Israel Prefers Hillary

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Senator Joe Lieberman may be trying to pump up support for John McCain among American Jews and even those in Israel, but a national poll out yesterday showed Hillary Clinton drawing roughly 60% support among Israelis — and Obama just about 20%. Preference for Democrats over Republicans was huge in the poll — and John McCain was third in preference behind Clinton and Obama.
What is interesting is that in my meetings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem this week, the center right personalities with whom I am meeting all strongly prefer Hillary Clinton.
Every single one of the center left politicians and thought leaders I have speak to prefers Obama.
But the one fear that the center left has about Obama is that given the constant pounding on him about Muslim identity issues, he won’t “be himself” when it comes to helping to broker different outcomes than today’s status quo in the Middle East. They fear that he’ll be constantly “having to declare himself more Jewish than the Jews, more of an Israeli than Israelis” and thus prove everyone wrong that he is the one to get beyond the “false choice politics” in the region.
Even today, Obama is out telling Jewish leaders that he has never been a Muslim.
Obama is stumbling here and not presenting himself as the transcendent candidate many feel him to be. He may not have been a Muslim — but it should not matter. He hasn’t been a Jew either — and that shouldn’t matter. He is playing into the game of identity politics — and that is what the center left in Israeli politics fears he may continue to do in the White House.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

22 comments on “Israel Prefers Hillary

  1. Jim says:

    Insinuations about candidates’ anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism seem to be getting quite out of hand in this campaign.
    Obama has always shunned Farrakan and his fringe movement. Nevetheless, he is being held accountable for actions of other associates.
    On the other hand, John McCain has recently become allied with John Hagee and his fringe movement. John Hagee is vehemently anti-Catholic (blaming Catholics for all sorts of crimes against humanity).
    See: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=11947

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  2. Carroll says:

    And let me add one thing about the theories of center left, left of right center and right in Israel and the US and even the discussion of who israelis and jews prefer for President.
    ISRAEL SHOULD NOT BE A CONSIDERATION IN ELECTING A PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
    PERIOD.
    And both Israel and their supporters and America are going to learn this the hard way if this continues and I am sure it will. So fasten your seat belts and nail your feet to the floorboard as we head over that cliff.

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  3. Carroll says:

    Well I am going to give Steve credit for saying identity politcs needs to end and not read ulterior motives into it…because railing against ethnic politics has been my major thing for a long time.
    How do we end ethnic politics here in Hyphen-dom and Orwelling-dom USA?
    Maybe we don’t, maybe the all the seperate US ethnic tribes that a perversion of democracy has created will end up fighting for control of the US in warfare and revolts like Serbia and Kosovo. I can see the possibility of it coming to some form of that in the future.
    One thing for sure, America is no longer the American melting pot that united everyone as Americans first and made it what it was. So in the end all the tribes and politicans will probably get the kind of chaos politics they have coming to them and have to hit the international interstates looking for another democracy to pevert.
    I have gradually leaned more toward Obama because of his message of unity…whether it is for real or whether he can pull it off I don’t know. But it looks like the only revolution in town so far so I am joining up.

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  4. Carroll says:

    Actually some Israelis do get to vote in the US election. Any holding dual US citizenship vote in both Israel and the US. In fact children of Israelis who were born in the US before their parents moved to Israel can register when they become 18 to vote in the last state their parents lived in in the US. As one of the following blips belows explain, there are organizers who work for various US candidates or parties in Israel. Overseas voters can do it over the internet now. Estimates in these articles range from 120,000 to 150,000 Israelis voting in our elections.
    This JP article gives a rundown on how Israelis voting in US elections works:
    http://tinyurl.com/2zjh69
    And according to Haaretz:
    “A new Internet service introduced last week in Washington, D.C. is expected to ease and streamline absentee voting in U.S. elections for eligible voters living abroad.
    The site, http://www.overseas votefoundation.org, may prove beneficial to the estimated 120,000 eligible U.S. voters in Israel as they prepare for what is expected to be a particularly interesting election year in 2008.
    Also according to the JTA:
    jerusalem | For Republicans and Democrats vying for Jewish votes, it’s become a well-worn cliché: a handful of votes in Florida could swing this year’s presidential election.
    What’s not so well known is that those Florida votes might not even be in Florida.
    Six thousand ex-Floridians living in Israel and the territories are registered to vote in U.S. elections in November. That’s more than 10 times the number that decided the 2000 election for George W. Bush.
    “One selling point I have for people is that I remind them that 537 votes made the difference in Florida,” said Mark Zober, who as the Israel head of Democrats Abroad has been canvassing the country to register votes.’
    Needless to say there are many reason why dual citizenships are not desirable for any country, dual voting is the number one reason to me.

