Jewish Democrats Ask Obama: Tone Down Bibi Bashing

Jewish lawmakers ask White House to avoid 'getting into a daily argument' with Netanyahu, worry Jews are drifting toward GOP.

Gil Ronen ,

Barack Obama, Jewish Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Barack Obama, Jewish Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky

A group of Jewish congressmen met with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in his office last week and asked him to tell President Barack Obama to “soften his tone” toward Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and avoid “getting into a daily argument with” him, writes Peter Nicholas in the Wall Street Journal.

According to the WSJ report, many US Jewish leaders are “unnerved” by the recent Iran nuclear agreement and the public rift between President Barack Obama and Netanyahu. With the 2016 elections drawing nearer, these leaders worry that the the seemingly unbreakable bond between US Jews and the Democratic party is melting away.

The group of Jewish Democratic House members met with McDonough and cautioned that for them to help “sell a very unpopular [Iran nuclear] deal to our constituents,” Obama must “increase his popularity with our constituents,” a Democratic congressman involved in the meeting told Nicholas.

After Netanyahu won re-election March 17, Obama was slow to congratulate him, but quick to criticize him for statements he made during the election campaign, when he appeared to renege on his support for a “two-state solution.”

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.), who attended the meeting with McDonough, said in an interview: “I was extremely disturbed by some of the overheated rhetoric that came out of the administration following the [Israeli] election. I conveyed directly to the White House that it’s time to dial back the temperature and affirm and strengthen the U.S.-Israeli relationship.”

The WSJ notes that while Jews do not make up a large chunk of the overall US vote, Jewish voters “have long been solid piece of the Democratic coalition, and Jewish donors an important cog in their campaign financial machinery.”

A study of Jewish Americans by the Pew Research Center in 2013 showed that 70% of Jews were Democrats or leaned that way.

However, Republicans see as a potential shift in Jewish political tendencies of late. While about 87% of Jewish voters supported Democratic House candidates in the 2006 midterm elections, in the 2014 election, according to Pew, that figure had dropped more than 20%, to 66%.

Republican campaign operatives reportedly believe that a shift in Jewish party affiliations could influence key senate races, and spell trouble in 2016.

Meanwhile, Democrats worry that Jewish voters might “seek reprisals” against the Democratic House and Senate members who did not attend Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress last month.

Leonard Barrack, a longtime Democratic fundraiser, told WSJ: “Many fellow Democrats of the Jewish faith were appalled” that lawmakers didn’t show Netanyahu “the respect and courtesy of being in the audience.”