President George H.W. Bush’s failed re-election campaign illustrates what happens when pro-Israel voters get mad
‘We, the Jews, made sure he didn’t get re-elected because of his push for a ‘peace deal’ between Israel and the Arabs’.
This is an important piece to read in light of several items–
1. The fact that the very same process of destroying Trump’s political strength is taking place at this very moment, and for the very same reasons–Trump’s insistence upon a ‘peace deal’ in the Middle East,
2. That whenever it is alleged by someone that Jews are king-makers or king-breakers in America (and throughout the West) whenever some politico has gotten on the bad side of Judea Inc, all the various heads making up the Judaic hydra go into instantaneous screech mode in shouting down such assertions as a ‘blood libel’ and an ‘anti-Shemitic canard’.
And yet we have it here in black and white in all its clarity–GHWB lost re-election because of the concerted efforts of Jewry, and all of it due to his position on Israel.
While it is true that George H.W. Bush had a sterling record of support for the struggle to free Soviet Jewry, however, his antipathy for the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir reached levels of hostility that would not come close to being matched again until Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu squared off a generation later.
Bush and his close friend Secretary of State James Baker made no secret of their disdain for Shamir. Baker is believed to have said “F**k the Jews, they don’t vote for us,” when asked about the consequences for his attempts to pressure Israel, and that quote seemed indicative of an administration that wasn’t exactly in love with the Jewish state.
The worst moment came in 1991, when Bush opposed an Israeli request for loan guarantees to help absorb Jews from the former Soviet Union because of Shamir’s refusal to bend on West Bank settlements. When Jewish activists went to Washington to ask Congress for the guarantees, Bush complained to the White House press corps that he was “one lonely guy” standing up against “a thousand lobbyists on the Hill.” In doing so, he crossed the line from legitimate debate to the sort of invective that seemed to invoke anti-Semitic stereotypes about sinister Jewish influence.
Bush later expressed regret about that. But it wasn’t forgotten when he sought re-election in a campaign that found even many conservative Jews willing to endorse his Democratic opponent Bill Clinton because of his attitude towards Israel.
Pro-Israel Democratic Jewish voters will generally stick with their party’s nominee, even if, as was the case with Obama, he was seen as having an adversarial relationship with Israel’s government. But the level of Jewish Republicans support for their party hinges on policies towards Israel. The fact that as many as two-thirds of the Jews who voted for Bush in 1988 abandoned him in 1992 made it clear Republicans can’t take pro-Israel voters for granted.
But just as Bush departed from the standard his predecessor set about support for Israel, Trump has also broken new ground by going in the opposite direction. By moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, seeking to hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for its support for terror and withdrawing from Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, Trump has set a standard for support for the Jewish state unmatched by his predecessors.
It remains to be seen whether Trump’s frustration with the fact that, as Baker observed in a different era, the overwhelming majority of Jews still won’t vote for him will someday have an impact on his decisions. But unless such a moment arrives, many pro-Israel Jews will continue to answer Trump’s critics by saying that his policies matter far more than his character. Indeed, many argue that only an outlier like Trump would have gone so far.
That’s a point that Jewish voters will continue to debate. Yet as we recall these contrasts, even some Trump loyalists may wish that the president had more of the grace that Bush possessed. Good character isn’t everything (as Democrats were wont to say when Clinton was president), and is no defense for bad policies. But even those who opposed Bush because of his stand on Israel must respect him for standing for personal virtues, which seem to be in such short supply these days.
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