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Congress Is Giving Israel Vote of Confidence

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) says the strong support could encourage Israel to
Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) says the strong support could encourage Israel to "overreach." (By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

Still, the rising pro-Israel sentiment in Congress has coincided with stepped-up efforts by Democrats and Republicans to increase their support among Jews.

On the Republican side, the dynamics have changed considerably in the past decade.

Evangelical Christians, who were once suspected by some of anti-Semitism, have led a Republican effort to forge close ties with Israel.

The effort is working, strategists from both parties said. In every presidential election since 1992, Republicans have increased their share of the Jewish vote. In 1992, Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush, won 11 percent. In the 2004 presidential election, the current president captured about 25 percent, according to exit-poll data.

"Jewish voters are becoming less partisan and more independent in their thinking, which I think gives an opportunity for inroads among Republicans," said Shaw, who represents a large number of Jewish voters along Florida's southern Gold Coast.

Based on a study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Republicans are also getting a larger percentage of money from Jewish political committees and self-identified Jewish donors. So far this election cycle, Republicans have received about 42 percent of money from Jewish groups and individuals. If that number holds, it would be the highest percentage since the center started tracking these donations in 1990.

The Jewish community remains predominantly Democratic and is considered one of the most influential parts of the party's base.

Polls show most Jewish voters agree with Democrats on social issues and many other domestic concerns. While some House Democrats have questioned the wisdom of unconditional support for Israel -- a point pro-Republican Jewish groups frequently make -- party leaders such as Reid are among the biggest defenders of Israel.

Political researcher Zachary A. Goldfarb contributed to this report.

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