Most of Pro-Israel Community Rallying Behind Gore but Muslim- and Arab-Americans Far from United

By H, Richard | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 3, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Most of Pro-Israel Community Rallying Behind Gore but Muslim- and Arab-Americans Far from United


H, Richard, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Most of Pro-Israel Community Rallying Behind Gore But Muslim-and Arab-Americans Far From United

People who regularly read a couple of daily newspapers carefully don't have any trouble following which presidential candidates are anointed by the Israel lobby and its media supporters. The Friends of Israel humor, but don't pay serious attention to, the pro-Israel candidates doomed to be also-rans. Instead, like all of the media, the pro-Israel journalists concentrate on potential winners.

In the Democratic race, Vice President Al Gore has been the favorite of the Israel lobby since the primary campaign began. And, in a March 3 article in the pro-Likud Jerusalem Post, Washington correspondent Janine Zacharia reported that already he "is the clear-cut Jewish favorite in the upcoming presidential elections."

To make sure things stay that way, Gore told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations March 6, the day before "Super Tuesday" primary elections, that "in a Gore administration, there will be one constant during any negotiations that we facilitate -- the United States must have an absolute, uncompromising commitment to Israel's security and Israel alone must decide the steps to ensure that security."

Asked about moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a matter on which he had previously supported the Clinton administration position of waiting until final status negotiations have been completed, this time Gore said his views are "the same as your desires." And on what a Gore administration would do if a Palestinian state is established outside the Mideast peace process, he responded: "I would consult with the government of Israel to see what the most helpful response from Israel's view might be. That would have a great deal of influence for me."

Gore's consistent pro-Israel positions have been on display since his first run for the presidency. Even after Bill Clinton earned the title of "most pro-Israeli president in U.S. history," both in the Israeli press and America's weekly Jewish community newspapers, there was always the feeling that while Clinton had adopted his pro-Israel bias as a matter of political expediency, Gore's pro-Israel outlook was even more genuine than Republican President Ronald Reagan's, whose formative political years were spent in Hollywood, and whose Middle East policy was largely based on the premise that whatever was desired by any incumbent Israeli government was good for the United States.

On the other hand, since Israel endured more real pressure to enter into peace negotiations with the Palestinians during the four years of the Bush administration than at any time since the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961, Friends of Israel cocked a wary eye at President Bush's son, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, from the time "W's" role as the anointed candidate of the Republican establishment became obvious.

The Israel lobby's approach was two-fold. The dean of Jewish Republicans, Detroit multi-millionaire Max Fisher, announced his endorsement of George W even before the primary campaign got seriously underway. His ally, Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which is an arm of the Republican Party aimed at attracting Jewish support, did the same.

The endorsement means little in terms of votes, since most American Jews, no matter how prosperous they have become, tend to embrace liberal causes and vote Democratic, particularly in presidential races. In fact, support for Israel always outweighs economic or class interests in reinforcing that tendency. Exit polls showed about 85 percent of American Jews voted for the Clinton-Gore ticket against Bush Sr. 1992. They topped that record in 1996 by giving the Clinton-Gore ticket about 88 percent of their votes against Sen. Robert Dole.

In fact, there have been only two times in recent history when the Jewish vote has not gone overwhelmingly for the Democratic nominee.

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