Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel
(The Wall Street Journal) -- by LAURA MECKLER --
Jewish donors and fund-raisers are warning the Obama re-election campaign that the president is at risk of losing financial support because of concerns about his handling of Israel.
The complaints began early in President Barack Obama's term, centered on a perception that Mr. Obama has been too tough on Israel.
Some Jewish donors say Mr. Obama has pushed Israeli leaders too hard to halt construction of housing settlements in disputed territory, a longstanding element of U.S. policy. Some also worry that Mr. Obama is putting more pressure on the Israelis than the Palestinians to enter peace negotiations, and say they are disappointed Mr. Obama has not visited Israel yet.
One top Democratic fund-raiser, Miami developer Michael Adler, said he urged Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to be "extremely proactive" in countering the perception in the Jewish community that Mr. Obama is too critical of Israel.
He said his conversations with Mr. Messina were aimed at addressing the problems up front. "This was going around finding out what our weaknesses are so we can run the best campaign," said Mr. Adler, who hosted a fund-raiser at his home for Mr. Obama earlier this year.
"Good friends tell you how you can improve. They don't tell you 'everything's great' and then you find out nobody buys the food in your restaurants," he said.
It is difficult to assess how widespread the complaints are. Many Jews support Mr. Obama's approach to the Middle East, and his domestic agenda. But Jewish fund-raisers for Mr. Obama say they regularly hear discontent among some supporters.
The Obama campaign has asked Penny Pritzker, Mr. Obama's 2008 national finance chairwoman, to talk with Jewish leaders about their concerns, Ms. Pritzker said. So far, she said, she's met with about a half dozen people. She said the campaign is in the process of assembling a larger team for similar outreach.
"I do think there's an education job to be done, because there's lots of myths that abound and misunderstandings of the administration's record," she said. "The campaign is aggressively getting the information out there."
Robert Copeland, a Virginia Beach, Va., developer, who has given large donations to many Democrats, has already decided he won't vote for Mr. Obama in 2012. "I'm very disappointed with him," he said. "His administration has failed in Israel. They degraded the Israeli people."
An Obama campaign spokeswoman declined to comment on Mr. Messina's conversations with donors, but said the campaign would reach out to Jewish donors and expected strong support. She also directed questions to Ken Solomon, an Obama fund-raiser and CEO of the Tennis Channel, who said any problems were minimal and that most Jewish voters were concerned about many issues, not just Israel.
Malcolm I. Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he saw potential for the discontent to affect Mr. Obama's fund raising.
"It's that people hold back, people don't have the enthusiasm and are not rushing forward at fund-raisers to be supportive,'' he said. "Much more what you'll see is holding back now."
Mr. Adler says he does not doubt Mr. Obama's commitment to Israel but thinks the White House needs to do a better job communicating its support...MORE...LINK
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