I have said many times that American Jews overwhelmingly do not choose a candidate based on minute differences in how they would approach the U.S.-Israel relationship. Once a basic threshold is met, we compare candidates on a range of other issues. And on all of those issues, Democrats hold a huge advantage.
Thus, every couple of years, Republicans try to raise this threshold. At this point, anything less than a full-on bromance between our nations' two leaders is unacceptable, Republicans assert. And the reality of the relationship is hidden behind a barrage of lies and innuendo.
In the past few days, a number of powerful op-eds have pushed back against these efforts.
If you didn't catch it on Wednesday, Ephraim Halevy's op-ed in the New York Times, "Who Threw Israel Under the Bus," is one of the most important opinion pieces of the 2012 election cycle. In his provocative column, Halevy -- who was Israel's national security advisor just after 9/11 -- unmasked Republican hypocrisy on Israel. He writes, "despite the Republican Party's shrill campaign rhetoric on Israel, no Democratic president has ever strong-armed Israel on any key national security issue." The same cannot be said for Republican presidents.
As striking and widely-seen as Halevy's op-ed may have been, a second piece from the Palm Beach Post is also worth reading and sharing. Writing in a local paper read by many American Jews in Florida, Stephen Herbits takes the GOP to task, asserting that their bashing of Obama on Israel is harmful to Israel's interests. Herbits, a former advisor to five Secretaries of Defense, including Donald Rumsfeld, writes:
Just as the Republican Party has a libertarian and isolationist wing that wants to withdraw all support for Israel, the Democratic Party has left-wing elements that are less predisposed to supporting Israel, on purported humanitarian grounds. By using Israel as a wedge issue today, Republicans give disproportionate voice to those less supportive of the U.S.-Israel alliance in the future.
Less subtle but also important is Jay Michaelson's essay in this week's Forward, where he argues persuasively that while there may be some moderates around Mitt Romney, including many Jews, they will only gain power thanks to the extreme Christian right and Tea Party fringe. "Moderates," he writes, "are not at the helm of the Republican Party. The Eric Cantors and Bill Kristols of the world have made a deal with the devil. They may think they're just using the Christian right to get elected, but really, the Christian right is using them." And those extremists are just using Israel as a wedge to divide American Jews and elect Republicans, who will impose an extreme agenda that few Jews support.
My organization, Jewish Council for Education and Research, recently launched a project coordinated by Rabbi Susan Silverman (an American Israeli) that tells the story of President Obama's record on Israeli security through the experiences of people who should know -- Israelis. "Israelis on Obama," a video released last Thursday, features a wide range of Israeli citizens -- academics, businesspeople, and even ex-military -- sharing their view on what President Obama has done for Israel.
In the video, and in more than 3 hours of footage, they cite the Iron Dome missile defense system -- funded with the enthusiastic support of the Obama administration. They analyze President Obama's steadfast sanctions against Iran, which have helped pull back Israel from the brink of war. And they say, to a person, that President Obama has helped keep them safe. Here's the video:
These op-eds and a video, however, are not enough. In Florida, where polls have see-sawed for weeks, misinformation persists. This week, JCER bought advertising on Fox News Channel and CNN in South Florida, and aired a 30-second version of "Israelis On Obama." While it is fun to know that the network of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity has been turned into a platform for pro-Obama Jews, we're also trying to reach out more personally to Jewish voters in Florida. In 2008 we organized "The Great Schlep," where Jews from around the country traveled to Florida to talk with their relatives about voting Obama. Next week, some of the "schleppers" will be headed back -- younger people talking to their grandparents and parents, pleading across generations to do the right thing for America and Israel -- and vote Obama.
We're also raising money to keep "Israelis On Obama" on the air, so that Jews can hear from Israelis themselves about just how much President Obama has meant to them.
This should be a no-brainer. But with the election this close, the misinformation about President Obama's record still imperils his reelection. With less than two weeks to go, every call and email can make a difference. I hope you'll share any or all of the op-eds and videos above with any friends and family you have who have expressed concerns about this issue. These aren't the words of radicals: they are the words of ex-Israeli security; former Republicans; and Israelis themselves, who are fighting back against the division and fear peddled by Romney-Ryan, Sheldon Adelson and the conservative echo chamber. Take it from them: this president has Israel's back -- and deserves our support.