The 2012 presidential debates are underway, and the race for the 45th president of the United States is in full swing. On university campuses around the country, students are gearing up for the elections, getting informed, and deciding which presidential candidate will best suit their needs.
Young people, (ages 18-29) account for 21 percent of the voting population entitled to vote, according to civicyouth.org. According to yda.org, in the 2008 elections, 62 percent of youth enrolled in college cast their votes, in contrast with the 36 percent of youth who voted, but did not attend college.
For Zionist students, foreign policy, and particularly the candidates’ positions on Israel and the Middle East, play a pivotal role when choosing their candidate. For many of these students, Israel is ultimately the deciding factor in determining for which candidate they will cast their vote.
American University junior and Voorhees, New Jersey resident Gabe Duec told The Jewish Press that the only thing standing in the way of his voting for Obama are the current President’s positions regarding foreign policy.
“I don’t care that Obama hasn’t gone to Israel—Bush didn’t go until late in his second term,” Duec said. “I do care that Obama isn’t taking as hard of a line against terrorism and extreme Islamism in the Middle East, and in my opinion Romney is much better for Israel right now, especially if Netanyahu gets re-elected.”
However, Duec is hoping for Romney to find his way into the White House, but for a Democratic controlled Congress.
Currently, one of the major concerns for both the United States and Israel is the issue of Iran’s rapidly growing nuclear program.
Yiriel Liss of Sharon, Massachusetts, is a sophomore at Yeshiva University in New York, and specifically concerned with the safety of the U.S. and Israel, and believes that Iran’s nuclear program demands immediate and serious attention.
“Neither candidate is outspoken enough in decrying the alarming rate at which the Iranians are building their nuclear weapons, and that itself is tantamount to anti-Zionism,” Liss said. “Instead of focusing on who would tax us more, the candidates should be explaining to us their policies on foreign affairs, and specifically the calamities befalling the other nations throughout the world.”
Liss, who studied in Israel for two years, believes the world has failed to provide sufficient support to the tiny country, which has produced technological and medical advancements of epic proportions, sharing its innovations with the world. Liss has deemed it “our duty to help save indefensible countries from destruction,” and expects to see more than, “laughable sanctions and little pats on the back,” and hopes that whichever candidate is elected will emphatically defend the Jewish homeland.
It seems as though for Israel-conscious students, Mitt Romney is the best option for Israel, though many of these student-voters don’t necessarily identify themselves as Republicans.
“This year we saw that Jerusalem, as the capital of Israel, was taken out of the Democratic party’s platform, and after immense pressure from Jewish groups it was forced back in, against the Democratic National Convention’s own rules,” said Aaron Elkin, a native of Broomall, Pennsylvania and a freshman at Cornell University. “It seems clearer than ever that Mitt Romney is the real supporter of Israel. He, unlike President Obama, understands the stakes of a nuclear Iran and the premature talks with Palestinian partners who refuse to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state.”
Elkin’s standpoint is clear, and though Obama is a supporter of Israel, Elkin belives he has only done the bare minimum in order to propitiate the majority of the Jewish public.
“Obama has done what is necessary to please major Jewish interest groups, that’s it,” Elkin said. “Is he truly behind Israel? I think not.”
Generally, the younger, pro-Israel population enrolled in universities seem to heavily favor Romney. Obama has not been nearly aggressive enough in his attempts to prevent Iranian nuclear weaponization. Obama signed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act this summer, and outwardly expresses his support of the Jewish state, but for students such as Elkin and Duec, this support has been appreciated, but isn’t enough to earn their votes.
No one seems to be perturbed by the fact that Obama has yet to visit Israel, despite making trips to Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The underlying problem rests in the security of Israel itself, and it seems at the moment that President Obama needs to take action in halting, or at the very least attending to, the Iranian nuclear program, if he expects to receive votes from Zionist students.
Jonathan Asher Pressman