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  5. DonS says:

    Maxwell, you articulately make some good points. However, I think it is a matter of “level” of communication, if you will, that is important, not the plitician/pundit distinction.
    Obama must respond, clarify, etc., with regard to charges. But he must also inspire and evoke, in this case with regard to the ostensible American ideal that eschews religion in all forms of governemental affairs. The former seems to me perhaps necessary, but a timid approach. The latter is powerful.
    If Obama aspires to be more than just another politican, saying whatever is needed to get elected (and them miraculously transforming him/herself), he needs to demonstrate the difference. His sizzle lies in the possibility that he has some character. He needs to demonstrate both that he is a politician and that he has character, not one or the other.
    Obama misses the point if he denies the reality of the power his supporters wish to see demonstrated. Otherwise he shows himself to be just another mincing, nuancing suit.

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  6. Cee says:

    I hope this doesn’t show up multiple times.
    I was amazed to see that the Jerusalem Post ran an article by Robert Wexler to expose the smears against Obama.
    This was another interesting article.
    Obama finally starts making his own ‘straight talk’ on Israel

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  7. Bartolo says:

    “Israel doesn’t get to vote…”
    True, not directly.

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  8. DonS says:

    I hope for “Progress”. Some, on this board, have prognosticated that Hillary would make big changes in ME policy if elected. I’ve seen it in a news story that I can’t put my finger on, that either she or Obama would tip the apple cart.
    I’ll wait to see. When it comes down to defying the AIPAC dictates political courage seems hard to find.
    But I am not surprised the Israelis are pushing ahead to “consolidate” and expand in the run up to the election. Its a pattern . . . just in case. But the just in case never comes.
    Both Obama and Clinton need to be dinged and pushed on the Israel/Palestinian policy. If they don’t do it now, they wont do it after. They would have the support of the American people if presented the case in a courageous way I believe. If it requires, and it does, confronting the whole media bias as well, so be it. (how’s that for bravado andoptimism).
    Religious bias has no place in American elections. How much more clear can it be. If our leaders wont speak out against the rabble that want to feel pwerful by calling Muslims “ragheads”, who will? I think its called leadership.
    I’d put more burden on the Israelis, as th emore organized society to move toward “equilibrium”. Palestinians must find a way to correspond. Its pretty sad if the majority of Israelis say they want change but appear to have little influence on hawkish/militaristic policy. I always thought they were a bit more saavy than American sheeple.
    Thank you Steve for wading into these waters that are of major interest on the blog among regular readers as you know. Iteresting, I haven’t notice an invasion of RW crazies yet.

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  9. Maxwell says:

    I’ve seen so many comments at this point in various blog threads about the “anti-semitic” nature of Obama’s eminently reasonable language in his meeting with Jewish leaders in Cleveland, where he asserted his right to challenge pro-Likud leaders in the gentlest of terms. I’ve read several posters essentially suggest that it was effectively the end of his campaign, and his lesser appeal among center-right Israelis is a reflection to degrees of that sentiment.
    I would not accuse Steve of “bias”. It’s the posture of _freedom from bias_ that bothers me here.
    That Steve does not at least acknowledge here how difficult it is to talk about Israeli-Palestinian relations and Palestinian rights to many center-right Israelis without the most truculent pledges of sympathy and fidelity to the security of Israel…that he doesn’t acknowledge this reinforces for me how very, very easy it is to be a pundit. The berth a pundit grants himself is as wide as the imagination allows.
    Obama on the other hand is a politician. He must convey his identity and communicate his values, but he must also win. He must be true, be faithful, be righteous, but he must also be victorious to _do anything_.
    Meanwhile, the pundit can _do anything_. He can be censorious of political tradeoffs while making politics the topical coin of the realm. He needn’t walk any fine lines, because there is no need to be victorious. There is always the time and freedom to clarify and reassert one’s imperatives. There is a Nietzschean liberty on retainer. The blog is the free zone, at the hinge of the moral imagination, and the blog pundit can inhabit a righteous persona and wield Solomon’s sword with very little care for the depth of the cut.
    I admire the aspiration of the pundit. But, without acknowledging the exigencies of our human counterparts, it’s a markedly easy persona to inhabit.

