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Posted by on Feb 20, 2016 in 2016 Elections, 2016 Presidential Election, Politics | 8 comments

Election 2016: What’s a Jew to do?

Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

Election 2016: What’s a Jew to do?
by Donald Harrison

SAN DIEGO — Let’s imagine that you grew up in a liberal, self-identifying Jewish family. You’re pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-immigration, pro-diversity, and pro-Israel.

On the first four counts, it would seem, you are closely aligned with Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
But on the fifth count, Israel, you find that the leading Republican candidates—Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush–are far more attuned to your position than the Democrats.

So what do you do? How will you vote?

That’s the question facing many Jewish voters. And the answer likely will depend on whether the Jewish electorate perceives Israel to be facing an existential threat or whether it believes that come Democrat or Republican, Israel will be able to take care of itself.

If Jewish voters perceive Israel to be facing an existential threat – as it did in 1967 and 1973 – then I believe that many will reason that none of the other aforementioned domestic issues—not abortion rights, gay rights, immigration nor diversity–rise to the level of immediate emergency.

In such an event, I think that self-identifying Jewish voters, with images of the Holocaust giving them nightmares, would swallow hard and vote for a Republican – unless Democrats, recognizing the seriousness of the emergency, gave their heartfelt pledge of full support to the beleaguered Jewish State.

If these Jews did vote for a Republican for President, I believe they would simultaneously vote for Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives in order to safeguard what progress has been made on liberal domestic issues.

On the other hand, if Jewish voters believe that no matter who is in the White House that Israel will be safe, then I imagine that the overwhelming majority of them will follow their accustomed pattern of voting for a Democrat for President.

But which Democrat? Now there’s the rub.

Although the younger generation is enamored with Bernie Sanders, some of his fellow Jews are wary of him. Notwithstanding the fact that he spent some time during his youth on a kibbutz, Sanders seems to have distanced himself from present-day Israel. He was one of the senators who refused to even be in the chamber when Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress about the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran. And except for some shtick on Saturday Night Live with comedian Larry David, Sanders seems to deemphasize, even minimize, his connection to the Jewish people.

The fact that he is a Socialist seems far more important to Sanders than that he is a Jew.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State in President Obama’s first administration and in her four years as the President’s chief foreign policy maker, relations between the U.S. and Israel went from bad to worse. Of course, her supporters could argue that she was only carrying out the President’s orders, but her occasional outbursts against Israel seemed to reflect her own deeply held feelings as well as those of the President.

For many liberal, self-identified Jews, this election represents a no-win choice – a candidate with whom they disagree on Israel, or a candidate with whom they disagree on domestic political issues.

No wonder that so many Jews hope that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will get into the race!
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via [email protected] This article is reprinted from San Diego Jewish World which, along with The Moderate Voice, is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.

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Copyright 2016 The Moderate Voice
  • Disagreeing with Netanyahu is quite different from showing a lack of support for Israel.

    Saying that opposing Netanyahu’s policies makes one anti-Israel is like saying that opposition to George Bush’s policies made one anti-US.

  • JSpencer

    Worrying about the difficulties Jewish voters face isn’t terribly high on my list of concerns; I’m more worried about that fact that half the candidates and half the electorate in the US are fact-free and seem proud of it. I don’t have much concern about the difficulties Christian voters face either (especially given the elasticity of the definition these days). As for the “existential threat” to Israel, what about the existential threat to Palestinians? Bottom line: I wish people would make judgments based on who is going to do the most good for the most people, not just one group of people.

    • KP

      < < I’m more worried about that fact that half the candidates and half the electorate in the US are fact-free and seem proud of it.>>

      I think half might be kind.

      I would guess closer to 75% and the other 25% are split.

      My goodness, that is depressing.

  • jdledell

    I’m one Jew who does not feel conflicted at all. I think it is false premise that a Republican President would be better for Israel. Frankly, I think a Republican President would become an enabler to Israel’s worst instincts. As Ron has pointed out, Mr. Harrison seems to be equating Netanyahu with Israel which is a distorted and dangerous premise. Obama has been a solid supporter of Israel providing the kind of military gear and intelligence Israel needs. Obama feels as I do that Netanyahu is bad for Israel and is leading the country in the wrong direction. There are millions of Israelis who feel the same way.

    Currently Israel is facing NO existential threats. There is no conventional weapon threat to the state of Israel – militarily Israel would make mincemeat of the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian military if they all joined to attack Israel as in 48,67 and 73. The arabs were not successful in the past and they have even weaker compared with Israel now. The Iran threat was overblown and for now has been removed as a existential threat.

    A president Cruz, Rubio even Trump could eventually capitulate to our right wing crazies and permit Netanyahu, Bennett and their right wing crazies to remove the Palestinians from Judea and Samaria which will lead to boycotts, lowgrade warfare and Israel’s economic demise.

    • KP

      < < Currently Israel is facing NO existential threats. >>

      What was I thinking?(!)

  • dduck

    How great it would be (just wishing) if the Palestinians were treated a little better and behaved a little better, then perhaps people could vote for a Dem or a Rep that would be best for the U.S.
    Sorry, I am not Jewish, although I’ve lived on the lower east side (now a little higher) of Manhattan, my entire life, but I don’t really know what the “real” story is on Israel, so I rely on folks like JDL to fill in some of the blanks. My circle in NYC is 99% Jewish, but Israel seldom is the subject of discussion.

  • What is a Jew to do??
    Vote like an Ameican instead of an Israeli?
    Israel has the support of North America and all of western Europe. Any attack on Israel would rightlyfully result in a full military response from the United States.
    Israel is secure. Israeli politics may be their biggest threat.

  • Markus1

    I join the other Jews who have commented in saying that I intend to vote in the best interests of the USA. This means being careful, thoughtful, and dispassionate while avoiding the red capes thrown by the demagogues out there. And yes, it means thinking that Netanyahu is not identical with Israel.

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