Playing the Jesus Card

Why is Netanyahu courting Christian fundamentalists?

Published on Voltairenet.org, by M.J. Rosenberg, July 29, 2009.

This article considers the flourishing relationship between Benjamin Netanyahu and the Christian Right, affectionately termed “Christian Zionists,” who unconditionally endorse Netanyahu’s hardline policies. In the ongoing tug-of-war over the building of new settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, the U.S. pro-Israel community is allegedly behind Obama, leaving Netanyahu with no option but to draw support from the Christian Zionist constituency. However, Rosenberg posits that such dynamics will do little to boost Netanyahu’s agenda since his Christian allies lack the political clout to make the scales tilt in his favour …   

… It has all the makings of a zero sum game: Netanyahu and other right-wing Israelis hope that the support they gain from the Christian right can help make up for what they have lost among American liberals over the past several years.

It won’t. Christian Zionists of the CUFI variety are hardcore Republicans. Their votes are never up for grabs in elections because they are owned by the GOP — and not because of Israel. Right-wing Christians, including Christian Zionists, support Republicans for the party’s stance on abortion, gays, taxes and a host of other conservative issues. Neither the Democrats (who will never get their votes or their campaign contributions) nor the Republicans (who will always get both) have any need to court them. So, loud and organized as they are, this subset of the American right is not a major political player.

On the Israel issue, the only domestic constituency that matters is the Jewish community and, thus far, it is supporting Obama — not Netanyahu — on the settlements issue and the peace process. That should be no surprise, given that most Jews are Democrats and 78 percent of them voted for Obama over McCain.

So long as that support holds, Obama has a free hand on Arab-Israeli affairs. And it will hold as long as the president’s popularity remains high. If Obama’s support declines —whether due to a failure on healthcare or anything else — some of his Jewish support will erode too. And that would give Netanyahu the opening he wants to enlist the Jewish community in his effort to stop Obama’s pressure on Israel.

In any case, it will be the Jews who make the difference, not Netanyahu’s irrelevant fundamentalist Christian allies. Like most card tricks, this one is pretty easy to crack. (full text).

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