Democrats are distancing themselves from Israel

The Jewish National Fund  (JNF)commissioned a poll on elite attitudes toward Israel conducted by Frank Luntz.

World Net Daily reported:

Political consultant Frank Luntz says a new survey of elite Democrats shows three-quarters believe Israel has too much influence on U.S. foreign policy, with half of them believing the Jewish state is racist. (snip)

“Israel can no longer claim to have the bipartisan support of America,” Luntz said. “Israel has won the hearts and minds of Republicans in America, while at the same time it is losing the Democrats.”

Asked about Israeli influence on U.S. foreign policy, 76 percent of the elite Democrats said the Jewish state has too much. Only 20 percent of Republicans agreed.

Asked whether Israel is a racist country, 47 percent of Democrats answered affirmatively, with just 13 percent of Republicans agreeing. Another 21 percent of Democrats didn’t know or were neutral. Only 32 percent of Democrats disagreed when asked if Israel is a racist country, as opposed to 76 percent of Republicans.

Asked whether Israel wants peace with its neighbors, 88 percent of Republicans said it does. Only 48 percent of Democrats agreed.

Asked whether they would be more likely to vote for a local politician who supported Israel and its right to defend itself, 76 percent of Republicans said yes, while only 18 percent of Democrats said yes. Meanwhile, 32 percent of Democrats said they would be less likely to support a local politician who backed Israel.

Asked whether they would be more likely to vote for a local politician who criticized Israeli occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians, 45 percent of Democrats said yes.

Asked whether the U.S. should support Israel or the Palestinians, 90 percent of Republicans said Israel, while just 51 percent of Democrats agreed.

Asked if “settlements” are an impediment to peace, 75 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of Republicans agreed.

Remember the last 2012 Democratic Party Convention where a new platform had been introduced which removed the “God” from the platform and removed any support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital? It also contained other elements reducing support for Israel.  The hue and cry was so great that the Democratic Party and Obama decided to reinstate some of the provisions before the vote and were largely booed for doing so. Caroline Glick covered the story here,  God, Jerusalem and American foreign policy.

In response to the poll, Douglas Bloomfield asks in the Jerusalem Post, Are Democrats deserting Israel? and suggests that “policies of the current government and the arrogance of its leader.” are to blame.

First, he attacked the poll’s origin.

A new poll making headlines in Israel this week declares that the country “can no longer claim to have the bipartisan support of America” because Democratic elites have deserted the Jewish state.

How credible is this poll? Consider this: it was conducted by a highly partisan Republican pollster who surveyed 802 “highly educated, high income… opinion elites” – not rank and file or members of Congress – that he selected to measure partisan American attitudes toward Israel.

Not surprisingly, he also found that Republicans are increasingly enthusiastic in their backing for Israel.

The survey was commissioned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Why would a highly respected, presumably non-partisan organization like JNF order a survey of partisan attitudes toward Israel, and why not pick a pollster with a reputation for balance and non-partisanship? And why send him to Israel to brief political leaders and journalists about his findings? One likely answer: the chairman of JNF is Ronald Lauder, a longtime Republican who is remembered for taking out full-page newspaper ads attacking President Barack Obama for not being sufficiently supportive of the Netanyahu government. In the past five years alone he has given $843,200 to Republican candidates and SuperPACs, according to the Federal Election Commission.

FEC reports also indicate the president of JNF, Jeffrey E. Levine, gave $20,010 to the Democratic Party in 2011, but none since then.

All the more reason to treat this survey by Republican political consultant Frank Luntz as highly suspect.

Rather than deny the growing gap, he goes on to say it’s not the message but the messenger that is to blame. What is wrong with Levine backing away from Democrats as they backed away from Israel?  What is wrong with JNF agreeing with Israel’s policies rather than Democratic policies?

There is no moral equivalence between the Republican support and Democratic non-support.  The only way to have non-partisan support is for both sides to support Israel. When daylight becomes apparent, no one should expect non-partisan support.  They should expect Israel to make a choice.

That’s not to deny that there has not been a growing gap between Republicans and Democrats in their support for Israel over the past several years, but mostly it has nothing to do with “hostility” toward the Jewish state.

Luntz concedes “policy has something to do” with the drift but his prescription for closing the partisan gap – an “efficient, effective and unified PR campaign” – is insultingly simplistic and useless.

Israel’s problem – not just with Democrats or Americans but Europeans as well – isn’t the message but the policies of the current government and the arrogance of its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has done more to isolate Israel than any of his predecessors.

Hawkish Israeli security “rhetoric” appeals to Republicans, Luntz notes, but he recommends the message for Democrats “under line Israel’s role in protecting human rights and promoting equality.”

He misses the message of his own findings. The bottom line is the policy and its implementation, and no amount of polishing by high-priced consultants can fix that.

In this I think he is largely right in this. That is not to say that we can’t improve things a bit by fixing the message. But bottom line is, Democrats don’t like our Israeli policies.

Among Luntz’s findings: Three quarters of Democratic “opinion elites” believe Israel has “too much influence” on US foreign policy; almost half consider it to be a racist country; fewer than half believe Israel actually wants peace with the Palestinians and only 46 percent of Democrats vs. 88% of Republicans consider themselves “pro-Israel.”

Leave aside the matter of skewing the questions to produce a desired outcome, and look behind Luntz’s message.

“Israel has won the hearts and minds of Republicans in America while at the same time Israel is losing the Democrats,” the Republican pollster told The Times of Israel. “The Israeli government and US Jews have to focus on repairing relations with the Democrats.”

This is not a simple PR problem, as he suggests.

It is much more fundamental. It goes where Luntz and JNF and Lauder fear to tread: the prime minister’s doorstep.

