OpinionJewish Diaspora

Abandoning Jerusalem is a losing electoral strategy

Out of 14 issues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was ranked as the least important issue in the country right now.

The Israeli flag posted near a U.S. rally for the release of hostages Hanas kidnapped from Israel and have kept captive in the Gaza Strip. Credit: TaurusY/Shutterstock
The Israeli flag posted near a U.S. rally for the release of hostages Hanas kidnapped from Israel and have kept captive in the Gaza Strip. Credit: TaurusY/Shutterstock
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

With polls indicating that U.S. President Joe Biden’s re-election chances are getting slimmer, his campaign advisers have been pushing him to the left and seeking to mollify progressives by more bellicosely criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and punishing Israel by suspending arms deliveries. The more voluble demonizers of the Jewish state are drowning out the pro-Israel majority within his base. If he doesn’t listen to them, perhaps he will heed the advice of veteran Democratic pollster Mark Penn, who explained in The New York Times why Biden’s campaign strategy is flawed.

The president panicked over the vociferous faction of Arab and Muslim voters in the critical swing state of Michigan. Penn believes the 101,000 people who voted “uncommitted” are going to ultimately vote for Biden rather than Donald “Muslim ban” Trump. More important, he noted, is that 300,000 Nikki Haley votes are up for grabs and that many of them could be won over with a pro-Israel message that focused on pressuring Hamas to release the hostages. Those voters, he said, could also help him in Pennsylvania, where Haley received 158,000 votes.

The election is going to be decided by independents. Penn related that their views are very different than those of the anti-Israel crowd. The April Harvard CAPS-Harris poll found that 84% support Israel more than Hamas, and 63% want the hostages released before a ceasefire. Out of 14 issues, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was ranked as the least important issue in the country today.

“The more Biden has pandered to the left by softening his support of Israel, the weaker he looks and the more his foreign policy ratings have declined,” wrote Penn. “Rather than pull decisively away from Israel, Mr. Biden should instead find a plan that enables Israel to go into Rafah and that has enough precautions for Rafah’s civilians so the American president can back it.”

Penn didn’t talk about the youth vote, but the season’s voice of reason—comedian Bill Maher—noted that Biden will not lose their support over Gaza. Of the 15.2 million undergraduate students, an infinitesimal fraction is protesting the war. The 2,300 people who were arrested, many of whom were not students, represent .015% of undergraduates. He cited a poll (the Harvard Youth poll) which found that the top concerns of 18- to 29-year-olds are inflation, healthcare and housing, and that Israel/Palestine was 15th out of 16 choices. Young black and Hispanics had similar opinions. Also, look at the locations of the most committed protesters—the solidly blue states of New York, California and Massachusetts.

Penn did mention that black pastors had warned the White House that Biden’s Gaza war policy could threaten his re-election. The Washington Post published a full-page article to this effect, titled “Gaza war shakes Biden’s support in black community.” It was not until the 22nd paragraph that the writer reported that “recent polls have shown declining support among the demographic since 2020, nationally and in battleground states” (emphasis added). In the Harvard poll, 67% of blacks supported Israel over Hamas (as did 73% of Hispanics). In that poll, out of 14 issues, the Israeli-Hamas conflict was near the bottom of their priority list (only terrorism and the environment were lower).

Biden and Trump each have a base of about 40% of the electorate. That means the remaining 20% will determine the next president. Rather than continuing to pander to the voters in his base, Penn concludes that for Biden to pick up swing voters, he needs to move to the center and strengthen his image as a leader by backing Israel’s offensive to destroy Hamas.

College presidents should also take note of the data. They have chosen to listen to the vocal but minuscule number of Hamas supporters. By appeasing students who are disrupting campuses, they have sacrificed their moral authority and damaged the image of their universities. They’ve conveyed weakness, disrespect for most of their students and faculty, and disregard for Jews on campus. It’s too bad that they don’t have to stand for election because many would be voted out of office.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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