Is a Hollywood liberal and top donor to the Democratic Party going to vote against President Obama in 2012? Nope. My colleague Greg Sargent interviewed Haim Saban on his reaction to Obama’s recent moves on Israel:
Saban told me that he did not view Obama as anti-Israel and that he would donate the maximum to Obama’s campaign if asked. And while he said he had problems with the timing of Obama’s announcement, he stated that he has no problem with the substance of Obama’s position, and said conservatives had misrepresented it in order to drive away Obama’s Jewish support.
“If solicited, I will absolutely write a check to the level allowed by law,” Saban said. “I don’t agree that he’s anti-Israel.”
Having had two decades experience in Hollywood, I can safely say that if 78 percent of American Jews voted for Obama in 2008, probably 98 percent of Hollywood Jews did. But what is interesting is what else Greg elicits from Saban:
Saban clarified that he did have certain problems with Obama’s positions on Israel, which he called “perplexing,” and faulted certain aspects of the 1967 proposal. “I have a problem with the way it was presented and I have a problem with the timing,” Saban said, questioning Obama’s decision to call publicly at this point for the 1967 lines with swaps to be the basis of talks, which he said could weaken Israel in negotiations. But he added: “It’s only about form.”
Saban criticized Obama for not stating explicitly that Israel should make no concessions without a guarantee of an end to the conflict. But he allowed that Obama had implied in his speeches that this was his position. Saban also allowed that Obama had also said Israelis and Palestinians should reach a final deal by themselves.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement. But you have to give him credit. While he’s not willing to change his vote, he is at least honest enough to admit that Obama’s public statements on Israel were ill-advised in some regard. (Note to liberals: It is better to concede the obvious on an issue in which interested parties are highly informed.) As for the fundraising, he was somewhat candid:
Saban said he thought the speech could cause Obama some trouble with some Jewish voters and donors. “Fundraising is going to get hurt,” he predicted. But he also predicted that Obama was likely to repair any problems with Jewish voters and donors before the election.
While a whole lot richer than most American Jews, Saban is entirely ordinary in his politics. He’s liberal. He’s going to put the best face on Obama’s Israel stance so he can do what he’s always done — vote Democratic.
His comments on fundraising are nevertheless telling. At the time of the AIPAC speech, a Democratic pro-Israel activist told me it was his experience that when enthusiasm is diminished, so is fundraising. Saban seems to agree.
The problem for Obama, however, is not simply with dyed-in-the-wool Democratic Jews. It is that the country as a whole is strongly pro-Israel, as is Congress. He remains politically isolated on this issue, and therefore, I would argue, has limited tools at his disposal to ram through a deal or publicly muscle the Jewish state. Given his druthers, would the president do everything to aid the Palestinian position? His record speaks for itself. And in a second term, even Saban must know, we would see Obama unbound and unconcerned with domestic reaction to his efforts to play sherpa (h/t Mike McFaul) for the Palestinians.