A (much) better year

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

 

On Wednesday the US media interrupted its saturation coverage of the presidential primaries to report on President Barack Obama’s visit to a mosque in Maryland. The visit was Obama’s first public one to a mosque in the US since entering the White House seven years ago. The mosque Obama chose to visit demonstrated once again that his views of radical Islam are deeply problematic.

 

Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore, a mosque with longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. During Operation Protective Edge, the leaders of the mosque accused Israel of genocide and demanded that the administration end US support for the Jewish state.

 
According to The Daily Caller, the mosque’s former imam Mohammad Adam el-Sheikh was active in the Islamic American Relief Agency, a charity deemed a terror group in 2004 after the US Treasury Department determined it had transferred funds to Osama bin Laden, Hamas, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.

 
El-Sheikh left the Baltimore mosque to take over the Dar el-Hijra mosque in northern Virginia. He replaced Anwar al-Awlaki as imam after Awlaki moved to Yemen in 2003. In Yemen Awlaki rose to become a senior al-Qaida commander.

 
Awlaki radicalized many American jihadists both through direct contact and online. He radicalized US Army major Nidal Malik Hasan, and inspired him to carry out the 2009 massacre of 13 US soldiers and civilians at Fort Hood in Texas. Awlaki was killed by a US drone strike in 2011.

 
In 2010, a member of the Islamic Society of Baltimore was arrested for planning to attack an army recruiting office. According to the Mediaite news portail, the mosque reportedly refused to cooperate with the FBI in its investigation.

 
Obama’s visit to the radical mosque now is a clear signal of how he intends to spend his last year in office. It tells us that during this period, Obama will adopt ever more extreme positions regarding radical Islam.

 
Obama’s apologetics for radical Islamists is the flipside of his hostility for Israel. This too is escalating and will continue to rise through the end of his tenure in office.

 
The US Customs authority’s announcement last week that it will begin enforcing a 20-yearold decision to require goods imported from Judea and Samaria to be labeled “Made in the West Bank,” rather than “Made in Israel,” signals Obama’s intentions. So, too, it is abundantly clear that France’s plan to use the UN Security Council to dictate Israel’s borders was coordinated in advance with the Obama administration.

 
Part of the reason Obama is acting with such urgency and intensity is that he knows that regardless of who is elected to replace him, the next president will not be as viscerally hostile to Israel or as emotionally attached to Islam as he is.

 
On the Democratic side, neither candidate is a particularly energetic supporter of Israel or counter- jihad warrior. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s recently released email discussions of Israel with her closest advisers indicate that all of Clinton’s closest counselors are hostile to Israel.

 
For his part, Vermont’s socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders harbors the far Left’s now standard anti-Israel attitudes. Not only did Sanders – like Clinton – support Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. He boycotted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech before the Joint Houses of Congress where Netanyahu laid out Israel’s reasons for opposing the deal. Sanders gave television interviews condemning Netanyahu for making the speech, accusing him of electioneering on the back of the US Congress. Sanders criticized Israel during Operation Protective Edge and supports decreasing US military aid to Israel.

 
For all their anti-Israel sensibilities, though, neither Clinton nor Sanders gives the impression that they are driven by them as Obama is.

 
Unlike Obama, neither appear to be animated by their hostility toward Israel. Neither seem to be passionate in their support for Muslim Brotherhood- affiliated groups or in their desire to realign the US away from Israel, from its traditional Arab allies and toward Iran. This lack of passion makes it safe to assume that if elected president, while they will adopt anti-Israel policies, they will not seek out ways to weaken Israel or strengthen its sworn enemies.

 
On the Republican side, the situation is entirely different. All of the Republican presidential candidates are pro-Israel. To be sure, some are more pro-Israel than others. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, is more supportive than his competitors. But all of the Republicans candidates are significantly more supportive of Israel than the Democratic candidates. So it is simply an objective fact that Israel will be better off if a Republican is elected in November no matter who he is and no matter who the Democratic candidate is.

 
It hasn’t always been this way. And it doesn’t have to remain this way.

 
Back in 1992 when Bill Clinton was running against George H.W. Bush, if Israel was your issue, you voted for Clinton because he was rightly viewed as more pro-Israel than Bush.

 
Twenty-four years ago, supporting Israel carried no cost for Clinton. According to Gallup, in 1992, 52 percent of Democrats were pro-Israel.

 
On the other hand, Bush was probably harmed somewhat for the widespread perception that he was anti-Israel. In 1992, 62% of Republicans were pro-Israel.

 
Over the past 15 years, the situation has altered considerably.

