Can Hillary secure US Jewish vote?
Analysis: Clinton's possible weakness among the Jewish community is her close relationship with Obama, in light of his rift with Netanyahu. In order to stress her commitment to Israel, she will likely visit the Jewish state this year and make statements which will be music to Israeli ears.
The Clinton family has deep, years-long relations with the American Jewish community. Bill Clinton has been fondly referred to as "America's the first Jewish president" and gained the support of the Jewish public, which will also support his wife.
More than 70% of US Jews vote for the Democrats. Republican President Ronald Reagan is the only one who won about 30% of the Jewish votes, thanks to his support for Israel. The Republicans have started preparing for the 2016 presidential election, but so far there is no one among the candidates who the Jews side with, and it's reasonable to assume that most of them will give their vote to the Democrats once again.
Hillary Clinton's close relationship with the Jews was evident when she served from 2001 to 2009 as senator for the state of New York, where the Jewish presence and influence are very strong. During part of that period, I served as Israel's consul general in New York and had frequent work relations with the senator.
The Clintons have an aura of stars, and every minister and Knesset member who arrived from Israel wanted to meet Hillary. She usually accepted the requests, and often participated in Jewish community events. She is still escorted by many Jewish officials from New York and has based her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn.
Hillary's weakness among the Jewish community could be her overly close relationship with US President Barack Obama, on the backdrop of his rifts with Israel and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama defeated Clinton in the internal democratic race in 2008, but immediately became his secretary of state. In this position she tried to advance the peace process with the Palestinians, but found herself deeply involved in the chaos of the Arab Spring.
Hillary's recent conversations with Jewish leaders in the United States reveal that she believes the two countries must work together to restore the relationship to a "constructive state." In order to stress her commitment to Israel, Clinton will likely visit Israel this year, as well as make statements which will be music to Israeli ears. The presidential candidates prefer not to postpone their visit to Israel to the last moment so as not to get in trouble, and prefer the rule of "the sooner the better."
Clinton supports the two-state solution, and if she is elected president she will work to advance it. She supports the agreement with Iran in principle, but will find a way to voice her reservations over some of its clauses.
At the moment, she is busy raising the resources for the difficult race, and the Jewish support in this area is also extremely significant. Bill Clinton had many Jewish donors, and so does Hillary, who is planning a major fundraiser in Hollywood. Her fans there include senior Jewish personalities like Haim Saban, David Geffen, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and others.
The Hollywood connection adds, of course, to the glow surrounding the Clinton family, which is a sort of continuation of the Kennedy family and the closest thing to aristocracy the Americans have. Their daughter Chelsea, who will also be involved in the election campaign, is married to a Jew.
Hillary is facing a long race, which will last more than a year and a half until Election Day on November 8, 2016. She has no major competition in the Democratic Party so far, but in the presidential election – as always – the Jewish vote will be very important.
Aryeh Mekel served as the consul general of Israel in New York and Atlanta. Today he is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.