By E.J. Kessler

Published October 15, 2004, issue of October 15, 2004.
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Nice Save: During the presidential debate in St. Louis, President Bush made a comment about Israel that cheered his neoconservative Jewish supporters, who prefer his thumb-in-the-eye approach to the Europeans to the multilateralism supported by Senator John Kerry.

“You know, I’ve made some decisions on Israel that are unpopular,” Bush said. “I wouldn’t deal with [Yasser] Arafat, because I felt like he had let the former president down, and I don’t think he’s the kind of person that can lead toward a Palestinian state. And people in Europe didn’t like that decision. And that was unpopular, but it was the right thing to do.”

It was a nice save, considering that Vice President Cheney had used phrases during the vice presidential debate last week that had some Jewish observers wondering whether the former Halliburton chieftain was reverting to the Arabist diplomacy of the Texas oil patch — that is to say, what most Jews initially expected from the Bush team. Answering a question on Israel, Cheney stressed that “in respect to Israel and Palestine,” Bush is the “first president ever to say we’ll establish and support a Palestinian state next door to Israelis.” While he put forth the claim, disputed by most analysts, that the reason “we don’t have as many suicide attacks today in Israel as we’ve had in the past is because Saddam is no longer in business,” and he called for “reform of the Palestinian system” to bring an interlocutor more trustworthy than Arafat, the thrust of his remarks championed a Palestinian state.

In answer to the same question, Senator John Edwards tried a Clintonian maneuver. He felt Israel’s pain, almost tearing up as he recounted how he was in Jerusalem in August 2001, on the day a suicide bomber murdered 15 people, including six children, at the Sbarro pizzeria.

“What are the Israeli people supposed to do? How can they continue to watch Israeli children killed by suicide bombers, killed by terrorists?” Edwards said passionately. “They have not only the right but the obligation to defend themselves.” He added: “[I]t’s important for America to confront the situation in Iran, because Iran is an enormous threat to Israel and to the Israeli people.”

* * *

Chabad Voters?: The Republican National Committee is looking to the Chabad houses of Florida to be the Jewish equivalent of the evangelical Christian churches, an engine of voter turnout for the Bush-Cheney ticket.

During the past week, Republicans have held three events at Chabad synagogues in Bal Harbour, Fort Lauderdale and Boynton Beach with former Bush policy aide Jay Lefkowitz and Orthodox outreach maven Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.

The events are designed with one goal in mind.

“We’re looking to turn out voters, to make sure that people who are registered and inclined actually do vote on Election Day,” said Michael Fragin, an aide to New York Governor George Pataki, who is on leave to run the RNC’s South Florida Jewish outreach operation. Fragin acknowledged that Orthodox Jews vote in lower percentages than the rest of the Jewish community. Nevertheless, the GOP has set its sights on 30% to 35% of the Floridian Jewish vote, given that the state has many “tradition-minded” elderly voters, he said.

In a related story, Americans United for Separation of Church and State rapped Kerry for campaigning in black churches.

* * *

Congressional Contributions: Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, known on the stump for his light touch and command of domestic issues, helped Kerry prepare for Wednesday night’s debate in Tempe, Ariz., according to a report in The Boston Globe. It seems that Frank, king of congressional one-liners, was charged with helping the dour Kerry lighten up and crack some jokes. So, if Kerry came off as witty, the nation can thank “Borscht-Belt Barney.”

On the other side of the aisle, if Bush wins Minnesota, which has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1972, it will be in large measure because of the aid of another Jewish lawmaker, the Gopher State’s junior senator, Norm Coleman. Coleman has given his campaign manager over to the Bush campaign, so if Bush wins the state, it likely will be along the lines of Coleman’s win of this so-called Jewish Senate seat. Former Minnesota senator Rudy Boschwitz told the Forward that he is “optimistic” about a Bush win because Republicans “have expended an enormous amount of effort on the ground.”

* * *

Slapping Sinclair: The vice president of the Sinclair Broadcast Group — which caused a stir this week with its decision to pre-empt regular programming on its 62 stations to run an anti-Kerry documentary during prime time — is provoking the ire of the Anti-Defamation League.

In explaining his decision to run the anti-Kerry video, “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” about Kerry’s anti-war testimony to Congress in 1971, the company’s vice president, Mark Hyman, told The Washington Post that networks that rejected the documentary “are acting like Holocaust deniers.”

In a letter to the Post, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman called Hyman’s analogy “grossly inappropriate… insensitive and painful” and said: “He should repudiate the comment.”

* * *

Israeli Experts: The Kerry campaign is seizing on a new report by a prominent Israeli think tank to bolster its contention that the Iraq war is a distraction from the war on terrorism.

A prominent Kerry surrogate on national security affairs, Admiral William Crowe, former head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited the report of Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies during a conference call with reporters Monday.

Crowe called the report “fresh information” from “an independent study” that “supports what Senator Kerry has been saying all along.”

The center argued in the report that the Iraq war has not damaged international Islamic terror groups, but in fact has “created momentum for many terrorist elements, but chiefly Al Qaeda and its affiliates,” according to The Associated Press.

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