By Larry Gordon
The bumbling at the White House on just about every domestic and foreign policy issue is already being felt here in Nassau County as well as around the rest of New York. Plainly stated, this country is in a mess, and we need the right people in office to help us wiggle out of it.
Voting for Republican candidates across the board in November is not necessarily the answer to all that ails us. The key is to watch how Democratic candidates running for office will be distancing themselves from President Obama as Election Day nears and to absorb that message from them as we go to the polls.
The odd thing here is that the last president, George W. Bush, found himself in a situation similar, yet opposite, to the one in which Barack Obama finds himself today. Bush seemingly reflexively went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan when he possibly should not have; Obama, on the other hand, is refusing to go to war with enemies who have taken the liberty to go to war with us.
If there is a silver lining in all the turmoil presently plaguing the world, it’s that Secretary of State John Kerry is unlikely to have the opportunity anytime soon to set aside nine months to make endless trips to Israel to try to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The right kind of U.S. foreign policy and the right kind of Israel policy is having good people in the right place at the right time.
That brings me to our leading local Nassau County race for a congressional seat, which will have national implications. Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County District Attorney for the last nine years, would make a good congresswoman. She is thoughtful and articulate, and she is also sensitive to the issues that are important to a Five Towns constituency that votes in large numbers and has an extraordinary attachment to the State of Israel.
The same can be said of Bruce Blakeman. For Bruce, policy regarding Israel is not just a matter of party politics or campaign positioning. In the aftermath of his recent trip to Israel, it is abundantly clear that U.S. support of Israel is a personal, even emotional, issue for the candidate.
On his one-week trip in August, Blakeman spent time with Shomron Governor Gershon Mesika, visited the City of David in East Jerusalem, and he spent time in Israel’s largest settlement community, Maale Adumim, with over 40,000 residents.
Unfortunately, the sites he visited—with the exception of the Kotel—are places to which many candidates on a campaign swing junket through Israel are very hesitant to venture. Most are pleased to meet government officials in a conference room at the King David or David Citadel Hotel. This past summer, the mayor of Maale Adumim, Benny Kashriel, told a group that I was part of that he couldn’t get the U.S. ambassador, Dan Shapiro, to visit his city because it is over the Green Line, in so-called “occupied territories.” That was not the case with Bruce Blakeman. He could not wait to get out there and breathe in the air of Israel’s heartland.
After meeting the candidate, one observer went as far as to comment about the recent Blakeman trip that it might be possible to classify Blakeman as being too pro-Israel. This leaves us with, or leads us to, another question. Is that possible?
And the answer to that query from our perspective is simply “no.” A candidate or politician can dance around issues or parse words, but I do not believe for our purposes, and as far as Israel’s security is concerned, that it is possible to be too pro-Israel.
An additional concern is that in the doublespeak that dominates this White House and much of Congress, a man like Bruce Blakeman, who unhesitatingly tells it like it is, may, if he is victorious in November, isolate himself by virtue of his outspokenness and unmitigated support for Israel. Frankly, it is difficult to see things that way from the perspective of the interests of the majority of the district voters who have the ability to send him to work for us in Washington. If nothing else, Blakeman can be a refreshing source of integrity when it comes to a too-frequently muddled approach to the Middle East and the on-again, off-again talks between Israel and her Palestinian nemesis and neighbor.
For example, Blakeman does not vacillate on the issue of the two-state solution to solve all of Israel’s problems. He says unequivocally that it won’t work. His positions in Washington will be fueled and supported by the activism of a large sector of his supporters back here in the district. If anything, we are tired of the passivity of so many of our elected leaders. This past year, as Israel was under pressure from friends and enemies alike, where were our elected officials? As the president decided to go easy on Iran and those important sanctions, New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez spoke up loud and clear while our own Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand were painfully quiet in support of the president’s misguided policy—until they were pressured to speak out.
With the exception of Congressmen Peter King and Michael Grimm, the New York delegation to Congress was awfully still as Secretary Kerry tried to rake Israel over the coals as the talks collapsed between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel. Kerry’s talk about Israel being isolated and boycotted and turning into an apartheid state met with little protest from our elected leaders at a pivotal time.
If nothing else, Blakeman’s overt concern for Israel’s safety and security combined with his insistence on visiting not-so-politically-correct areas of the Jewish state might pull the rest of New York’s congressional delegation out of its quiet slumber.
An additional dimension to this equation is that with the defeat of Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia, the only Jewish Republican voice in the House of Representatives has moved on. While there is presently one other Jewish candidate—aside from Blakeman—who stands a good chance of being voted into the next Congress, his election would still bring a potent expression of our communal voice to affect events in this arena.
The retiring Carolyn McCarthy was a pro-Israel voice of reason over her 17 years in Congress. Her lining up on so many issues with President Obama, however, has not represented the best interests of her constituents. Of course, Kathleen Rice, while endorsed wholeheartedly by Ms. McCarthy, will no doubt be more responsive on issues of importance like Israel. She is a smart, independent thinker who understands where her potential support lies, both materially and politically.
The pollsters say this is going to be a close race that will be decided by two or three percentage points either way. The biggest opponent in a race like this is, as usual, voter apathy—simply not being motivated enough to vote. If there was ever a year or an election when this lethargic approach needed adjustment, it is this year and this election.
The world around us is rapidly changing, and not necessarily for the better. As citizens and voters, we have the opportunity to turn things around. That future is literally in our hands come Election Day, November 4.
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By Larry Gordon