Tobin explains:
But even as American Jews argue about Obama's attitude toward Israel, the intended objects of the supposed solicitude continue to hold starkly different views about him.
A new Smith Research poll sponsored by the Jerusalem Post shows that although perceptions of Obama in Israel have improved in the last year, most Israelis don't consider him much of a friend. The survey showed that 36 percent of Israelis believe Obama is neutral in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians with 24 percent seeing him as pro-Palestinian and an equal number perceiving him as pro-Israel while 16 percent expressed no opinion. These numbers make one wonder what it is that the three quarters of Israelis who don't see him as being in favor of their country know that the majority of American Jews who think he is pro-Israel haven't figured out.
The contrast between Israeli public opinion of the president and the views of American Jews is all the more startling when one realizes that these dismal numbers are actually a vast improvement for Obama over past polls conducted by the same firm. In the summer of 2009 after the first fight picked by the president with Israel and his Cairo speech to the Arab world in which he equated the plight of the Palestinians with the Holocaust, only 6 percent of Israelis saw him as their ally while 50 percent saw him as pro-Palestinian. Last year after his ambush of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in which he expressed support for the 1967 borders being the starting point for future Middle East negotiations, only 12 percent of Israelis saw him as pro-Israel.
It's surveys like this that give the lie to the Mearsham thesis of American Jews doing the bidding of the Likud party in America. Jewish voters, like any other voter, place more weight on bread and butter economic issues than US policy toward the homeland of their faith. But Tobin wonders if American Jews could only see Obama through the eyes of Israelis, they would somehow change their minds about him.
I think that notion short changes the intelligence of the Jewish voter here. Many American Jews have relatives in Israel and have visited the Jewish state. I'm pretty sure they've gotten an earful about Obama from their friends and relatives.There's also the fact that most American Jews are well informed and hold no illusions about how popular Obama is in Israel. For the J-Street crowd, Obama's pro-Palestinian tilt is welcome to some degree. They want pressure placed on the right in Israel by the US and Obama has done just that - clumsily, naively, but pressure nonetheless.
All told, those Jewish voters who place more weight on how the US-Israeli relationship is doing than on some other issues will probably support Romney. Obama's majority might fall from 3/4 to 2/3 of the Jewish vote if that happens, which may reduce his majorities in some states and will help in states like Florida and New Jersey.
But Obama's problematic relations with the Jewish state will not alter the Jewish vote in America significantly.