In a pot-stirring interview with Al Hunt, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Jews who oppose President Obama’s treatment of Israel are faking concern over the Jewish state. The comments are bound to stir anger among pro-Israel advocates. Pelosi argued that “many of the Republicans are using Israel as an excuse, what they really want are tax cuts for the wealthy.” Here is the exchange:
HUNT: One more foreign policy question, though. He’s going to Israel, and your Republican — the Republican majority in the House, one of your counterparts, Eric Cantor, said Republicans have a golden opportunity with the Jewish vote this year because there’s a, quote, “real cloud over Obama’s chilliness with Israel.”
PELOSI: Well, you know what? That’s maybe his characterization, but that, in fact, this president — and hopefully during this campaign, it will become — this president has been a staunch supporter of Israel. Many of the things that he has done, in terms of Israel’s qualitative edge in terms of how we have — have supported Israel in that regard, for them to defend themselves, A, B, is two issues that relate to Iran. No president has done more —
HUNT: Do you think he’ll do as well with the Jewish vote this time as he did last time?
PELOSI: The election will tell us that.
HUNT: What do you think?
PELOSI: But I — I think that he will. I think that he will, because the fact is when the facts get out. You know, as many of the Republicans are using Israel as an excuse, what they really want are tax cuts for the wealthy. So Israel, that can be one reason they put forth.
HUNT: That’s why some of the Republican Jewish supporters are really active.
PELOSI: Well, that’s how they’re being exploited. And they’re smart people. They follow these issues. But they have to know the facts. And the fact is that President Obama has been the strongest person in terms of sanctions on Iran, which is important to Israel. He’s been the strongest person on whether it’s Iron Dome, David’s Sling, any of these weapons systems and initiatives that relate to Israel. He has been there over and over again.
Actually, Obama’s failure to go to Israel since he was trying to shore up support among Jewish voters in 2008 has become a campaign issue. But it is her comment that Republican Jews are concocting complaints about Obama’s Israel policies, which have been criticized at various times by both Democrats and Republicans, to disguise their opposition to higher taxes that will strike many as offensive.
Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition reacted to Pelosi’s remarks in an e-mail to Right Turn. He told me: “The one thing I can agree with Nancy Pelosi on is that Jewish Republicans are ‘smart people.’ We’re smart enough to know that when it comes to Israel we can do a lot better then Barack Obama. Obama has publicly called for ‘daylight’ between the US and Israel, called for Israel to return to the indefensible ‘67 lines as a precondition for peace talks, and condemned Israel for building in . . . Jerusalem.” He then took strong exception to Pelosi’s claims of “exploitation”: “So, sadly, while I appreciate Pelosi saying Jewish Republicans are smart, we most certainly are not being “exploited.” Given the facts and I only wish that when it comes to Israel Nancy Pelosi and other defenders of Obama’s failed Israel policies were as smart as us Jewish Republicans.”
On Saturday a Pelosi spokesman tried to walk the statement back, saying, “She’s not saying that members of Congress don’t care about Israel. What she was clearly saying here is that if you as a Republican are going to attack the president’s record while refusing to look at the facts, they’re ignoring what the president has done even in a bipartisan way on this issue.” No apology was offered for saying it was a ruse to keep Bush-era tax breaks.
Th Romney camp refused to comment on the remarks while Mitt Romney is traveling abroad. But once Romney returns to American “soil,” don’t be surprised if this becomes a contretemps. Whatever disagreements exist over Obama’s Israel policies, this is the first time such a prominent Obama surrogate has accused pro-Israel critics of the president of being in it for the money.