October 28, 2011

Koch plays Israel bluff, but too late

After first scaring the kishkes out of Jewish voters, Ed Koch now says we can relax: Instead of being a threat to Israel, President Obama is now a friend, and worthy of re-election. Sorry, Mr. Mayor, but you're too late.

Plenty of American Jews were already apprehensive about Barack Obama, even some who voted for him in 2008. I have blogged previously about why the President's critics are wrong about his alleged antipathy to Israel, but this post is specifically about Koch's strategy.

Using his own New York and Israel clout, Koch called on Jews to vote against the Jewish, pro-Israel Democrat in a House race as a message to President Obama that his administration's approach to Israel was going to cost him at the polls, this year and next. Koch endorsed the Republican candidate, Bob Turner, and campaigned vigorously for him.

Whatever impact Ed Koch's endorsement -- and whatever impact of Jewish voters who cared -- Bob Turner won by an impressive margin. Koch was happy to take credit. Within days, President Obama was at the United Nations, warning against premature recognition of a Palestinian state, and Koch took credit for that, too. In response to that one speech, which actually fits the pattern of the President's prior support for Israel at the UN, Koch has announced his endorsement of President Obama -- and he'll even campaign on his behalf.

Having confirmed the suspicions of so many Jews, including many who are suspicious of any African American (or so they tell me), there is nothing Koch can do that will win back votes. His shot across the President's bow was so convincing to those ready to be convinced, that all Koch can do now is erode his own credibility by declaring the President suddenly "kosher".

For his part, Obama will play along. He can't afford to be seen rebuffing Koch's support, lest he provide fodder to his more unwavering opponents. When Obama wins re-election, with a convincing majority of the Jewish vote, Koch can take credit for that, too.

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