Debate Offers Opening to Romney With Jews

Republican May Frame Obama as Weak on Israel

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By Reuters

Published October 22, 2012.
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Though the jury is still out on Obama’s strategy to stop Iran, Romney can argue that so far, little has been done to impede Iran’s progress, and Tehran is far closer to getting their bomb than at the outset of Obama’s presidency. If Obama’s strategy fails, Israel could be eradicated.

Romney can contrast his approach to Obama’s by directly threatening military action, a sharper line than Obama’s customary position that “all options are on the table.”

He can impart a sense of urgency on the issue that the administration has seemed to lack. Vice President Joe Biden offered Romney a perfect foil during the vice presidential debate with his admonition, “Let’s all calm down a little bit here” about the Iranian threat.

The Israeli-Palestinian question offers multiple avenues for a Romney attack, starting with the widespread perception that Obama has tilted more to the Palestinians than previous presidents.

Obama’s contention that negotiations should begin with the assumption that the result must be a return to the pre-1967 Arab-Israeli borders is regarded by many as a subtle shift in policy - which means the Palestinians will have already won a concession. One, Romney might note, that puts Israel back to a perilous time when its narrowest width was nine miles.

The confusion over Obama’s posture toward Jerusalem is also ready-made for Romney. The Democratic Party platform initially omitted its usual assertion that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The addition of such language had to be railroaded through over the opposition of many Democratic convention goers.

Fifty-one percent of Jews oppose compromising on Jerusalem, according to an August 2010 Brandeis University poll, compared to only 29 percent who would even talk about the issue.

Obama’s frosty relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is another issue Romney can highlight. Netanyahu is strongly supported by American Jews, though he is far more conservative than they are. And Romney is personally close to Netanyahu - he has known him for decades and worked with him as well.

Obama also strongly supported the Egyptian revolution, which has led to a regime less friendly to Israel than that of Hosni Mubarak - and less able or willing to control extremist elements operating against Israel out of the Sinai.

Meanwhile, Obama has been hesitant to aggressively back the overthrow of Israel’s longtime nemesis, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the enduring partner of the anti-Israeli terrorist outfit, Hezbollah.

Romney has a unique opportunity to use all these issues to frame himself as the guardian of Israel’s future. He needs to raise enough questions in the minds of Jewish voters about what kind of harm Obama will do to Israel once he no longer needs the Jewish vote.

He could even open the debate with the classic joke about the Jewish telegram: “Start worrying. Details to follow.”


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