OU to Netanyahu: Don´t meet GOP hopefuls on DC trip (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON 02/26/12)
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should not meet with Republican
presidential candidates during his upcoming trip to Washington so as
not to be perceived as taking sides in the campaign, Nathan Diament,
director of public policy for the Orthodox Union (OU), said this week.
Netanyahu will be addressing the annual AIPAC policy conference in
Washington a week from Monday, the same day Republican hopeful Newt
Gingrich is scheduled to address the gathering.
A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that while no final
decision had been made on whether Netanyahu would meet the Republican
presidential candidates, it was not likely he would meet with one if
could not meet with all four – Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum
and Ron Paul – which was an unlikely occurrence.
In past election years, the source said, Israel’s prime minister had
generally met only with presidential candidates after their party’s
Diament, in Israel for last week’s annual meeting of the Conference
of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that
during the US campaign, Israeli leaders needed to be careful not to
play into partisan politics.
While Israel has been an issue in the Republican campaign, Diament
said this was because the candidates had made it one, not Israel.
According to Diament, the Republican candidates at this stage of the
campaign want to appeal to Republican primary voters and financial
contributors, and there is a “significant segment in both categories
who feel passionately about Israel.”
He referred not only to Jews, but also to Evangelical Christians.
Also, Diament added, each candidate was trying to portray himself
already as the nominee, and interested in highlighting the contrasts
with US President Barack Obama on a wide variety of issues –
including foreign policy and Israel.
“But for voters who care passionately about the issue – Christian,
Jewish or otherwise – it is appropriate for Israel to be part of the
debate,” he said.
Asked if he was concerned for Israel if Obama were to win a second
term and not have to face the electorate again, Diament
answered: “Yes and no.”
No, he said, because “no president has a totally blank check – we
have checks and balances.” He acknowledged that while the president
has a great deal of latitude on foreign policy, “Congress is a check,
and the American public is a check.”
He also said he felt Obama learned a great deal during his first term
about the issues and the region.
Referring to Obama’s assumption at the beginning of his term that if
he could get Israel to freeze settlement construction, he could then
get the Arab states to put some “gestures” toward Israel on the
table, Diament said “he and his administration learned the hard way
that things are a lot more complicated. I don’t think those lessons
Diament said he was a bit concerned about a second term because the
president does believe that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict is in the best interests of both the US and Israel, and
would like to make progress in that direction. As to why that should
worry him, Diament said, “Because they may want to pursue it in a way
that the Israeli government, for its reasons, does not want to – and
that could lead to difficulty.”
Diament said the OU does not endorse candidates in elections, and
would lose its tax-exempt status if it did so. However, he did
acknowledge that among the OU’s constituent synagogues, the
Republicans fared much better than they did among the larger US
In the 2008 presidential election, for instance, he said that while
Obama beat John McCain by about a 3-1 margin among Jewish voters, in
districts with high percentages of Orthodox Jewish voters, McCain
outpolled Obama by the same 3-1 margin.
Diament explained the difference by saying that for the Orthodox
Jewish community, Israel was a much higher priority issue than for
other American Jews, for whom domestic issues loom more important in
deciding for whom to vote.
In polls the American Jewish Committee takes on Jewish opinion,
Diament noted, one question always asked is the degree to which the
respondents feel close to Israel.
“The numbers of Orthodox who feel very close to Israel is much
higher,” he said, maintaining that the issue is more salient for
them, and that they put it at the top of their list when voting.
Plus, Diament added, Orthodox Jews are more conservative on social
values questions – such as abortion and church-state issues – than
many of their American coreligionists. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem
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