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How Liberal Democrats Who Support Israel Might Think about the Election

Alan Dershowitz

Photo Credit: Gidon Markowicz/Flash90

Let me begin by categorically stating that no president has ever completely satisfied me with regard to his policies toward Israel. Every single president, Republican and Democrat alike, has refused to do the right thing when it comes to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There may be room for disagreement about some parts of Jerusalem that were captured by Israel during its defensive war with Jordan, but there is no room for disagreement about the status of West Jerusalem, where the Knesset, the Israeli Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s office, and the President’s residence have always been located. I have been and will remain critical of any president who wrongly believes that recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and placing our embassy there will make it more difficult to achieve peace.

I have also disagreed with presidents, both Republican and Democrat, who have suggested that Israel’s settlement policy is the major barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The major barrier has always been, and remains, the Palestinians’ unwillingness to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, to renounce their absurd claim to a so-called “right of return,” and to accept reasonable offers from Israel regarding the borders of the West Bank. Though I have long been opposed to Israel’s settlement policy on humanitarian and democratic grounds, I insist that the continuing occupation is largely the result of Palestinian refusal to accept the reasonable compromises offered by Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert. If the Palestinians had been prepared to accept such reasonable compromises, the occupation would end, as would the concerns over humanitarian and democratic issues. The same might be true if the Palestinians were now prepared to negotiate a two-state solution with no preconditions. At bottom, therefore, this dispute is more about land than it is about human rights, because the Palestinians can secure their human rights by being willing to compromise over land, as the Jews did both in 1938, when they accepted the Peel Commission Report, and in 1948 when they accepted the UN Partition Plan.

There have been better and worse presidents when it comes to Israel; some of the best have been Republicans, as have some of the worst. Some of the best have been Democrats, as have been some of the worst. No president has been perfect, and no president has been perfectly bad. (Though Eisenhower may have come close.)

Most presidents have had mixed records, generally supportive of Israel’s security. President Reagan, for example, who is often put forward as the model of a pro-Israel president, voted to condemn Israel for its entirely proper decision to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. And President Carter, who is put forward as the model of an anti-Israel president, helped bring about a cold peace with Egypt.

The glory of American politics, with regard to support for Israel’s security, is that over the years it has been largely bipartisan. It remains so under President Obama.

It is imperative that this election not be turned into a referendum over Israel’s security in which a vote for the Republican candidate is seen as a vote in favor of Israel’s security, while a vote for the Democratic candidate is seen as a vote against Israel’s security. Such a perception could prove disastrous for Israel since it is very possible—indeed in my view likely—that President Obama will be reelected, and that his reelection will not turn on differences between him and Romney over Israel’s security. That is why I am so concerned about the approach taken by those who argue that every Jew who supports Israel must vote for Mitt Romney, because President Obama’s record on Israel is far from perfect.

When I decide who to vote for in a presidential election, I do not look for perfection. If I did, I would have to stay home. I look for the better candidate based on a wide variety of factors. For example, as a civil libertarian, I was distressed by President Clinton’s regressive policies with regard to criminal justice. I strongly opposed his “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I criticized his inaction in Rwanda, and the lateness of his involvement in the former Yugoslavia. But I voted for him enthusiastically because he was so much better than the two candidates against whom he ran.

I remain critical of some of President Obama’s policies, as I was of some of Governor Romney’s policies when he led my state of Massachusetts. But only when it comes to Israel and President Obama does perfection seem to be the test. This test of perfection is put forward largely by Republicans who would never vote for President Obama, regardless of his views on Israel. There are, to be sure, some Democrats, and even some who voted for Obama the first time, who are now prepared to shift allegiances because of their disapproval of Obama’s Israel policies. That is their prerogative in a democracy. But those of us who have a different view should not be labeled as anti-Israel or insufficiently supportive of Jewish values.

I approve of President Obama’s policies on the rights of women, gays and racial and religious minorities. I support his health care bill, his approach to immigration and to taxes, and his appointments to the Supreme Court. If I believed that his foreign policies endangered Israel’s security, that would weigh heavily on my decision how to vote. But instead I believe that there would be no major differences between a President Obama and a President Romney when it comes to Israel’s security.

I will continue to be critical of policies with which I disagree and supportive of policies with which I agree, without regard to the political affiliation of the president. I will vote for the presidential candidate who I believe is best for America and for the world, and in making that calculation I will consider their policies toward Israel because I believe that strong support for Israel’s security is good for America and for the world. And I will try my best to see that support for Israel’s security remains a bipartisan issue, despite the well-intentioned but misguided efforts of some to make such support a wedge issue and the election a referendum that Israel could lose.

This is at least how I, as a liberal Democrat, think about the coming election for President of the United States.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

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3 Responses to “How Liberal Democrats Who Support Israel Might Think about the Election”

  1. Anonymous says:

    You may have seen good and bad from both sides of the aisle, but I will tell you this, you have not seen the worst. Re-election will bring you that oportunity. You merely need to look at the 'history' of the candidates, that's all.

