A dustup between the Emergency Committee for Israel and the American Jewish Committee offered a taste of things to come, a little over one year before the 2012 presidential election.
The ECI, founded by William Kristol as a forum for conservative support for Israel, lambasted President Obama in a full-page ad in the Sept. 19 New York Times. “Over the past two and a half years, President Obama has built a record that is not pro-Israel,” according to the ad. “He tells Jews they cannot build in Jerusalem; he has criticized Israel at the UN; he has pressured Israel to apologize to terrorists; he seeks the division of Jerusalem.”
The ad drew a rebuke from the AJC’s executive director, David Harris. “This ad is highly objectionable, indeed counter-productive, to its stated aim of supporting Israel,” wrote Harris, who has tended to steer his organization on a centrist course. “As the UN session begins and high diplomatic drama is expected, to choose this moment to assail the Obama administration, when it laudably has announced its intention, come what may, to block Palestinian ambitions in the Security Council and work against a Palestinian-initiated resolution in the General Assembly, makes us wonder what are the true goals of the sponsoring group.”
This “Tale of Two Committees” foreshadows what is bound to be a strident campaign. With the loss of Anthony Weiner’s New York congressional seat to a Republican underdog, pro-Israel members of the GOP are pretty sure they have found Obama’s Achilles heel. Indeed, GOP frontrunner Rick Perry was joined by Danny Danon, a Knesset member and settlement leader, when he delivered a speech accusing the president of “appeasement” and putting Israel “in a position of weakness.”
In the months to come, expect ads from the Republican Jewish Coalition attacking Obama and framing the election as a “referendum” on his policies. Expect the National Jewish Democratic Council to counter with news releases detailing “Obama’s strong record of support for Israel.” And expect the mainstream Jewish organizations to defend the notion — in vain, no doubt — that Israel shouldn’t be made a partisan issue.
Fasten your seatbelts.