Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama. (photo credit:REUTERS)


WASHINGTON – Candidates for the Republican nomination for president made their case for support from the country’s Jewish community on Thursday, characterizing US President Barack Obama as a danger to Israel and warning of a continuation of his policies under a consecutive Democratic administration.

The contenders, speaking at a Washington forum, were preaching to a sold constituency: The Republican Jewish Coalition, a lobbying group that connects Jewish members of the party with its leadership.

But while most American Jews prioritize domestic issues when voting in general elections, the slew of candidates jockeying for support focused squarely on Israel– and on their conviction that Obama, after brokering a landmark nuclear deal with Iran over Israel’s objections, has compromised the long-term security of the Jewish state.

“Israel stands on the front lines of our civilizational struggle against radical, apocalyptic Islam,” said Marco Rubio, a leading contender currently serving as the junior senator from Florida. “That term, apocalyptic Islam, is not an attempt at being provocative; it is rather a description of the true beliefs of the leaders of both Iran and the Islamic State: that they are living in the end times and that mass genocide is their way to honor God.”

Businessman Donald Trump, who has consistently led polls in key primary states, called Obama “the worst thing that’s ever happened to Israel,” and the deal with Iran a mortal blow to the alliance.

Nevertheless, Trump– along with candidates Jeb Bush of Florida and John Kasich of Ohio– have all said they would strictly police the nuclear deal as president, as opposed to others, such as Ted Cruz of Texas, who have threatened to tear it apart.

Trump expressed skepticism that either Israel or the Palestinians have the commitment to a two-state solution necessary for a successful negotiation. But he said it would make him “so happy” if he, as president, could broker “perhaps the hardest deal in history to put together.”

“I believe that I can put both sides together,” he said, “but it will take six months.”

The campaign refocused on national security in the wake of the terrorist assault in Paris last month, and Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon with popular support among evangelical Christians, has since slipped in the polls. His speech to the RJC Forum was largely a recap of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a prescription at the end familiar to conservatives: That Israel must retain strategic depth in any comprehensive solution; that Palestine has passed on several opportunities to achieve statehood; and that Palestinian leadership is fundamentally undermined by Hamas’ control of Gaza.

Threats facing Israel, as Prime Minister Netanyahu often says, come from the same extremist ideology challenging the West: Radical Islam, the candidates asserted, repeatedly using a term their current president avoids.

One long-shot candidate, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, joked he would be the first commander-in-chief with an all-Jewish cabinet. He warned that nominating Trump would put Republicans in an unwinnable position come November, noting his dwindling support among Hispanic Americans and women.

“I be­lieve Don­ald Trump is des­troy­ing the Re­pub­lic­an Party’s chances to win an elec­tion that we can’t af­ford to lose,” Gra­ham said, adding: “If you’re go­ing to tell a wo­man who’s been raped that she has to carry the child of her rap­ist, you’re los­ing most Amer­ic­ans.”

Indeed, they may too lose Jewish Americans – 93 percent of whom are pro-choice, according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll from 2013, including 77 percent of Jewish Republicans.

One Democratic Jewish group sought to provide balance before the Republican event on Thursday, issuing a statement highlighting consistent Jewish support for Democrats.

“As of late, we have seen how Republicans are rushing to turn away Syrian refugees,” said Greg Rosenbaum, chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “However, leading Jewish organizations, from across the spectrum, do not see Syrian refugees as a threat– rather, there is rare unanimity on an issue that has stirred partisan passion.”

Few contenders took note of rising anti-Israel sentiment across US college campuses and throughout Europe, with the exception of Rubio, who said he would call the trend “anti-Semitic” should he win the presidency.

“Let’s take a step back and realize what this means,” he told the crowd. “Discriminatory laws that apply only to Jews are now being written into European law for the first time in more than half a century.”

“I believe we need a president who is not afraid to call this out for what it is: anti-Semitism,” he continued. “I will be that president.”

As reported by The Jerusalem Post