As a leader in the American Jewish community for some 30 years, I have never asked fellow Jews to vote for a presidential candidate. I have always believed that Jews have had Jewish reasons to vote for candidates from both parties.
Not this election.
There are overwhelmingly powerful Jewish reasons to vote for President Bush and equally powerful Jewish reasons not to vote for John Kerry.
To understand this, I need to explain the word "Jewish." It means two things: that which concerns Judaism and its values, and that which concerns Jews as a distinct ethnic people. Whichever definition one chooses, the case for the re-election of President Bush and the rejection of John Kerry -- and of the left, which along with radical Islam is the Jews' great enemy in our time -- is overwhelming.
Regarding the second definition, the one issue that overwhelms all others is the security of Israel.
For identifying Jews, there is an acute awareness that a generation after the extermination of one out of every three Jews in the world, the Jewish state, though as small as New Jersey, is indispensable to the security of the Jewish people. Just about every Jew recognizes that if Israel had existed in 1933 or even 1938, there would not have been a Holocaust.
In light of this preoccupation with Israel's security, identifying Jews, both liberal and conservative, have always been united on behalf of Israel's battle for survival. And it has been a battle since the day modern Israel was created in 1948. The Arab world (and since 1979, Iran, too) wants Israel destroyed. No country in the world is delegitimized except for Israel. The world's left and much of the Islamic world routinely deny Israel's, and only Israel's, right to exist as a Jewish state. The United Nations itself did this when its General Assembly passed its infamous "Zionism is racism" resolution, which meant that Israel has no more right to exist than did apartheid South Africa -- to which the left, the Palestinians, and other Muslims and Arabs routinely compare it.
Only the United States has protected Israel since 1967, when the Jewish state fought one of its many wars for survival against Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Therefore, which ideology and what type of man governs America is a matter of life and death for Israel. And most Jews know this.
Until now, it has not much mattered who was president. Democrat Jimmy Carter and Republican George Bush (the father) were not among Israel's greatest friends. But right now, Israel's greatest presidential friend, George W. Bush, is running for re-election against a man who, though he does not harbor Jimmy Carter's hostility to Israel, has views of the world that can only endanger Israel.
In a nutshell, John Kerry's primary foreign policy goal is to get America into the good graces of the European Union (specifically France and Germany) and the United Nations. He regards America going it alone in the world as an American calamity.
On the other hand, George W. Bush believes that becoming popular in the EU and in the United Nations would morally compromise America's values and ultimately endanger America.
Only an American president who does not place great importance on American popularity and who has a realistic view of the immorality inherent in international institutions such as the world court and the United Nations will stand behind Israel. Nearly all the world's governments are prepared to abandon Israel because of their dependence on Arab oil or their fears of their Muslim population and the threat of Islamic terror.
George W. Bush marches to the beat of the drummer who asks, "What is right?" and not to the beat of the many drummers who ask, "What is popular?"
Yes, there are issues beyond Israel's security that animate the vote of Jewish Americans. That is why Jews who are leftists first will, understandably, vote for the leftist candidate. The majority of Jews, liberal or conservative, understand why Israel needs America. And for them, the choice should be utterly obvious.
That is why former congressman and New York City Mayor Ed Koch, a liberal Democrat, has announced that for the first time in his life he will vote for a Republican president. That is why Al Gore's mentor, Martin Peretz, editor in chief of The New Republic, which in its 80-year history has never endorsed a Republican for president, just wrote an opinion piece warning those who care about Israel about John Kerry. And that is why every American Arab and Muslim group that is anti-Israel is supporting John Kerry.
I have just returned from a week of speaking to Jews in the battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. I believe that more Jews than expected will vote for President Bush. I certainly hope so -- for the above reasons and because there is no trait as ugly as ingratitude.