“We are indignant that certain Middle Eastern leaders have discarded the principle of direct negotiations between the sovereign nation of Israel and the Palestinian leadership. And we are equally indignant that the Obama administration's Middle East policy of appeasement has encouraged such an ominous act of bad faith."
-- Advance remarks of Texas Gov. Rick Perry in New York on the Palestinian bid for statehood.
President Obama is trying to simultaneously shore up his sliding stature with Jewish-Americans and retain his status as one of the leading proponents of the ongoing uprisings in the Middle East, even as the movement proves perilous for Israel.
That’s a tight corner to turn.
Obama, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, is trying to avoid having to veto a bid by the Palestinian Authority for full statehood through the use of procedural maneuvering and shuttle diplomacy between the hostile leaders of the Arab proto-state and Israel.
The president will also demonstrate his support for the uprisings, once optimistically known as the Arab Spring, when he celebrates the still-unresolved Libyan Civil war in remarks today. Obama’s decision to intervene militarily in Libya on behalf of tribal and Islamist rebels, as well as heavy diplomatic pressure on old U.S. friends subsequently toppled by revolts, has strongly established his status as the movement’s most valuable friend.
But Obama is also looking to reverse his political fortunes while he is in New York.
The ongoing revolts in the Muslim world have proved very perilous for Israel. The loss of peace partners in Egypt and the ascendancy of Iran over Saudi Arabia have left the Jewish state in a precarious position. The remaining Muslim peace partner, Turkey, continues to move away from its secular past and into a new, more anti-Israeli posture. Even Jordan, a pro-Western monarchy, has been making some unhappy noises about Tel Aviv, perhaps in a bid to keep the quietus on domestic unrest.
Meanwhile, the flash-mob technology that has been used to topple regimes around the region has been turned against Israel with mass border incursions and protests.
Obama’s encouragement of the revolutionary movement has caused deep anxiety among Israelis and their friends in the U.S. When Obama called in May for Israel to withdraw to its borders prior to its victory in the Six-Day War of 1967, many skeptics felt their suspicions had been validated.
Anti-Obama sentiment among Jewish voters, combined with pre-existing political problems for the president among blue-collar voters, led to an embarrassing defeat for Democrats in New York’s 9th Congressional District last week. That set off alarms for Democratic strategists looking at 2012 races in Florida, Pennsylvania and other swing states with large Jewish populations.
It also reinforced the problem that Obama faces in his re-election strategy.
The president on Tuesday unveiled his call for a major tax increase that would fall on individuals earning $200,000 and above. Many of his disillusioned supporters rejoiced at the news. Not only did Obama argue that the plan was necessary to pay down future deficits and curb the national debt, but that it was a matter of fairness and equity that wealthy people should pay more.
That, combined with Obama’s retreat on calls for changes to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, has restored heart to liberals who were getting ready to give up on their onetime champion. It won’t get through Congress and will cost Obama more moderate support, as Republicans are mostly just mocking the president for warning of the dangers of tax increases during a recession as recently as December, and then embracing the idea 10 months later. But it may silence the anger on the left.
This reflects a shrinking electoral map for Obama and the embrace of a reductive campaign approach for 2012. Obama will look to maximize his support on the left, which might take him to 47 percent of the electorate as currently constituted. The second step will be to shrink the electorate by driving independents away from the GOP with an unrelenting series of attacks.
It’s a strategy that aims for a narrow victory in a handful of swing states and doing so at an astronomical cost. Which brings us back to Israel and the U.N.
Obama needs the help of not just Jewish voters in November 2012 but of Jewish donors today. In order to finance a $1 billion political siege engine, Obama needs to reap heavily from big bundlers, including a goodly number of Jewish Americans.
Obama wants to remain a friend to Palestine and the Arab revolutionaries abroad but not be seen as a foe of Israel at home. It’s a tricky situation that is reflected in the fact that even as he champions the Libyan rebels and works to diffuse the Palestinian impasse, Obama is maintaining his aggressive fundraising push with Wall Street.
Banking bigwig Ralph Schlosstein hosted Obama at a fundraiser Monday night and Obama will be picking up checks again tonight at another New York event. The millions he takes from New York are all necessary for the negative campaign that lies ahead.
But, as Democrats saw in New York’s 9th, foreign policy can complicate domestic political tactics.
Republican presidential frontrunner Rick Perry will take a simpler approach today as he blasts Obama in a New York speech using the “a” word: “Appeasement.” That’s a bold claim in the politics of foreign policy, but in step with what conservative Jews are saying.
Perry is trying to polish up his international credentials, a weakness for the Texas governor. It’s also good politics for Perry because while there aren’t very many Jewish voters in Iowa or South Carolina, his fellow evangelical Christians feel strong affection for Israel.
(Watch for Perry and former frontrunner Mitt Romney to duel over which of them is more ardently pro-Israel at Thursday night’s FOX News/Google debate in Orlando.)
But it also shows that Perry is looking to exploit some cracks in Obama’s base by increasing the pressure on the president regarding Israel.
If Perry wins the Republican nomination, he probably wouldn’t win the Jewish vote in the general election. But if Jewish voters are convinced that he would be a staunch supporter of Israel, they might be more willing to deny Obama their support.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“And lastly, there is nothing on where the money is, which is entitlements. Everybody knows it's eating up half of the budget now. It will eat all of our budget in 20 years. There is nothing on entitlement reform. There is no raising of the Medicare age. There is no change in inflation measure. There is nothing here.
And this is despite Obama having hinted behind the scenes -- it had leaked in the debt reduction talk he was going to do it. He has had every chance to do it in his three years in office hasn't and once again has not.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”