Two items provoke this note. They come from points far apart, and do not have any obvious connection, but they both link up with larger issues provoking angst among Americans, Israelis, and some others.
One is the latest pronouncement by Catherine Ashton. She is well known as not the sharpest knife in anybody's drawer, kicked up to Europe by British politicians who had little use for her at home, but got herself into the impressively labeled position of High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, along with being a Vice-President of the European Commission.
She has come out against Israeli planning officials who approved the construction of some 800 new housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. That is in the southern section of the municipality, part of the area that Israel annexed to its capital in 1967, currently with some 40,000 residents, perhaps with as many Arabs and other non-Jews as our own post-1967 neighborhood of French Hill.
Ashton has reminded us that Gilo is illegal under her conception of international law, and that the most recent decision to build more housing comes at an especially difficult time. It adds yet another hurdle to the peace process, and the entire region needs calm rather than provocations.
The other item came to my in-box from an American friend who wrote about the Bradley effect. That is a political phenomenon named after a former mayor of Los Angeles who enjoyed pre-election polls showing him winning an election, but enough people who said they intended to vote for the politically correct choice of an African-American did something else in the privacy of the voting booth.
"I know a dozen or more Jewish, liberal, pro-Israel voters who supported Barack Obama in 2008--in some cases actively campaigned for him and raised considerable funds for his election--and who are quietly but decisively backing away in 2012 because of Obama's foreign-policy positions and record, especially vis-à-vis Israel. . . .
Many of these people I know are die hard liberals or outspoken progressives: . . . They support gay marriage and abortion rights ("women's healthcare" and "right to choose") and gun control and more progressive taxation and more government services and regulation. But they support Israel even more, so they will, reluctantly, vote for Romney, believing that he is the stronger on foreign policy in general and the U.S.-Israel relationship specifically (and even more specifically, on taking seriously the Iranian nuclear threat and being willing and able to change the mullahs' course). They believe that gun rights and gay rights and abortion and taxes are complicated enough and have enough political scrutiny and reversible enough that any setbacks to their liberal domestic agenda will be temporary and reversible . . . while challenges the survival of Israel and, potentially, the future of the free world may be neither temporary nor reversible in a future administration.
Admitting a mistake and "buyer's remorse" is never a comfortable social stand. But in this case, it's also not a politically correct position, as the majority of the liberals and progressives around them either disagree on the Israel issue or place much lower weight on it. Moreover, there's special sensitivity in the Jewish community to the accusation of "dual loyalties," the allegation that American Jews place a higher priority on Israel than on their American values. Voting for Romney, for these people, lends support to that premise, so they prefer to be private and quiet about their disaffection and defection."
This note came to me with a bold and italic heading, "NOT for attribution."
I queried if that was part of the Bradley effect.
"It absolutely . . . is . . . My best friends would disown me, and I would lose all credibility and professional effectiveness, if I came out of the closet as an Obama-skeptic, let alone a potential Romney voter."
It won't be easy, and maybe not possible, to measure whatever Bradley effect occurs among the small Jewish electorate. If it happens, however, it will not only be Jews who say aloud that they will vote the politically correct route of another term for the articulate African-American, and then do something else.
Taking a firm position against the continued construction for Jews in neighborhoods of Jerusalem was Barack Obama's most offensive--and ill-advised--action. The issue of Israel's unrecognized annexation of mostly empty areas to Jerusalem immediately after being attacked in 1967 lay quietly until awakened by the American president. If it was important for Obama, it could not be less so for Palestinians and Europeans.
It reminds me of the President's thrilling but ignorant advocacy of democracy and equal rights in Cairo, the onset of Arab Spring, continuing as instability most notably in Libya and Syria with combined death tolls somewhere above 50,000. The Palestinian president remains in office almost three years after the end of his term; the Palestinians of Gaza do not recognize him or Israel, while Europeans and Americans in key positions say that Israel has a responsibility to begin the peace process by halting construction for Jews in neighborhoods of Jerusalem.
Reason enough to vote against the incumbent, for anyone concerned not only about Israel, but about a minimum of wisdom in the office that claims world leadership?
Israel's government may not sit quietly. On the table is a report by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, laying out the legal justification for annexing additional areas of the West Bank. Earlier reports were that Netanyahu would file away the recommendation. More recently he is said to be inclined toward some kind of implementation. Is this prospect nothing more than a maneuver in Israel's election campaign? An opportunity perceived in the presence of greater than usual Arab chaos to normalize Israel's relationships with Jewish settlements? Or an angry response to nonsense like that from Catherine Ashton?
Even the possibility of additional annexations may be enough to excite Amrican and Europeans committed to their own views of the politically correct. We will hear more about Israel responsibility for derailing the Arab march toward democracy, equality, and all else that comes from enlightenment.
Stay tuned. This will remain interesting.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem