I will be voting for John Kerry this November. When I tell people this, they usually assume it is because I am a pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights liberal and that I support Kerry’s traditional Democratic positions on health care, the economy, education, and the environment. While all of those things are true, that is not the reason I will be voting for Senator Kerry. Rather, it is because, contrary to the conventional wisdom in the Orthodox Jewish community, I believe that John Kerry will better serve Israel’s interests than President George W. Bush.

Over the course of his 19 years in the United States Senate, John Kerry has a 100 percent pro-Israel voting record. On every bill that has come up on the Senate floor over the last 19 years, be it regarding economic aid or military security, John Kerry has come down on the pro-Israel side.

Kerry has also surrounded himself with a faction of pro-Israel foreign policy advisers, including former U.S. Congressman and AIPAC board member Mel Levine, who is serving as Kerry’s chief Mideast adviser, and Senator Joe Biden, one of the most ardent supporters of Israel in Congress and considered one of the favorites to be appointed secretary of state should Kerry be elected.

In his public appearances, Kerry has spoken of his support for Israel in the clearest terms. It would be hard to be more pro-Israel if he tried:

* When I am president of the United States, my promise to the people of Israel will be this: We will never pressure you to compromise your security. We will never expect you to negotiate for peace without a credible partner. And we will always work to provide the political and military and economic help for your fight against terror.¡± (Speech before Anti Defamation League, May 3, 2004)

* Terrorism is an incontrovertible evil, and an unacceptable response and the idea that every bitter dispute between Israelis and the Palestinians can somehow justify Palestinian violence or justify Arafat’s winking at it or should warrant the release of yet more Hamas leaders or could excuse the PLO’s failure to rewrite its covenant all of this reflects a moral blindness, a failure for courage that only encourages the cowards, the haters and the killers.¡± (Remarks at AIPAC annual conference, April 7, 1997) 

* Let me state it as plainly as I can. The UN Security Council has no right to impose insecurity on Israel.¡± (Remarks at AIPAC annual conference, April 7, 1997) 

Now let us turn our attention to the man I’ve heard so many people describe as the best president for Israel in history. While President Bush has been supportive of the Sharon government and overall has been a friend to Israel, his record is far from perfect.

So much fuss has been made over a line in a speech Kerry made last October, in which, referring to the security fence, he said, we don’t need another barrier to peace.¡However, Bush is the one who until early 2004 spoke out routinely against the fence, saying in a speech in London in November 2003 that Israel should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people, and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls and fences.¡±

Additionally, Bush implemented official policy, which revoked $300 million worth of loan guarantees from Israel as a penalty for building the fence.

Similarly, a lot of commotion has been made about a book Kerry wrote in 1997, in which there appeared a line about Yasir Arafat’s transformation from terrorist to statesman. But as recently as 2002, well after Camp David had broken down, the Intifada had started, and Arafat had proven to the world that he wasn’t a reliable partner for peace, Bush refused to label Arafat a terrorist because Arafat remained engaged in peace negotiations.¡±

When Bush was running for president in 2000, he said on several occasions that immediately after being sworn in he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He lied. John Kerry has vowed to do what Bush promised but never did.

The greatest potential threat to Israel’s security is an Iranian nuclear program with the capability of reaching Israel. President Bush has largely ignored this, choosing instead to focus on the much milder threat in Iraq. As a result of his Iraqi war, Bush has lost the political capital necessary to take action against the Iranians and has allowed them to continue building their nuclear program.

The other direct results of the campaign in Iraq are the growth of hatred for America across the globe and increased instability in the Middle East, neither of which are good for Israel.

The most troubling thing about President Bush, however, is his relationship with Saudi Arabia, specifically the Saudi royal family. Saudi Arabia is a bastion of anti-Semitism, home to fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, and the leading sponsor of terrorism across the Middle East. Yet, in a speech at the White House on May 16, 2003, Bush declared that ¡°Saudi Arabia is our friend.¡When Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah blamed Zionists¡± for terror attacks that occurred in Saudi Arabia, it was Kerry who condemned him and Bush who remained silent. And people are worried that Kerry might get too chummy with France?

John Kerry recognizes the threats Saudi Arabia poses to both the U.S. and Israel, and has therefore proposed an energy plan that will wean us off Saudi oil and make us less dependent on Mideast oil overall, so that Saudi Arabia and other terrorist regimes can be held accountable.

I don’t know where this perception that Bush is better than Kerry for Israel came from, but it simply isn’t true. The candidates’ records speak for themselves. Add to this the fact that the platform at the Texas (George Bush’s home state) Republican Convention affirmed that ¡°the United States of America is a Christian nation,¡as well as Bush’s opposition to funding for stem-cell research that could lead to cures for fatal illnesses, and the choice is clear: John Kerry is better for Israel and better for the Jewish people.


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