The Jewish Week
By James D. Besser/Washington
Rudolph Giuliani’s explicit opposition to Palestinian statehood could turn the 2008 debate over U.S. Mideast policy from a chorus of “me too’s” into a free for all.
“It’s a breakthrough,” said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America. “This is the first time a major politician has had the courage to tell the truth about the dangers of a Palestinian state.”
The result, Klein said, could be a “more open” debate about key elements in U.S. Mideast policy.
But it’s not a slam dunk that the former mayor’s comments will make him the darling of Jewish Republicans, and it’s even less certain they will win over Jewish swing voters, who generally take a more dovish position on issues like Palestinian statehood.
Writing in the journal Foreign Affairs, Giuliani said that “it is not in the interests of the United States at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist in the creation of another state that will support terrorism.”
That puts the former mayor in direct opposition to an administration that has made Palestinian statehood a top priority — and to the other presidential candidates in both parties.
In his article, Giuliani argued that “too much emphasis has been placed on brokering negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians — negotiations that bring up the same issues again and again.”
The Palestinians can “earn” statehood only through “sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism and a willingness to live in peace with Israel,” he wrote.
Even before his article appeared, many Jews on the right were leaning in Giuliani’s direction — despite a personal history that could cause problems with both conservative Christians and Orthodox Jews.
“To me, the choice of Rudy is a no-brainer,” wrote Dr. Mandell Ganchrow, a former Orthodox Union president, in his blog.
Ganchrow admitted that “under ideal circumstances, I would like our next president to be a moral and outstanding citizen who would act as a moral compass for our youth,” but said “this is no ordinary election. The war against Islamic fundamentalism dwarfs every social issue.”
Lee Cowen, a GOP consultant who is supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, said “the jury is still out” on Giuliani among Jewish Republicans, but said “he’s very familiar to our community, he’s well accepted and he is working it well.”
But Cowen said that by staking out a position opposed to Bush administration policy, Giuliani risks a backlash among Jewish Republicans “who believe President Bush is the most pro-Israel president ever.”
Among Jewish swing voters, Giuliani’s move to the right on Mideast issues could offset some of the former mayor’s “cultural advantages” with Jewish swing voters, said University of Florida political scientist Ken Wald.
“He did reasonably well in his mayoral races with Jewish voters and will probably do somewhat better among Jews in the Northeast,” Wald said. “But as I think 2008 will be a strong Democratic year, I don’t see him doing particularly well among Jews because the overall GOP vote will be down.”
Staking out a right-of-center position on Palestinian statehood “could be used against him in November in Jewish circles,” Wald said.