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  10. Steve Clemons says:

    Dquartner — the time of my post is entirely a function of my being in Israel now and my encounter with a number of folks here who split between Hillary and Obama.
    I have made clear on the blog in the past that I see much to admire in Obama. Read my Cuba stuff in particular or my commentary last week that I believe he has mostly won the primary. Was I biased then too? Give me a break — i’m not interested in making either candidate feel good or to play to audiences on these issues.
    On the Muslim issue front, I understand Obama needs to defend himself — and these attacks on his identity are slimey. Moreover, his comments on his own religious affinity are true.
    None of that changes the fact, however, that I am a devout secularist — and I don’t like this discussion about faith and identity and have made this point consistently in the years I have been writing this blog.
    I find it sad — and yes, deserving of comment, that Obama is not using these moments where he’s being called to account for his faith and identity that he’s not sticking it to them by saying clearly what he is — and then saying it shouldn’t matter in the eyes of fair and just Americans.
    On the good side of Obama, he’s done this kind of thing on gay issues — and he deserves tons of applause for that. And I loved his comments that being pro-Israel did not mean being pro-Likud. I like it when he hits back on principle and embraces the right conceptual framework rather than the politically expeditious one.
    In any case, thanks for the discussion — but can we stop with the accusations of bias? If you read a month of my posts and see clear bias, let me know — then we can discuss…but none of this kneejerk reaction matters to me.
    I say and write what I feel for reasons I feel now or feel that are important.
    Now, I’m off to Ramallah in an hour and have to get going.
    More later.
    Steve Clemons

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  11. ChrisO says:

    Sorry, but I’m going to call foul every time I see an Obama supporter casually say the Clinton cmapaign “released” that photo. So far there is no evidence of that. Do you give Drudge this much credence on other stories, as well?

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  12. Dquartner says:

    Steve,
    what is interesting in the timing of your post is that it comes after the Dem. debate where the issue of Louis Farrakhan was raised. Obama suddenly has a “Jewish problem.” (Obama was questioned before in one of the early debates i think because he stated Palestinians aren’t getting a fair deal.
    I wonder with those Israeli speculations, if any of them are worried that Hillary will take a more hawkish line because she is a woman. Because at the very least, she has demonstrated a willingness to take a hard line. I would imagine though that after Golda Meir, they would have no such reservations.
    As far as seeing it from “offshore eyes,” most European pundits I have heard don’t think anything is going to change. So will the next US president really attempt peace earlier than the last 2 years in office?

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  13. Maxwell says:

    “sure, but Obama thinking he needs to score points by saying he was never a Muslim bothers me”
    That’s an awfully cynical and unfair spin of what’s going on here, Steve, and I hope you know it. People are just in calling you to task for tendentious and cynical language like “scoring points”, “stumbling” and “playing into the game of transcendent politics”. This language is normative, not descriptive.
    In fact you yourself can’t seem to decide whether Obama _should_ be transcendent, or whether you find such ‘transcendence’ to be stomach-turning ‘aura’ and ‘mystique’.
    You are building a false choice here, and your judgment is increasingly rather inhumane. I wish you could be a bit more objective; there’s a rhetorical hubris that is easy to attain to when one removes themselves from the exigencies of being an actual human being in a political campaign. It’s a writing posture, Steve, and it’s a morally lazy one.
    Many people think that Obama is Muslim (my own mother included) because there’s been a concerted effort to misrepresent him as such, via viral email campaigns which claim him to be a Muslim and a dedicated anti-semite as well. My mother forwards these emails to me, and she doesn’t know what to believe. Correcting the record isn’t just playing identity politics…its also, well, correcting the record.
    I think if there were a nationwide viral email campaign misrepresenting your faith and beliefs, you might want to correct such misrepresentation. I think if that campaign of misrepresentation were abetted and reinforced by your party rivals (via the Farrakhan allegations) and the opposition party (consider the Tennessee GOP website), you’d again want to set the _record_ straight. And by such action, you would markedly fail the test you’ve designed for Obama here. And you would consider those of us who accused you of ‘stumbling’ into ‘identity politics’ rather aloof, unfair and cynical indeed.
    It’s one thing to be ‘transcendent’ when everyone is in possession of the same information. But that’s not the case. Obama has to balance informing and instructing on the one hand, and gaining confidence and trust on the other. It’s not an easy path to walk. You fail at yourself occasionally, Steve. Remember that when you judge.

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  14. Beth says:

    Steve: you’ve talked up Lincoln Chaffee. Are you aware that he’s endorsed Senator Obama? Maybe finally you’ll stop being so “concerned” about Obama?
    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/14/chafee-endorses-obama/

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  15. leo says:

    Steve, as you say… “pay no attention to the pundits.” Obama has very strong support in the Jewish community and you are again pushing public opinion for the Clinton campaign.

