(Editor’s note: This is the first of two columns the Chronicle will run from The Israel Project correspondents covering the Republican and Democratic national conventions.)
TAMPA, Fla. — I recently wrapped up my first-ever political convention in Tampa — the 2012 Republican National Convention — as a former journalist and now an employee of The Israel Project (TIP).
Established in 2002, TIP is an international nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization that provides facts about the Middle East and Israel to the press, policy makers and public.
The theme of the Republican National Convention was undoubtedly the economy, with newly minted GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney sticking to pointing out the faltering economy and growing deficit under President Barack Obama.
“We built that,” the GOP, delegates and supporters constantly pointed out, in reference to part of President Obama’s quote made in a speech in Roanoke, Va., in July.
People vote on jobs. TIP research and interviews have shown that even in the disputed Palestinian territories, people’s number one concern is jobs. A priority of Israel advocates in this election season should be escalating awareness of Iran’s extensive nuclear weapon building program and repeated vows to destroy Israel. These issues are mentioned, but they’re not at the forefront of either candidate’s campaign.
Though Romney’s trip to Israel this summer was a campaign stop, he didn’t touch on Israel until the end of his speech closing out the RNC last Thursday night. Romney called for the United States to take a stronger role in the relationship.
“President Obama has thrown allies like Israel under the bus, even as he has relaxed sanctions on Castro’s Cuba,” Romney said. He praised Obama for taking out Osama bin Laden but added, “America is less secure today because he has failed to slow Iran’s nuclear threat. Obama said we should talk to Iran. We’re still talking and Iran’s centrifuges are still spinning.”
What Obama has to say about it at the DNC is not known yet, but we’ll be following. Check out our political blog, tiponthetrail.com, to find out.
How can Israel supporters have their voices heard in a U.S. political climate that is increasingly about rhetoric, ugly TV ads and a trillion dollar deficit? We have to talk to people about why it’s important to support the United State’s biggest ally in an increasingly violent and extremist Middle East. Why aren’t our candidates more concerned with comments such as this, from Saudi Arabian clerk Salman al-Odeh? “Jews believe that they have the right to kill anyone who does not adhere to their religion,” he said, along with accusations of using the Holocaust as a tool and calling most of it “a myth.”
The theme of “never again” seems to be forgotten when statements such as these are not recognized, or not recognized enough, on the national political stage. Israeli Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy in Washington, Ambassador Barukh Binah, said at an American Jewish Committee event held at the RNC that Iran is not just a threat beyond the horizon; it’s a day-to-day nuisance.
It’s time U.S. politicians saw it the same way, and not just the add-on to a fiery convention speech. People vote on jobs, but national security is at risk, too. The types of anti-America, anti-Israel statements that lead to global and domestic acts of terror are more prevalent today, but Americans don’t always hear about it because they’re caught up in the buzzwords and promises of November’s election.
But we should be concerned. Ahmadinejad doesn’t mince words. As broadcasted on Iranian state television on Al-Quds day recently, he said, “The Zionist regime and the Zionists are a cancerous tumor. Even if one cell of them is left in one inch of [Palestinian] land, in the future this story [of Israel’s existence] will repeat.” He added, “in the new Middle East there will be no trace of the Americans and Zionists.” We stand in this together. Let’s remind those running for office of that.
So what can pro-Israel advocates do at a time when the Middle East sometimes takes a backseat on the political circuit? Whoever your candidate is, hold them accountable. Each candidate needs to be addressing this incredibly important subject more directly — and more often — than they have been. We can’t say one candidate is “better for Israel.” The truth is, the American political climate needs to get better for Israel so those in positions of influence make it a top priority.
(Ashley Gold is a former reporter and correspondent for The Jewish Chronicle. She graduated from Penn State in May 2011 and now works at The Israel Project in Washington, D.C. She is from Monroeville.)