DENVER — Craig Silverman invited every big-name Colorado politician he knew to speak at last week’s Rally for Israel, and he received an overwhelming response — from Republicans.
A throng of top Republicans, led by Rep. Mike Coffman and gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, came to fire up the crowd, but there was only one Democratic politician — state Rep. Rhonda Fields — even though Colorado Democrats control both legislative houses, the governor’s office and both U.S. Senate seats.
With the U.S. and other countries trying to mediate a durable cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, another enthusiasm gap between the parties is emerging this midterm year, this one targeting the shifting feelings about the deep U.S. alliance with Israel.
Mr. Silverman is thrilled with the turnout of 2,200 demonstrators at the Capitol, but he is worried about the Democratic Party’s increasingly cold shoulder toward Israel.
“Frankly, it kind of staggers me that this could be a partisan issue, but it’s becoming that way,” Mr. Silverman, a former Denver prosecutor, said on his KNUS-AM talk show. “Support for Israel among Democrats has gone way down. Among Republicans, it’s still solid. And I think that’s a damn shame, and I call on Democratic leaders to turn that around.”
The Denver rally wasn’t an outlier. President Obama’s calls for a cease-fire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, along with his administration’s recent criticism of Israel, have exposed a partisan divide that would have been unimaginable a decade ago.
Although Democrats have long counted Jews as reliable members of their voting bloc, it’s Republicans who are showing up at the demonstrations, incurring the wrath of Palestinian advocates by supporting unconditional military assistance for Israel and demanding that the White House do the same.
At a rally last week in Dallas, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, called on the Obama administration to “end our policy of calculated ambivalence and renew our commitment to a strong Israel.”
Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, told a crowd in Chicago, “We should not have a cease-fire until Hamas is militarily defeated.”
Many Democrats remain strong, outspoken supporters of the Jewish state and note that not every Republican is unabashedly pro-Israel.
Many on the Republican Party’s libertarian wing are suspicious of foreign aid programs in general and unquestioned aid and support for Israel in particular.
The Democratic National Committee issued a press release Monday blasting Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, for his 2011 proposal to cut the foreign aid budget, which would have included Israel.
Mr. Paul has since moved to shore up his relationship with Israel. In April, he introduced the Stand with Israel Act, which would impose conditions on foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority, including “formal recognition of Israel’s right to exist.”
Mr. Paul’s bill has 17 co-sponsors — all Republicans.
Polls and political binds