Alan Dershowitz, one of America’s most important lawyers, was supposed to fly to Florida to persuade elderly Jews to vote for President Barack Obama a second time around. [Hurricane] Sandy cancelled flights, and Dershowitz was forced to make do with a conference call.
At 74, Dershowitz mobilizes his lawyerly zeal to campaign for Obama, the same passion he employs for many loaded issues — from citizens' rights to support for Israel. I asked him why he did so this time.
“Because of the Supreme Court,” Dershowitz answered simply. During the four-year administration of the next president, the fate of the Supreme Court will be decided for the next 20 years.
“In the American Supreme Court, as opposed to the Israeli one, there is no mandatory retirement age. Four of the nine justices will be over 80 years during the administration. Two are liberals, one is a conservative and the fourth is a moderate conservative. Assuming that at least two of them will retire, the justices appointed by the elected president will determine what will be the majority verdicts in the Court. The burning issues will be abortions and separation of church and state. The [latter] issue is a very important one to the Jewish community.”
Not Iran — I said — not Israel. Only the Supreme Court?
“I don’t see differences between Obama and Romney regarding foreign policy,” Dershowitz said. “Obama will be better for Israel on Iran, maybe Romney will be more easygoing about the Palestinian issue, but Iran is a lot more important.”
How will the Jewish vote be divided, I asked.
He said: “98% of the ultra-Orthodox will vote for Romney. Among the Orthodox, 70 percent will vote for Romney. The Obama vote among all the other Jewish groupings will reach 80 percent.”
What did you say to the Jews in Florida today, I asked.
“I talked to them about Israel,” Dershowitz said. “I said that Obama was very good about Israel’s security. I mentioned the Iron Dome [anti-missile defense system], the struggle against the Goldstone Report, the sanctions on Iran.”
Obama made quite a lot of mistakes in his relations with Israel, I said.
“Every president makes mistakes at the beginning of his term of office,” he said. “Bush attacked Iraq and that was a catastrophe for Israel, because of Iran. Peres was in favor of an American assault on Iraq. I opposed the war in Iraq mainly because of Iran.”
I said, Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, your state. He is considered to be a very successful, pragmatic governor. Why don’t you think that he will be a successful president?”
“Because he will face heavy pressure from senators and congressman in his party’s extremist's wing,” Dershowitz said. “On the economic side, he will support the rich. He will be pulled along after his party.
“Regarding Israel, I always felt that it is very important that it receive bipartisan support. I didn’t want the liberal-left to skip support for Israel.”
Did Netanyahu’s tacit support for Romney harm Obama, I asked.
“His expressions were compensated by Ehud Barak’s statements,” Dershowitz said. “I don’t think that anything said by those two [Israelis] had a big effect on the Jewish vote.”
Obama’s inner beliefs
Steve Rabinowitz, 55, is the owner of a media-consultant firm in Washington. His fields of specialization are Jews and the left; his favorite is the integration of the two. He worked (among other jobs) in Clinton’s White House. On his website, Rabinowitz claims credit for the handshake that Bill Clinton forced on Rabin and Arafat at the ceremonial signing of the Oslo Accord. Rabinowitz is no less proud of the fact that Netanyahu attributed to him (rightly or not) the investigations conducted against him in America during his first term of office. The investigations related to Netanyahu the intention to change his name (“Nitai”) and plan to emigrate from Israel.
I asked: What are you up to this time?
Rabinowitz gave me a handful of Obama [campaign] buttons and bumper stickers — in Hebrew. “We produce films for the Jewish community in favor of Obama,” he said. “The Obama headquarters pays for them.”
We met in a restaurant in Washington. Rabinowitz was careful not to eat meat, due to Kashrut considerations. He spent one year with his family in Jerusalem’s Baka’a neighborhood. It was a pleasure, he said. “I ate tons of meat.”
I asked: Does Obama have a Jewish problem?
“Yes,” he said. “There was a problem, or at least the perception that a problem existed. Many Jews who voted for Obama four years ago began to have doubts. The Republicans explained to them that there is a difference between the two parties regarding Israel.
“In the eyes of liberal Jews, Israel is a threshold that [every candidate] must cross. Once they [the Jews] are satisfied on the Israel issue, the discussion then centers on internal issues — but the [Israel] bar must be crossed first. Now everything will work out. The Jews are coming home [to the Democratic Party].
“There are 600,000 Jews in Florida, almost all of voting age; there are 150,000 Jews in Ohio. We flood them with material, and not just us — also Obama’s headquarters. We produced a video film under the title “Thank you President Obama for the Iron Dome” with the residents of Sderot [South of Israel]. This morning we produced a video film with Barbara Streisand.”
To fight the Democratic propaganda efforts, the Republicans created two coalition organizations: the Republican Jewish Coalition and Emergency Committee for Israel. Both received giant contributions from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. “His contributions are very impressive,” says Rabinowitz. “He doesn’t do anything illegal, but what he does isn’t OK. It’s not normal!”
Four years ago, the Jews had a lot of enthusiasm for Obama, I said. It’s worn out.
“That’s true, but the reverse is also true,” Rabinowitz said. “There were certain misgivings about the shvartze [Yiddish for “black”] Muslim. That’s what they called him in the Florida retirement homes. I think that this concern has dissipated. Today they ask: Does he love Israel in his guts?"
In what? I asked.
“In his guts – deep in his inner-self”
I am not sure he has these ‘inner-selves,’’ I said. Rabinowitz shot me a scathing look from behind his glasses. No such thing. If Obama has used up his "inner-selves," he will issue him new ones immediately.
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