  2. Good article. I respect you opinion which you are entitled to. I just don't see it that way. I did not vote for Barack Obama the last time and I'll tell you one reason… anyone who stayed in Reverend Write's church for 20 years and listened to that vitriol or even stayed there and did not listen was a big Red Flag for me and then to leave only due to political pressure when he should have left well before he ran for President. I was willing to give him an honest chance, but he has proven to me that he is more a politician first and a president second. Although I have heard he supports Israel, I don't think he is motivated by anything but politics and I don't feel sincerity when he speaks about Israel, when he does speak about it. Frankly with everything he has not accomplished in the last three + years, I don't believe him at all. He is charismatic and that is why in the long run he is so popular. People wanted change and many felt they would be labeled racist if they did not vote for him… too bad because of all the presidents we know the least about him and still don't really know who he is. I do not believe America is better off at all and I am worried how much more governmental power he will take in the next four years. I think the way the "Obama care" was gone about was a travesty. I see the numbers and problems going up til the point where the doctors' practices will be ruled by the insurance companies, even more than now, where law suits will continue to define how people are treated, where many business will not provide health insurance to the point they do now or at all, etc. etc. Already Excellus Blue Cross is asking for a 6% increase. I was denied a medication that works for me because it was not generic.The generics are not working for me the way I would prefer.It Didn't matter what my doctor thought. I think it remains to be seen how expensive this is going to get. Doctors I have spoken with are so fed up with how medicine is going these days including the over regulation which may not be all Obama's fault but something is not right. May not be so great with Romney either but I'll take my chances with change in the rare chance change will happen soon. I innately do not believe much of what Obama says. I guess I don't trust him. And most of all I just don't think he is a real proponent of Israel and I don't think many Israelis including their President feel that either. All the other stuff, gay marriage, support for women, etc etc. is important but secondary to what is going on economically in America. And economics has gotten worse with all his incentives many of which failed. In fact it is pretty obvious to me he supports gay marriage because it is the politicly the best position for him to take. I would respect him more if he admitted his true feelings on the matter but supported it because that is what he feels is best for our country or if that his what the people vote on that that is what they want not what will win him the election. I also don't respect his campaign tactics because again it is another election based on bashing the other candidate and staying away from important issues (because they have not gone well) and one more thing he promised transparency and that is one promise I would have like to see. I don't vote based on political party affiliation but both parties make this such an issue of what the "party believe" and no moderation seems to be tolerated. That is just not how I think. And I know plenty of Jews that will not be voting for Obama for similar reasons… they don't believe that he is supportive of Israel.

  3. Good article. I respect you opinion which you are entitled to. I just don't see it that way. I did not vote for Barack Obama the last time and I'll tell you one reason… anyone who stayed in Reverend Write's church for 20 years and listened to that vitriol or even stayed there and did not listen was a big Red Flag for me and then to leave only due to political pressure when he should have left well before he ran for President. I was willing to give him an honest chance, but he has proven to me that he is more a politician first and a president second. Although I have heard he supports Israel, I don't think he is motivated by anything but politics and I don't feel sincerity when he speaks about Israel, when he does speak about it. Frankly with everything he has not accomplished in the last three + years, I don't believe him at all. He is charismatic and that is why in the long run he is so popular. People wanted change and many felt they would be labeled racist if they did not vote for him… too bad because of all the presidents we know the least about him and still don't really know who he is. I do not believe America is better off at all and I am worried how much more governmental power he will take in the next four years. I think the way the "Obama care" was gone about was a travesty. I see the numbers and problems going up til the point where the doctors' practices will be ruled by the insurance companies, even more than now, where law suits will continue to define how people are treated, where many business will not provide health insurance to the point they do now or at all, etc. etc. Already Excellus Blue Cross is asking for a 6% increase. I was denied a medication that works for me because it was not generic.The generics are not working for me the way I would prefer.It Didn't matter what my doctor thought. I think it remains to be seen how expensive this is going to get. Doctors I have spoken with are so fed up with how medicine is going these days including the over regulation which may not be all Obama's fault but something is not right. May not be so great with Romney either but I'll take my chances with change in the rare chance change will happen soon. I innately do not believe much of what Obama says. I guess I don't trust him. And most of all I just don't think he is a real proponent of Israel and I don't think many Israelis including their President feel that either. All the other stuff, gay marriage, support for women, etc etc. is important but secondary to what is going on economically in America. And economics has gotten worse with all his incentives many of which failed. In fact it is pretty obvious to me he supports gay marriage because it is the politicly the best position for him to take. I would respect him more if he admitted his true feelings on the matter but supported it because that is what he feels is best for our country or if that his what the people vote on that that is what they want not what will win him the election. I also don't respect his campaign tactics because again it is another election based on bashing the other candidate and staying away from important issues (because they have not gone well) and one more thing he promised transparency and that is one promise I would have like to see. I don't vote based on political party affiliation but both parties make this such an issue of what the "party believe" and no moderation seems to be tolerated. That is just not how I think. And I know Jews that will not be voting for Obama for similar reasons… they don't believe that he is supportive of Israel of Israel. And those who won't vote for Romney because he is Mormon are very troublesome to me as far as their motivations are concerned.

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