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  16. Dan Kervick says:

    Gee, Steve, for a guy who was only a few days complaining about the “mysticism” of the Obama campaign, don’t you think it is a little odd that you are now disappointed in Obama because he is not “transecendant” enough?
    As you know, various emails have been going around, especially in the Jewish community, claiming that Obama is a Muslim or crypto-Muslim. Do you honestly expect Obama’s response to this should be “Well maybe I am a Muslim, and maybe I’m not? But this is America and it doesn’t matter, because we are all so darn transcendent now?” I know you were a foreign policy adviser and not a political adviser to Senator Bingaman, but I can’t believe you are actually such a babe in the woods as to believe this is a real political option in America in 2008. Unfortunately, Obama has no choice but to shoot these rumors down.
    And for a man who prides himself on his realism, your radar and political judgment about the role of religion and religious identity in America often seem extremely naive. Religious talk of any kind might creep you out, but it is just a fact of life in this country.
    I don’t think your friends on the Israeli center-left need to worry about Obama caving to a need to prove himself as more Jewish than the Jews. These charges and rumors have been swirling around Obama since he has been a candidate, and nevertheless Obama has shown distinctly more political courage than any of the other candidates in suggesting closer engagement with the Muslim world, in referencing Palestinian suffering, and in expressing a willingness to talk to the leader of the country many right-wing Israelis seem to be convinced is the Persian Fourth Reich. He has been taking hits on these positions for over a year, but hasn’t changed his stance. Obama appears to have a very strong sense of himself, and confidence in his ability to persuade people to follow the right course, and doesn’t seem easily intimidated, or to be much moved by an inordinate desire to please others or prove himself.
    On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has shown a nearly obsessive need to prove her toughness, and her hard line pro-Israel bona fides, at every turn, and there would be no reason to expect her to behave any differently in the White House. An old-fashioned Democratic practitioner of domestic interest-group politics, whether we’re talking about Israel, Lebanon, Iran, Cuba or China, Clinton knows no other way to operate. She’s a smart, detail-oriented operator and a quick study, but does not show much imagination, political courage or independence of mind. I honestly think that if she were elected, we would see Israeli military action in Lebanon and Syria, and US action in Iran, before a year of her term was up.

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  17. Steve Clemons says:

    The relevance Tim is that I find it interesting. I’m in Israel now…there was a poll here….and lots of folks are talking about it. Israel doesn’t get to vote…but it is fascinating to me that most I spoke to have firm views of who they’d like to have as president. Those who want Obama — have as their second choice McCain. Those who want Hillary have their second choice as McCain (this is anecdotal not scientific).
    In Japan, the consensus was that Japanese political elites preferred McCain — and were indifferent to Obama and Hillary.
    I do think its interesting to look at these issues through offshore eyes — and its relevance on any front is entirely because it matters to me.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

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  18. SomeCallMeTim says:

    He is playing into the game of identity politics
    1. All politics are identity politics, and politicians win by fashioning a winning identity.
    2. He wants to win, not be a noble loser.
    3. I agree with Dquartner that I don’t really see the relevance of who the Israelis would prefer, any more than I can see the relevance of who the Chinese–or Kenyans, for that matter–would prefer.

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  19. ... says:

    “He should be telling them it wouldn’t matter if he had been a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, whatever.”
    He’s been doing precisely that for all who have paid attention to the facts rather than D.C. chatter. And, no, it’s not “scoring points” to repudiate undeniably inflammatory falsehoods whose existence no one can deny and which would doom his campaign if allowed to stand unrejected.

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  20. Steve Clemons says:

    Dquartner — you are wrong. I think that Hillary Clinton and others are engaged in identity politics. ..sure, but Obama thinking he needs to score points by saying he was never a Muslim bothers me. He should be telling them it wouldn’t matter if he had been a Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, whatever.
    But what I describe above is exactly what I have seen and heard here in Israel. That you don’t care is your prerogative. There is a lot of enthusiasm here for Obama in center left circles. I think that you would want to know that.
    But what I write about the fear of some Knesset Members and other top writers over here that Obama will have to prove everyday he is something other than what he is is also a major concern over here.
    So, take it for what it is. . .commentary on the Israel scene.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

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  21. susan says:

    One more excellent reason to support Obama.

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  22. Dquartner says:

    I think this is you anti-Obama talk in full force…
    Obama dresses up in traditional African garb and the Clinton campaign (unofficially releases the picture), and YOU say “Obama is playing into the game of identity politics”?
    Frankly, I am a jewish-American, and I am very pro-Obama. I could really care less what the Israeli public thinks.
    Lastly, “He may not have been a Muslim — but it should not matter. He hasn’t been a Jew either — and that shouldn’t matter. ” is a ridiculous statement. Of course it matters. For you to deny the symbolic significance that America may elect its first African American president, after its tortured history of slavery, ignores a very real aspect of politics (BOTH international and national).
    I think what the Israelis’ more than anything else should hope for is that the next president doesn’t treat the Gaza strip as a type of retreat when things get tough at home… (we have had a Clinton and Bush both do that!)

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