WASHINGTON- Will Jews continue to support Obama after his Mideast policy speech? In 2008 former US President George W. Bush stood beside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and declared
that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through mutual land exchanges across the 1949 lines.
However, Bush's remarks went unnoticed by rightists and US Jews supporting Israel.
The Republican president was known as a staunch supporter of Israel and his demands were therefore perceived as innocuous.
But when President Barack Obama offered precisely the same advice last Thursday, he encountered rage and suspicion from many Jews and Israelis. The moment was pivotal in making him suspect, in the eyes of many, of harboring sympathy for the Palestinian side.
Obama delivering his Mideast speech. (Photo: AP)
The differing reactions seemed to attest to a general inability to distinguish between an actual return to the 1967 lines and using these lines as a basis for negotiations on land swaps. Yet truth and myth were oddly mixed during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent
Washington visit. Some analysts noticed that during his address to Congress, many Democrats gave Netanyahu standing ovations while he spoke of compromise, while many Republicans stayed seated when he discussed the two-state solution.
Polls have yet to show the true effect of Netanyahu's visit on Jewish support for Obama. In the meantime, media mogul Haim Saban gave
an interview to CNBC criticizing the president for paying visits to Arab states while ignoring Israel. His interviewers took this as a sign he would withdraw his generous financial support to the Democratic Party, though he refrained from stating this during the interview.
Netanayhu at Congress (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
During his speech before AIPAC, Obama said he recognized that his address on Mideast policy would not do him any good so close to the next elections, but that it had to be said. However, Abraham Foxman, who heads the Anti-Defamation League, told Ynet he does not believe Jewish support for Obama will wane, despite the speech.
"Those who like him will continue to support him," Foxman said, "While those who don't will use his remarks to say, 'I told you so.' His first speech and the corrections he made at AIPAC showed he's listening."
Palin won't threaten to steal Obama's Jewish votes (Photo: AP)
Ron Kampeas, Washington bureau chief of the Jewish news agency JTA, told Ynet it was too early to asses the effect Obama's speeches had on Jewish support.
"There was a negative response from Jews to Obama's remarks, but we haven't seen any polls yet," he said, adding that the president's success in the next elections hinges largely on who would run against him.
"If it's Sarah Palin, Obama won't lose any Jewish votes. If it's Mitt Romney, he might," Kampeas said.
He added that many Jewish donors would continue to finance the Democratic campaign as staunch supporters of the party, no matter what. Others may wait to see how the relationship between Netanyahu and Obama pans out.
If, for example, Obama succeeds in preventing Palestinian moves at the United Nations and vetoes a Palestinian resolution for statehood at the UN, undecided Jewish voters are likely to side with the Democrats, Kampeas said.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also the first Jewish woman to chair the Democratic National Committee, is a staunch supporter of Israel and Obama. In an interview with NBC on Thursday, Wasserman Schultz said the Democratic Party is stands by the president in promoting the two-state solution.
According to the democratic congresswoman, Obama and Netanyahu's positions – as expressed during his latest speech in congress – are rather similar, and the Republicans are simply trying to "turn" the Jews against Obama.
In the 2008 elections Obama received the support of some 80% of Jewish voters. Though they only represent 2% of American voters, US Jews are able to tip the scale in three states, namely Florida, Ohio and Nevada.
Obama's first true test will take place on June 20, when the president attends a fundraiser along with 80 of the Jewish community's heaviest donors.