Israel National News: U.S. Presidential Hopefuls Running after Jewish Voters
ZOA in the news
November 9, 2007

U.S. Presidential Hopefuls Running after Jewish Voters
by Sarah Morrison

Arutz Sheva / Israel National News, November 9, 2007

( American Jewish support is becoming increasingly critical for Presidential hopefuls as the United States’ Middle East policy tries to shape Israel’s future, according to a senior Democratic party leader.

The candidates know that “they cannot be a serious contender for the Presidency if they do not stand strong on Israel,” declared Hillel Schenker, Vice Chairman of Democrats Abroad, an organization for American citizens in countries outside the United States.

Democratic candidate Senator Hillary Clinton has, by far, the most experience dealing with the Middle East of all the likely presidential candidates, according to Schenker.

However, history tells us that “a candidate who becomes President changes his policy once in office,” observed Steve Goldberg, a Los Angeles lawyer who serves as the National Vice President of the Zionist Organization of America. “Both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were unequivocal in their support of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem when they were running for President, but neither kept his promise. Pro-Israel advocates in the United States expect that a President will not keep all of his or her promises once elected.”

He pointed out that although “she [Senator Clinton] wants Jerusalem to stay the indivisible capital, there is a prevailing view that she would actively broker an agreement with the Palestinians, even if it included sharing the sovereignty of Jerusalem.”

Senator Clinton “has been very active in Israel for a very long time,” Schenker claimed. “Her time as First Lady [married to former President Bill Clinton] gave her a lot of experience in the Middle East. She has visited there many times and has been active in promoting the peace process, along with her husband. Senator Clinton does the most important thing to help: she promotes the peace process,” he added.

Schenker also revealed that if elected, Senator Clinton plans to appoint a senior ambassador to the Middle East to work specifically on Israeli-Arab peace. He stated that the other Democratic candidates share similar positions on the Middle East, although most of them have not taken specific positions beyond maintaining they are friends of the Jewish state.

Senators Clinton and Barack Obama are slotted to appear next week at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly, where four thousand Jewish leaders from around the world come together for an annual conference. Senator Obama has taken a more dovish stand than his front-running opponent on Iran while not defining specific positions toward the shape and size of a proposed new Arab state within Israel’s current borders.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the most open of the Presidential candidates on Israel. He “most forcefully advocates the neo-conservative position about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism and has the most support among Jewish foreign policy makers,” according to Goldberg.

Giuliani is no stranger to dealing with terrorists. His city became the international symbol for the fight against terrorism on September 11, 2001, when radical Islam brought down the city’s World Trade Center and changed the New York City skyline forever. This unfortunate experience is fuel for Mayor Giuliani’s intolerance for radical Islam. He has stated on many occasions that he will not negotiate with terrorists and will defend Israel’s right to be an independent state.

“Giuliani has stated that there should be no negotiations with the Palestinians until terrorism has stopped and the incitement of anti-Jewish hatred in mosques, schools, and media has been halted,” Goldberg said. “Giuliani has also indicated that he will not be shy to use military force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”

Goldberg said that it is likely that the other major Republican candidates hold positions similar to Giuliani’s regarding the Middle East. Senator John McCain has tried to focus on a victory in Iraq as being beneficial to Israel, while expressing fierce opposition to negotiating with Hamas. The Arizona Republican also has called for step-by-step negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) but has not detailed how he envisions the future borders of Israel.

Although traditionally Democratic, a sizeable and growing minority of Jews are beginning to vote Republican because of the party’s general opposition to negotiating with terrorists. Democrats generally easily win the ballot of residents in foreign countries, except for Israel, where expatriate Americans tend to show stronger favoritism towards Republican candidates.

The tense recount of Florida votes in the 2004 presidential elections emphasized the importance of every vote. Only 573 votes separated American President George W. Bush and challenger Al Gore. With an estimated 3,000-4,000 Florida Democrats in Israel, the Jewish state’s absentee ballots were pivotal. There are more than seven million American voters living outside the United States, but Israel has the highest percentage of U.S. citizens voting in the American elections compared to any other country in the world. In the European bloc, including England and France, where many expatriate Americans reside, the percentage is between 40-45%. In Israel it is 60-65%.

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