It's gang-up time on Israel again. Right on schedule, here come the huffers, puffers and pipsqueaks. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, arrives in New York to demand a seat at the United Nations. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right on cue, arrives from Iran in a cloud of bluster and bombast.
It's all for show, of course, irritating in the way a noisy neighbor's drunken fight with his wife at 3 in the morning can be irritating. But the show, such as it is, makes a convenient backdrop for what looks like an authentic hope for change in American presidential politics.
Here come the Republicans in several Christian varieties riding rhetoric to the rescue of the Jews. The Democrats mostly squeak at a safe distance in the high weeds, their ranks divided by cheers for both sides. What's different this time is that Jewish voters, the reliable yellow-dog Democrats, are suddenly showing a streak of unaccustomed independence.
If Anthony Weiner's Brooklyn/Queens congressional district can go red after being the deepest navy blue since 1923, there's Republican hope for turning Florida and Pennsylvania reliably red. That includes both the congressional and presidential races.
Jewish voters have been reliably partisan Democrats since they arrived on waves of immigration in the early decades of the 20th century. Most American Jews have never been to Israel and identify with the New Deal that defined the modern Democratic Party. "Many Jews can only vote with their left hands," Jay Lefkowitz, who was an adviser to President George W. Bush. "It's almost as if they think if they vote with their right hand it will fall off."
But altered circumstances invite Republican presidential candidates to rush into neighborhoods where in the past even fools would not go. Mitt Romney calls the Palestinian ploy for statehood the direct result of "Obama's repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position."
Rick Perry, the governor of Texas who wears his evangelical Christian witness on his sleeve, calls the Romney rhetoric and raises. He reminds an audience of Jews in New York that he stands firmly in Judeo-Christian tradition, because "as a Christian (I) have a clear directive to support Israel."
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