Jewish Voters Gravitating Toward GOP

Jewish Americans make up only 2.5 percent of the U.S. population but they vote in higher percentages than any other minority group in the country.

Typically, they are known as staunch Democrats, but as more of the traditional left of the Democratic Party gravitate toward the Palestinian cause, American Jews are indicating that they place more trust in the party of George W. Bush.

"Prior to Sept. 11 on my radio show, a lot of people would call and say, ‘Rabbi, how dare you support a Republican,’" offered Rabbi Chaim Mentz, a Los Angeles radio talk show host.

"Now, all of a sudden, after Sept. 11, they notice there is a moral clarity which America never showed, which is an alliance with our brethren that may be living in Israel," he added.

At a recent pro-Israel festival in Los Angeles, Jewish American voters signed up to support the Republican Party.

"I want to be a Republican. Why? Because I’m disappointed in Democrats," said Claire Shpayer, a Jewish voter.

"The Republican leadership has been standing up for Israel. The Christian Coalition, which is part of the Republican Party, stands up constantly for Israel," said another Jewish voter, Bennett Zimmerman. "I think it’s a matter of saying that on many key issues I agree with them."

Of course, not all Democrats are willing to make the leap across party lines to the Republican camp.

"My issues go beyond support of Israel," said voter Ian Russ. "They’re also a lot of American issues, a lot of economic issues, with which I would disagree."

Politicians from both parties rushed to buoy their support with the powerful Jewish lobby this week at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., told committee members that the United States Senate stands with Israel in these difficult days.

"Israel has always had fair-weather friends. What it needs now are foul-weather friends," Daschle told the lobby group, which held its annual convention in Washington. "As long as I'm the majority leader of the United States Senate, we will be a friend to Israel in fair weather and in foul," he said.

Most notable, however, were speeches by prominent conservatives and members of the administration.

In a speech inspiring a standing ovation, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, called the Palestinian Authority "a holding company for terrorist subsidiaries."

"Let me assure you this morning, as long as I am in Congress, I’ll use every tool at my disposal to ensure the Republican Conference, and the House of Representatives, continues to preserve and strengthen America’s alliance with the State of Israel," he told the conference.

DeLay also plans to drum up support for a resolution that calls upon the House "to remain committed to Israel’s right to self-defense," and recommends $27 billion for Israel in supplemental aid.

Speaking to an audience of approximately 3,500, White House Chief of Staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. said, "Our differences are differences of true friends — friends who respect each other, friends who share the same values and the same dreams, friends whose affection for one another is genuine and abiding and unshakable."

Gary Bauer, a popular Christian conservative and 2000 Republican presidential candidate, has also come out strongly with pro-Israel statements, as has the conservative National Review and talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

A poll of Jewish voters shows that President Bush’s approval ratings among the Jewish community are over 80 percent. Political analyst Susan Estrich said this is an opportune time for the Republicans to start dipping into the wide support Democrats receive from Jewish Americans.

"Right now George Bush has an opportunity that no GOP president has had in our lifetimes — to change the dynamic of the Jewish vote in America," she said.