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Thursday
Dec082011

Obama's Israel Policy Takes Hits But Unlikely to Alter Jewish Vote

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Republican presidential candidates slammed President Obama’s Israel policy in successive speeches before the Jewish Republican Coalition on Wednesday, using a slew of recent off-the-cuff comments on Israel by administration officials as ammunition for their attacks.

Rep. Michele Bachmann accused Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for showing “disdain” toward Israel when he demanded last week that they “get to the damn table” to restart peace talks, and she blasted U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman of “justifying anti-Semitism” in a speech before the European Jewish Union, according to excerpts of her remarks.

Mitt Romney charged Obama with “chastising” Israel, raising the controversy over Obama’s 1967 borders speech in May, and “insulting” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in private comments to French President Nicolas Sarkozy caught by an open mic last month.

“These actions have emboldened Palestinian hardliners who now are poised to form a unity government with terrorist Hamas and feel they can bypass Israel at the bargaining table,” Romney said.  “President Obama has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East.”

Rick Santorum even predicted the situation has given Republicans an edge, with ”Jews all across this country now understanding that the values of the Republican Party are in concert with theirs, and we’ve seen a dramatic growth in Jewish involvement in the Republican Party.”

But while the Republicans’ politically charged claims might help rally conservative primary voters, including Jews, there are few signs their comments on Israel will alter the longstanding Democratic allegiance of the Jewish voting bloc headed into 2012.

Polls show Obama, who won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, according to exit polls, retains strong support among American Jews, even if his standing has slipped compared to where it was four years ago.

Among Jews in Israel, Obama’s favorability has even been on the rise, according to a Saban Center for Middle East Policy poll released last week.  Fifty-four percent of Israeli Jews have a favorable view of Obama, up from 41 percent last year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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