This piece by Robert Novak, perhaps our least favorite conservative, argues that President Bush faces a dilemma with his so-called road map to peace. On the one hand, according to the notoriously anti-Israel Novak, the road map offers Bush the opportunity to “forge his place in history” by providing the leadership necessary to bring peace to the Middle East. On the other hand, he risks losing support from Jews if he brings serious presssure to bear on Ariel Sharon.
Novak’s piece is of interest to me only because it describes the major inroads the Republicans are making with Jewish voters. According to Novak, “hardheaded Republican leaders” think they can get 40 percent of the Jewish vote in 2004. Novak attributes this potential breakthrough entirely to the fact that Republicans “have for the first time outdone Democrats in cheering the Jewish state.” I believe there are other factors at work too. In general, I think that liberal Jews are increasingly aware of the illiberalism that more and more plagues the Democratic party. In the Maryland gubernatorial race last year, Jews voted for Republican Bob Ehrlich in record numbers. To be sure, Ehrlich supported Israel while in Congress. But that support, in my view, was only “table stakes” for Jewish voters. Ehrlich’s economic and social themes also resonated to a much greater degree than similar Republican themes have in the past.
As to the “road map,” I think Jewish voters trust Bush to explore the possibility of attaining a peace they would welcome, while not compromising Israel’s short and long term security interests. If that trust turns out to be misplaced, Jewish voters will indeed be alienated.
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