 
Today, Republicans are near unanimous in their support for Israel. According to a Gallup poll from February 2015, 83% of Republicans support Israel.

 
Only 48% of Democrats do. From 2014 to 2015, Democratic support for Israel plunged 10 points.

 
The cleavage on Israel is particularly acute among partisan elites.

 
Last summer, pollster Frank Luntz conducted a survey of US elite partisan opinion on Israel. His data were devastating. According to Luntz’s data, 76% of Democratic elite believe that Israel has too much influence over US foreign policy. Only 20% of Republicans do.

 
Nearly half (47%) of highly educated, wealthy and politically active Democrats think that Israel is a racist country. Thirteen percent of their Republican counterparts agree.

 
And whereas only 48% of Democrats believe that Israel wants peace, 88% of Republicans believe that Israel wants peace with its neighbors.

 
These trends affect voting habits. According to Luntz, while only 18% of Democrats say they would be more likely to vote for a politician who supports Israel, 31% said they are less likely to vote for a pro-Israel candidate. In contrast, 76% of Republicans say they want their representatives to support Israel.

 
Forty-five percent of Democrats said they would be more likely to vote for a politician who is critical of Israel and 75% of Republicans said they would be less likely to vote for an anti-Israel candidate.

 
These data tell us two important things. Today Democratic candidates will gain nothing and may lose significant support if they support Israel.

 
In contrast, a Republican who opposes Israel will have a hard time getting elected, much less winning a primary.

 
Partisan sensibilities aren’t the only reason that Israel is will be better off if a Republican wins in November. There is also the issue of policy continuity.

 
Even though neither Clinton nor Sanders share Obama’s anti-Israel passion, their default position will be to maintain his policies. Traditionally, when an outgoing president is replaced by a successor from his own party, many of his foreign policy advisers stay on to serve his successor.

 
Moreover, if American voters elect a Democrat to succeed Obama, their decision will rightly be viewed as a vote of confidence in his policies.

 
Obama has radicalized the Democratic Party in his seven years in office. When Obama was inaugurated, the Blue Dog caucus of conservative Democratic members of the House of Representatives had 54 members. Today only 14 remain.

 
Obama’s Democratic Party is not Bill Clinton’s party.

 
A party that isn’t forced to pay a price for its policies isn’t likely to change them. If the Democrats are not defeated in the run for the White House in November, their party will not reassess its shift to radicalism and reconsider its increasingly hostile stance on Israel.

 
That then brings us to the state of the presidential race following the Iowa caucuses and ahead of next Tuesday’s primary in New Hampshire. The Iowa caucuses showed a significant gap in enthusiasm among partisan voters. Participation rates in the Republican caucuses were unprecedented.

 
Cruz shattered the record for vote getting in the state that saw participation rates up 30% from 2012. On the Democratic side, participation rates were below the 2008 level.

 
On the Republican side, the three top candidates – Cruz, businessman Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio – are all backed by committed, fervent supporters. On the Democratic side, Clinton’s supporters are reportedly diffident about her. And while Sanders enjoys enthusiastic support from voters under 45, he can’t seem to convince people who actually know what socialism is to support him.

 
If Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, on the face of it, it is difficult to see his path to victory in the general election. Whereas Obama was elected by hiding his radical positions, Sanders is running openly as a socialist and attacks Obama from the Left. Whether America is a center-right or center-left country, the undisputed truth is that it is a centrist country.

 
As for Clinton, the likelihood grows by the day that by the general election, her inability to inspire her base will be the least of her problems.

 
The FBI’s ongoing probe of her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state is devastating her chances of getting elected.

 
The State Department’s revelation last week that 22 of Clinton’s emails were too classified to be released, even with parts blacked out, makes it impossible to dismiss the prospect that she will be indicted for serious felony offenses. Yet, as Jonah Goldberg argued Wednesday in National Review, with her narrow victory in Iowa, Clinton blocked the opening for a less damaged candidate – like Vice President Joe Biden or former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg – to step into the race.

 
In other words, the Republican nominee will have an energized base and will face either a legally challenged or openly socialist Democratic opponent.

 
According to terrorism expert Steven Emerson, before Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore, he asked the FBI for its opinion of the mosque. FBI investigators informed Obama of the mosque’s ties to terrorism. They urged him not to confer it with the legitimacy that comes with a presidential visit.

 
Obama ignored the FBI’s advice.

 
The next 11 months will be miserable for Israel.

 
But we should take heart. By all accounts, next year will be better. And judging by the way the presidential race is shaping up, next year may be a much, much better year.

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.