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GLICK: Obama and Israel

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OP-ED:

Decades ago, the writer Milton Himmelfarb coined a phrase about American Jews:

"They earn like Episcopalians, but they vote like Puerto Ricans." Because of their sociopolitical DNA, most American Jews will vote for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama in the fall. In fact,if the presidential race is close, they will determine its outcome, because so many of them live in California, Florida, New York, Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

These are the states with the largest number of electors in the Electoral College. As the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000 proved -with or without a George W. Bush-Al Gore match-up - one wins the American presidency not by winning a majority of the popular vote, but by winning a majority of the votes cast in the Electoral College.

In pre-Great Depression days, most Jews voted Republican. But ever since the New Deal era of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they have reflexively voted Democratic no matter what. In 1946, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, the leader of American Zionism, warned that the Democrats would eventually take America's Jews for granted. This has come to pass. Today´s Democrats court Jewish votes and money, of course, but otherwise they ignore or trifle with issues, such as the role of merit in American society and the security of the state of Israel, that are of great concern to American Jewry.

One of the decisions that American Jews will have to wrestle with between now and November is whether and the extent to which Mr. Obama favors Israel. A primary input in their decision is how they react to the fact that Mr. Obama has surrounded himself with perceived anti-Israel counselors like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Democratic Rep. David Bonior, the most anti-Israel member of the House; Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, perhaps the most anti-Israel member of the Senate; retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, a former Air Force chief of staff; and Joseph Cirincione, former director of nuclear policy at the Center for American Progress, who, despite Iran´s threats to annihilate Israel, wants the latter to reduce or eliminate its nuclear capability.

On non-Israel matters, American Jews will have to decide just how strongly they regard fighting for our vital national interests. Future historians, with the benefit of hindsight, may write that the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were wrongly conceived and wrongly acted upon. But do contemporary American Jews agree with the Democratic left that we have no national interest worth fighting for, and that in any case, the protection of our vital national interests are best subordinated to so-called soft power and to the wishes of Europe, the United Nations, or world public opinion? Do Jews agree with the politically correct, postmodernist view that there are no evil people in this world, only misunderstood and oppressed ones? Do they believe that, no matter how bad things get in the 21st century, war is no longer a moral and viable option? Or do they feel that war is sometimes the only option?

American Jews are now an integral part of the the nation's body politic. Two of them sit on the nine-member Supreme Court, 13 sit in the 100-member Senate and 30 are in the 435-member House of Representatives. Yet, as dwellers in the Judaic diaspora, they must always ask themselves if presidential candidates, besides being good for the country they live in, will be good for Jews and for the things they care about.

If they conclude that Mr. Obama (Democrat) isn't good for them and for the United States, then they will push Republican Sen. John McCain over the top and he will become the next president of the United States.

Edward Bernard Glick is a professor emeritus of political science at Temple University.

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