US Congressmen back Israel
US Congressmen back Israel Israel News Photo

According to former senior White House aide and White House Jewish Liaison Tevi Troy, despite the assumption that Jewish citizens of the United States traditionally vote for Democrats and not Republicans, there is a shift in the Jewish vote already taking place at the state level.

Troy pointed out in Politico that nationally, Jews make up only about 2 percent of the American population but are heavily represented in big cities and have disproportionately high voter turnout rates. He added that while Democrats do get the lion’s share of the Jewish vote, some Jewish groups such as the Orthodox Jews have shifted to the Republicans, as seen in the 2004 elections, when 70 percent of Orthodox Jews supported George W. Bush.

The picture is completely different at the state level, according to Troy. One example he brings is that of the Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who in 2009 attracted 38 percent of the Jewish vote.

“For this reason, it is worth paying close attention to the Jewish vote in close Senate races in states with significant Jewish populations,” writes Troy. Be brings the example of “the complicated Pennsylvania race,” where Republican-turned-Democrat Jewish senator, Arlen Specter, is involuntarily leaving. In Philadelphia, Democratic nominee Joe Sestak signed the “Gaza 54 letter,” which called for Washington to pressure Israel to end the Gaza blockade. This fact alone might cause the Jewish voters to vote Republican.

Other examples where Jews might vote for the Republican candidates include Florida, where former Republican-turned-independent Charlie Crist, who is being endorsed by Jewish former Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler, might split the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote with Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek, causing a boost for Republican Marco Rubio.

New Jersey’s 12th district is another important area. Scott Sipprelle is challenging Rush Holt, another Gaza 54 letter signer. While neither candidate is Jewish, a “Rabbis for Sipprelle” group is seeking to raise awareness of Holt’s actions, another move which could help bring the district back to the Republicans.

The Ninth Congressional District in Illinois is also an area to watch, as Republican Joel Pollak - who has won the endorsement Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz - is challenging Democrat Jan Schakowsky, another Jewish candidate. Israel has become a central issue in the campaign, with Pollak claiming that Schakowsky does not do enough for Israel.

Troy explained that one reason for the apparent fluidity of the Jewish vote could be President Barack Obama’s perceived tough stance on Israel. However, he added that Jewish voters also care about issues such as the economy, the deficit, and health care. “Jewish voters in state elections across the country could significantly change our political landscape in November,” he said.

Tevi Troy argues  that the Jewish vote in America is evolving. Instead of it being monolithically Democratic there are signs that at the local and state level Jews can shift their vote enough towards Republican candidates that Democrats are forced to play defense. Troy takes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's achievement of garnering 38 percent of the Jewish vote as evidence of this change. As a result, "Republicans  who can be competitive in the Jewish community, gain an edge against Democratic opponents, who then can’t take the Jewish vote for granted," Troy claims. 

Abby Wisse Schachter also addressed this issue in an article published in the New York Post. While she agreed that Troy could be right “that this year could be different,” she added: “Don't look for huge numbers of Jewish votes for Republicans, however. It will be enough of a watershed moment if a critical mass of Jews stay home because they have finally soured on the Democratic Party, and that helps Republican candidates to win.”

The Associated Press reported that both Israelis and PA Arabs are closely watching the upcoming midterm race in the United States, sensing that its results could affect both the peace talks as well as Obama's ability to coax concessions from Israel.

The report said that the Arabs are hoping that Obama’s mild reaction to Israel’s refusal to continue the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria has been due to political consideration, and that he would be freer to apply pressure on Israel after the vote November 2.

Speaking to AP, PA negotiator Nabil Shaath said,  “We think that if President Obama emerges strong from this election, then this will enable him to work more on foreign policy. If he and his party lose in the elections, then this will limit his ability to pressure and actively engage in foreign policy. This is the problem.”

An adviser for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told AP that if Congress tilts Republican, it could have what he termed a "positive impact" on Israeli concerns, meaning there would be no pressure on Israel to make concessions.