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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Obama, Israel, and the Next Election

On Thursday, the president said: "We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."

On Friday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities. The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines -- because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years."

Tom Brune of Newsday reports:

President Barack Obama's endorsement of Israel's 1967 borders could cost him support next year among Jewish and pro-Israel voters, political analysts and activists said Friday.

Those voters could include not only Republicans but also Democrats, especially those who expressed misgivings about Obama's commitment to Israel as he campaigned for the White House in 2008.

"A lot of Democrats are not going to agree with this, and a lot of Democrats are not going to be Democratic in the voting booth," said New York political strategist Hank Sheinkopf.

"It will create fear and anxiety," he said, especially for Jewish voters older than 50 who remember the Six Day War in 1967, which showed the difficulty of defending Israel's borders.

After Obama's speech Thursday, Stony Brook political scientist Matthew Lebo posted on his Facebook page: "Did a million Jews turn Republican today?"

That might be an exaggeration, Lebo said, but "politically and electorally it does the president absolutely no good."

But how much harm does it do him? Keep two things in mind. First, Jews are not single-issue voters. Second, Democrats have been winning the Jewish vote since FDR, and there is no evidence of a GOP surge. See the GOP share of the Jewish vote in presidential exit polls. (1972-1996 data from a NYT table).

  • 1972 34%
  • 1976 34%
  • 1980 39%
  • 1984 31%
  • 1988 35%
  • 1992 11%
  • 1996 16%
  • 2000 19%
  • 2004 25%
  • 2008 21%

The rise of the Christian right accounts for the dropoff between 1988 and 1992. Analyzing survey data, Uslaner and Lichbach conclude: "Jews, then, are uncomfortable with the Christian Right. And they are more concerned with the threat from the Christian Right than the threat to Israel."