By JONATHAN WOLFMAN
While I expect that at least 75% of my fellow Jews will vote for the president (as we did in ’08 by 78%), I also know that numbers of well-educated Jews, Jews with a social conscience and a history of personal and professional expansiveness, will vote for Mr. Romney because, while they do not particularly like the man, they believe that the president’s re-election bodes ill for Israel.
I could not disagree more.
Now, I am a Zionist. I believe that, given the history, the Jewish state, an intellectually, financially, and militarily robust Israel, is absolutely essential for my family and for Jews world-wide. I have no doubt that, were Israel not to exist, my life, my family’s, and Jews’ lives all over, would not be worth a plugged nickel. A destroyed or seriously marginalized Israel would immediately announce an Open Season on Jews everywhere. The right wing parties in Europe and in Latin America — mind you, the latter welcomed the Eichmanns of this world after the Second War, after all — and the militias here would without doubt read the new situation in ways lethal to Jews.
My people have as much a right to live and thrive as any.
A former student of mine, a rabbi, a very thoughtful guy, several weeks back told me he doesn’t like Mr. Romney but will vote for the man because he’s convinced that the face the president has offered to Israel is a dangerous one.
I thought about this for a while before responding. Yet I knew, of course, that I did not ever see the president, as to Israel, as he does. I think the president sees a strong Israel as the essential American asset that it is and has been in the Near East, southern Europe, and in North Africa, even in the years prior to statehood in ’48. And I say this, of course, knowing some Jews do not hold with my sense of Mr. Obama’s commitment to Israel.
I want to share here precisely why I’d find the election of Mr. Romney a peril to Israel. And again, I’ll say that none of this is about, can be about, one incident. It’s about Mr. Romney’s entire, almost dismissive approach to the issues as he articulated it at that Boca fundraiser. I found it carelessly, dismissively chilling. Watching Mr. Romney’s discussion on that tape of the Near East, I was able to name what inside me moved me as a Zionist to trust the former governor far less than I do Mr. Obama.
This is what I wrote to my former student.
Having listened several times now to Mr. Romney’s talk to that donor group at Boca, including his answers to queries on Israel, it occurs to me that his stated view is quite dangerous. Mr. Romney said, astonishingly, that it’s simply no use engaging Israel and its enemies in ongoing talks or any real kind of back-and-forth, that it’s just better to “kick the ball down the field”. This punt isn’t really a position; it’s resignation.
As ”policy,” that’d be far more disastrous to Israel than the point-counterpoint, sometimes fractious nature of the relationship between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama. This is because the primary message that Mr. Romney’s words hold for terrorist organizations and Iran is that a Romney win will signal a developing and then a thoroughgoing vacuum and that, a laying off of deep American involvement, is precisely what Hamas, Hezbolla, and Iran would find a gift, an enormous gift.
The only counter I could see to that would be to believe that Mr. Romney would and very shortly back Israel 100%, in effect join Israel in all-out pre-emptive assault on Iran, a war in which Israel would have to defend all its borders and its airspace at once, and I don’t know of anyone or read anyone who, on serious reflection, believes that would be good for Israel or for the US, Europe, (or for world Jewry).
I ended saying that I’d welcome his take on my sense of the effect(s) of Mr. Romney’s attitude/potential election, and I expect our exchange will continue well after the election. I welcome your take as well.
Jonathan Wolfman blogs at http://open.salon.com/blog/jlw1.