Thursday, April 15, 2004
Bring on the End Times...
Move Could Help Bush Among Jewish Voters
In declaring that Israel should be able to keep some of the occupied territories and block Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel, Bush followed a familiar pattern of finding common cause with Jews and increasingly pro-Israel Christian conservatives. That Bush's move was good politics was evidenced by Democratic rival John F. Kerry's quick move not to let Bush outflank him among pro-Israel voters.
"I think that could be a positive step," the Massachusetts senator said, approving of the Bush-Sharon action regarding both refugees and Israel's borders. "What's important obviously is the security of the state of Israel, and that's what the prime minister and the president, I think, are trying to address."
There is a possibility that the action by Bush could further aggravate the situation in Iraq, just as Israel's killing of a prominent Palestinian militant set off rioting in Iraq several weeks ago. Independent pollster John Zogby, who has surveyed extensively in the Arab world, said: "This is pretty much the final nail in the coffin of the peace process as far as Arabs are concerned." He said his polling indicates the Palestinian cause is among the top three issues for 90 percent of Arabs in all Arab countries he has surveyed. "It's not even a political issue, it's a bloodstream issue," Zogby said.
Domestically, though, the move could enable Bush to chip away a few more of the Jewish voters who have traditionally been loyal to Democrats. And in a tight election, the small minority of Jewish voters -- who tend to have strong turnout levels -- could give Bush an edge in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"Given that Jews turn out at an 80 percent turnout rate, if you swing the Jewish vote 10 percent in Ohio, that could give you Ohio," said Nathan Diament, a lobbyist for the Orthodox Jewish movement. Though he believes Bush's motive is principle rather than politics, Diament also notes that the courting of Jewish donors -- hugely important to Democrats -- could aid the Republican Party.
During his appearance with Sharon, Bush compared Israel's struggle with Palestinian suicide bombers to the American fight against al Qaeda.
House Chief Deputy Majority Whip Eric I. Cantor (Va.), the House's only Jewish Republican, echoed that point. "American Jews see that President Bush gets the fact that Israel is fighting the same fight against terrorism that we are," he said. "The very liberal Jews are not going to be able to put aside their environmental or abortion politics. But for the mainstream Jewish community, Israel is of paramount importance."
Republican officials in Washington said that while they are confident Bush made his decision for sincere policy reasons, they believe the potential impact on the politics of 2004 could be substantial. "This will make it that much harder for John Kerry to win Florida," said a Republican aide on Capitol Hill who refused to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. Associates said Bush's strategists believe that even small inroads into the Jewish vote could mean the difference between winning and losing Florida, and several Republicans believe the announcement could further inhibit Kerry's fundraising in the Jewish community.