The Jewish Vote
In declaring that Israel should be able to keep some of the occupied territories and block Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel, Bush followed a familiar pattern of finding common cause with Jews and increasingly pro-Israel Christian conservatives. That Bush’s move was good politics was evidenced by Democratic rival John F. Kerry’s quick move not to let Bush outflank him among pro-Israel voters.
“I think that could be a positive step,” the Massachusetts senator said, approving of the Bush-Sharon action regarding both refugees and Israel’s borders. “What’s important obviously is the security of the state of Israel, and that’s what the prime minister and the president, I think, are trying to address.”
Domestically, though, the move could enable Bush to chip away a few more of the Jewish voters who have traditionally been loyal to Democrats. And in a tight election, the small minority of Jewish voters — who tend to have strong turnout levels — could give Bush an edge in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“Given that Jews turn out at an 80 percent turnout rate, if you swing the Jewish vote 10 percent in Ohio, that could give you Ohio,” said Nathan Diament, a lobbyist for the Orthodox Jewish movement. Though he believes Bush’s motive is principle rather than politics, Diament also notes that the courting of Jewish donors — hugely important to Democrats — could aid the Republican Party.
This seems plausible although one would think that Bush’s prosecution of the war on jihadist terrorists, as contrasted with the positions of Kerry, would have already won over foreign policy minded Jewish swing voters.
Update: Josh Marshall disagrees with the policy and implies that it was indeed motivated by electoral politics, although he doesn’t explain why. Indeed, this move is not only consistent with Bush’s general policy toward Israel but rather congruent with the war on terrorists as well.