2011-08-05 / Top Stories

Israel Emerges As Campaign Issue

By Daniel Solomon

Republican candidate Bob Turner (left) was endorsed by former Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat (right), in late July. Republican candidate Bob Turner (left) was endorsed by former Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat (right), in late July. You might have thought that with unemployment at 9.2 percent and an escalating fight over the national debt in Washington, the special election to fill Anthony Weiner’s vacated seat in Congress would focus primarily on jobs and the economy. In this case, though, you would have been wrong.

Over the past three weeks, Israel, and specifically President Obama’s policies toward that nation, has emerged as a front-and-center campaign issue, with candidates trading barbs over each other’s support for the Jewish State.Bob Turner, the Republican nominee, has tried mightily to burnish his pro-Israel credentials in a district where 25 percent of voters are Jewish, a constituency known for going heavily for the Democrats and turning out to the polling stations in disproportionately high numbers.

On his Web site, Turner touts his support for Israel, which he calls “America’s only dependable, democratic ally in the Middle East,” and blasts the President for pressuring that country “to accept pre-1967 borders.”

In 1967, Israel captured territory from Jordan and Syria, land that Obama says the Jewish State should cede to a yet-to-be-created Palestinian state. Many American Jews have objected to this stance.

One prominent Jewish New Yorker, former Mayor Ed Koch, even crossed party lines to endorse Turner in late July, urging his fellow Jews to do so, too, as a way of repudiating the President’s Israel policy.

The race’s Democratic contestant, David Weprin, meanwhile, has cried foul. A Modern Orthodox Jew and an avowed Zionist, he has talked about his nine visits to Israel over the past 15 years and the family he still has there.

He professes to be just as pro-Israel as Turner, and, indeed, has come out hard against the President’s position on the Middle East.

Still, Weprin thinks the race will be decided on more pressing topics, such as the health of the economy and the Republican attempt to shrink the safety net in an area with a large elderly population.

That notion is sure to be tested at the ballot box on September 13.

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