No one has done more to drive Democrats away from Israel than Netanyahu. His partnership with the Republicans to undermine Obama, especially on Iran and peace with the Palestinians, has been a disaster for Israel’s longtime bipartisan support.

Many Democrats see in Netanyahu an ally who has no interest in acting like an ally.

On the contrary, it is the Democrats led by Obama who have no interest in acting “like an ally.”  They are asking, nay demanding, that Israel sacrifice her rights and her security and go like sheep to the slaughter. No thanks, been there, done that.

A true ally wouldn’t put us at so much risk nor would it align with our enemies against us as Obama and the Democrats have done with Iran and with the PA.

While maintaining the support of the Democrats is a good thing, we should not fundamentally change our goals and interests to do so.

Luntz contends nearly half of the Democrats say Israel is racist. He offers no comparison to how they see their own country or any other country. His finding reflects the feeling on the part of many African Americans that Netanyahu’s unconcealed animosity toward Obama and his congressional speech attacking the administration’s Iran policy as disrespecting the nation’s first black president.

Netanyahu does not reject Obama because of the color of his skin but because Obama’s policies are so inimical to Israel. To suggest otherwise is to play the race card. When Democrats are saying Israel is racist, they are saying Zionism is racist. They want Israel to be a state for all her citizens rather than a Jewish state.

Luntz’s findings reflect a GOP strategy designed to use Israel as a wedge issue to increase donations by wealthy single-issue pro-Israel campaign givers, not attract to the GOP Jewish voters, who remain firmly entrenched on the Democratic side of the partisan divide.

Republicans have raised a lot of Jewish money in their campaign to transform Israel into a partisan wedge issue, replete with painting Obama as an enemy of the Jewish state, and Netanyahu’s prominent role in that effort has helped turn away many Democrats.

This suggestions is outrageous. The Democrats keep arguing for bipartisan support while at the same time distancing their policies from what is required to keep Israel a non-partisan issue. If they want support for Israel to be a non-partisan issue, let them return to policies the Republicans agree on. They are doing their utmost to have their cake, back anti-Israel policies, and eat it, i.e., maintaining Israel as a non-partisan issue. It’s not going to happen.

No issue is more critical for Israel right now than the nuclear agreement with Iran, yet Netanyahu has squandered any influence he may have had in shaping the administration’s positions by mounting a full frontal assault on the integrity and intentions of the American president and by colluding with a GOP leadership determined to use the issue as one more weapon in their anti- Obama campaign.

Rightfully so. There is nothing to suggest that kissing Obama’s rear would have resulted in a good deal. Netanyahu rightfully decided to challenge Obama in the public sphere rather than behind closed doors. In doing so he was following the values of Jabotinsky in preferring public diplomacy to private diplomacy.

Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid and a former Netanyahu coalition partner, said the prime minister’s strident rhetoric and confrontational rather than cooperative strategy on the Iran issue has cost Israel influence in the negotiations.

“His approach led us to a situation in which the American administration isn’t willing to listen to our positions. His approach led not only the United States but also the other five powers involved in the negotiations… not to take into account Israel’s concerns over the deal, concerns which are right and justified.”

Lapid is playing politics. There is nothing to suggest that had Netanyahu went along to get along, more would have been accomplished.

Luntz suggests the Democrats are deserting Israel, but a fair-minded analyst might conclude that the reverse may be more accurate.

Democrats voted for Obama in large numbers because he promised to end Bush’s costly and futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now they see Israel’s government trying to push America into another war it doesn’t want and can’t afford.

Luntz found that fewer than half of what he called Democratic “opinion elites” believe Israel under Netanyahu wants peace with its neighbors.

I suspect the majority of Israelis feel the same.

Luntz is right in saying the Democrats abandoned Israel. Israel is not looking for war, nor to push America into war, but simply wants to defend itself. It simply asks for the tools to deal with Iran itself. What Israel has wanted is to be supplied with 30,000 pound bunker buster bombs and a green light. Instead they were prevented from attacking Iran on their own and denied the bombs that Israel needed to do the job.

Anybody who knows anything about Israel knows that it wants peace but not the “peace” being pushed on her by the international community. UN Resolution 242 and the Oslo Accords both required a negotiated settlement. Even Obama at one time reiterated that all issues are to be negotiated. Now the international community is seeking to bypass a negotiated settlement by dictating one. One, I might add that won’t result in real peace.

Republicans may be having great success with their wedge strategy when it comes to pro-Israel big givers, but their efforts are unlikely to change many Jewish votes in 2016, and they are bad news for Israel. Netanyahu cannot afford his legacy to be Israel’s loss of bipartisan American support.

What makes Bloomfield’s article all the more telling is knowing who he is. Douglas Bloomfield spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over twenty years ago. In that position, he was responsible for developing and guiding strategy on Capitol Hill to secure military and economic aid for Israel and strengthen US-Israel relations. He is currently a professional lobbyist and a syndicated columnist. Thus he is a consummate insider. But that doesn’t mean we should pay him too much deference.  The Democratic Party has moved decidedly to the left and away from Israel in the last decade. Just as Obama has created daylight so has AIPAC. It supported a two state solution even before Netanyahu did and it has been against settlement construction notwithstanding that Israel still supports it. The world that Bloomfield knows is a world in which the Democrats and AIPAC worked hand in hand for the benefit of Israel. That world no longer exists.

What Israel can’t afford, is to pander for Jewish American votes in 2016 rather than for Jewish Israeli votes in Israel.  It’s our lives on the line. As for Democrats, including American Jews, they want Israel to live by progressive Jewish values which eschew Zionism and particularism.

Ted Belman writes from Israel. He is the publisher of Israpundit.

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