by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
Special to WJW
Recently, Jewish Americans have been inundated by videos, emails and ads that attempt to make the case that our votes for president should be based on Israel alone. Well, despite the fact that I love Israel, and maybe also because of it, I refuse to be a single-issue voter.
Shocked to read that someone who spent a decade fully focused on Iran, the peace process, and other security related issues for Israel isn't voting on Israel alone?
Well, I'm not the only one. Many of my co-religionists agree and perhaps more interesting, a number of top Israeli leaders also agree with me.
Years ago I was in a private meeting with President Peres. He explained to me that presidents come and go, but that the most important thing for Israel is for America to stay strong. Israel and America share values and interests, and nothing is more important to Israel's security than a strong America.
Sadly, however, America is in trouble. The American people have suffered unemployment, underemployment and even a crisis of confidence. American foreign policy is grappling with profound changes in the Middle East and around the world. Issues of disability rights, choice, gay rights, education and investments in medical science all matter. But the biggest challenge to America is that we have spent money we don't have. China is our banker, and we've been unwilling to make tough choices about our national credit card addiction.
Our budget is built on a house of cards. And no amount of demagoging of the rich will bring in enough money to overcome the fact that we are saddling our children and grandchildren with too much debt. So before we allow our country to go way of Spain and Greece, the question American Jews need to ask is not "who can make Israel stronger?" but "who can make America stronger?" Frankly, the answer isn't black and white. Each candidate has strengths and weaknesses.
This week I was at the site of the first 2012 presidential debate. In the debates the candidates can speak directly to voters and not just through 30-second attack ads. The first debate focused on domestic issues: jobs, the economy, health care, governing and governance. The word Israel or Jew was not mentioned even once. But our security is at stake in each of those issues.
Immediately after the debate I was able to speak to some of the surrogates for the candidates. I asked them why Jews should vote for their candidates.
Romney's surrogate speaker Tevi Troy cited Israel and Iran issues. He then expanded that Governor Romney "talked about health care, markets, individual responsibilities, the need to get the health care costs down, get health care to the most people at the best costs. He [Romney] kept focusing on jobs and small business owners. There have been a lot of Jewish small business owners and business creators. The importance of bringing down taxes and regulations and making it easier for businesses to hire more people, not to create new burdens on them that reduce the ability to hire more people. I think that is going to appeal to Jewish Americans, but also to all Americans as well."
On behalf of President Obama's campaign, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said "Jewish voters are like Latino voters and like African American voters. They care about the American dream. They care about turning this economy around creating jobs. They are focused on a path forward that will address these deficits in a balanced way. I think they want a president who strongly supports Israel's right to exist and will defend them, defend Israel against all attacks and assaults, and certainly want a president who will challenge Iran on nuclear weapons." He further explained "I have the second largest Jewish population in the USA. We like to joke I'm a landsman and a Yemenite. I can tell you that Jewish voters are pretty reflective of American voters in most respects."
Mayor Villaraigosa, who presided over the vote on putting Jerusalem and God back into the Democratic platform at the DNC, also said "I got calls from Jewish friends from all over the country, and they loved that the president believes that God and Jerusalem should be in our platform, and so did I. Most of the people I talked to both then and since were thankful that I banged the gavel for God and Jerusalem."
There are more debates and weeks of campaigning ahead. Pay attention, stay involved and informed. It's a close election. Your vote and voice matters.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the founder & president of Laszlo Strategies. A former spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, she has been "post-partisan" since 9-11.