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The Insiders: Why don’t Republicans get more Jewish votes?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greets supporters at the party’s election headquarters in Tel Aviv. (Dan Balilty/Associated Press)

After all of the speculation that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in imminent danger of losing the election on Tuesday, he exceeded expectations and came out on top.  Many Democrats in Washington hoped for and publicly predicted that Netanyahu would lose. They hoped his visit to Washington to address Congress would backfire. Many Democrats boycotted his speech, liberal commentators rebuked the Republican leadership for inviting him and President Obama made a very public point of not meeting with Netanyahu. But it looks like the prime minister’s address to Congress may have actually boosted Netanyahu’s appeal in Israel.

Voters in Israel seem to share Republican sentiments about Israel’s security and they agree that Netanyahu is an able leader who should have more time in office. So why don’t Republicans get more Jewish votes in our elections?  Given the Republicans’ strong support for Netanyahu and how that is obviously in sync with Israeli voters — to say nothing of being the party that respects and promotes entrepreneurs and private business — why aren’t more Jewish voters drawn to the Republican Party?  Well, I guess the first and most obvious reason is that Americans’ political motivations are not the same as the Israelis’.

But I don’t know why American Jewish support is so lopsided in favor of the Democrats. Republicans are nowhere near splitting the Jewish vote with the Democrats.  In 2008, 78 percent of those who identified as Jewish voted for Obama.  In 2012, despite Obama’s and the Democrats’ obvious contempt for the popular, powerful incumbent in Israel, 69 percent of Jewish voters cast their vote to reelect the president. Even in the 2014 midterm election, 66 percent of Jewish voters voted for the Democratic candidate. I hoped that percentage would be something closer to fifty.

Anyway, why hasn’t the Republican message of commitment to Israel and a pro-growth economic agenda resonated better with Jewish voters?  I ask the question not to make a point, but because I want to know the answer. When will it begin to matter in American elections that Democrats are so hostile to Israel?

The White House, which never fails to make a bad situation worse, is continuing to insult the prime minister and his voters. Obama waited until Thursday to congratulate Netanyahu on his reelection, and the Democratic leadership in Congress has been relatively muted in their congratulatory statements, particularly when compared with the reactions of their Republican counterparts.  Doesn’t that suggest something powerful to Jewish voters? Maybe Obama’s arrogance and mismanagement will combine to achieve a breakthrough for Republicans in 2016.

There has never been a more vivid line drawn on U.S.-Israel relations. Foreign policy doesn’t usually drive votes, but it could have an impact in 2016 if the situation in the Middle East continues to worsen and Obama tries to sugarcoat a dangerous agreement with Iran. Hopefully in 2016, Jewish voters will begin to reconcile their support for Israel with the party they choose to support.