GOP's narrow Israel strategy frees Obama

From my column in Sunday's Inquirer:

In their push to attract pro-Israel votes and dollars, Republicans made inroads this year, drawing many millions in aid from global gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson and other business and professional leaders who are Israel backers, and winning a boost in the Jewish vote for the Republican Presidential nominee to about 30 percent, from 22 percent four years ago.

In itself, the long GOP effort to tear Jewish voters away from the creaky old Democratic coalition has made progress, just like the party's appeal to urban Catholics began to succeed back in Nixon's day.

But at what price? Romney still lost - and hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who backed the Republican against Obama, now looks isolated, writes Noga Tarnopolsky, from Jerusalem, in the Global Post ("Obama wins, Netanyahu loses"):

"After what Netanyahu has done in the past few months, we have to ask whether the prime minister has a friend in the White House. I'm not sure," she quoted ex-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in remarks to American Jewish leaders at a meeting last week.

The complex U.S. Jewish relationship with Israel recalls a long tradition of U.S. immigrant and religious communities -- Germans, Irish Catholics, Poles, Asian Christians, Cubans -- all minorities who have been able to sway politicians' policies toward their home countries by caring (and lobbying, and mobilizing) a lot more about aspects of our foreign policy than the public at large.

Jews are around 2 percent of the U.S. population; not all agree with Netanyahu's tough stand against the Palestinians; there are evangelical Christians and other non-Jews who support it.

But for Republicans, gaining a bigger slice of the pro-Israel vote, and of pro-Israel campaign contributions, failed to balance the Democrats' dominance among African Americans, Latinos, Asians - whose much larger and growing voter groups are increasingly Democratic and whose support gave Obama another victory.

What's the lesson? "While Israel may have been front and center in the campaign, it may not be front and center in Obama's policy," ex-U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk told Israel's Army Radio. "I think he's going to be focused on other parts of the world where he can achieve more."