‘Tectonic rift’ in Jewish Americans’ opinion of Obama

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Support for President Obama is waning among America’s Jewish population, polls indicate, a shift driven primarily by the president’s policies toward Israel.

The London Telegraph reported this weekend that Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, described the state of U.S.-Israeli relations in bleak terms, saying the two nations “are in a state of tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart.” While Oren since has asserted that he was misquoted and that his words were less incendiary than reported, even relatively disinterested observers can see that relations between the allies are strained.

McLaughlin & Associates, a national polling company, recently released the “National Survey of Jewish Voters” which reported that while Jewish voters favored Obama 78 percent to 12 percent in the 2008 presidential exit polls, currently, “only 42 percent of voters would re-elect him, while the plurality (46 percent) would consider voting for someone else.”

Ed Koch, former New York mayor, campaigned for Obama in the 2008 presidential election but told The Daily Caller that he believes the Obama presidency represents a very serious problem for supporters of Israel.

“His campaign promises and image as a friend to Israel during the election were one thing, his actions have been very different,” Koch said. Koch does not believe he was misguided during the campaign, but rather that the president’s views had shifted, the first indication of which, Koch noted, was the Obama’s Cairo speech. “The No. 1 problem I see with Obama is that he is not willing to stand up to Islamic terrorism, he conveys weakness and his Israel policy is a subset of that failure.” Despite his frustrations, Koch was coy on whether he would support Obama in the future: “It depends on who was running.”

By contrast, Mark Pelavin, the associate director for Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, contends that Jewish opinion of the president has hardly changed and that Obama has stayed true to his campaign promises of working toward Middle East peace. “There is a lot on the table for this administration, a lot of friction and tension. Unfortunately there is no clear path forward,” Pelavin told The Daily Caller. Though this is a hard process, he continued the Jewish community is poised to embrace Obama’s Israel policies as they bring the region closer to a reasonable solution for peace.

Morton A. Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), told The Daily Caller that the ZOA was one of the few groups that warned Obama would be hostile to Israel. While his peers were unwilling to oppose Obama in the election, Klein said the tides have shifted: “I have never seen this precipitous a drop in support for a president before … Many Jews have gone from supportive to being exceedingly worried if not outright hostile to this president and his Israel policies.”

On June 24 Klein’s group released a poll which found that 65 percent of Israelis “believed that American Jews should criticize President Barack Obama’s policy towards Israel” while just 21 percent believed they should support it.

About the poll Klein said, “Coupled with earlier results showing the abysmal level of support for Obama among Israelis after 18 months of public condemnation, criticism and pressure while placing no pressure at all on Palestinians and largely ignoring incitement to hatred and murder within Palestinian society, here is further evidence that Israelis do not support Obama’s policy and do not believe American Jews should either.”

While opinion is changing, Ben Cohen, associate director of communications for the American Jewish Committee does not believe current polling data will be manifest in future elections. “Historically, there has been a consistent pattern of Jews voting Democrat. While there has been some disquiet among American Jews over the Obama administration’s stance on the Middle East, there is a little evidence at the moment that this will significantly impact voting,” he told The Daily Caller.

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