Mitt Romney usually makes big news in Israel. As a presidential candidate, he has been a devoted supporter of Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government (Bibi and Mitt are old friends, having met – where else? – as consultants at BCG in 1976). Many in Israel see him as a stalwart ally. But how are American Jews responding to Romney?
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz asked reporter Dina Kraft to see what the local Jewish community thinks of its former governor.
The reaction was decidedly mixed, perhaps not surprising in a state colored deep Democratic blue.
“I give him enormous credit,” Rabbi Jonah Pesner told the paper. Pesner in 2006 helped Romney pass the nation’s first universal healthcare law. “He was willing to see the moral case that every member of the Commonwealth was insured. He is a deeply religious person and when we, the Jewish and Christian communities, made a moral case, it resonated.”
But Pesner and other Massachusetts Jews are also deeply disillusioned that, since deciding to run for president, Romney has distanced himself from his accomplishments in healthcare.
There is also lingering resentment over Gov. Romney’s decision to cut funding for kosher food in Jewish old-age homes, something Newt Gingrich tried to take advantage of in the Florida primary. “[Romney’s] behavior, which he thought of as a legitimate cost-cutting measure, I experienced as insensitive,” Ruth Balser, a Democratic state lawmaker who is Jewish, told Haaretz.
Some people interviewed in the article also found the governor to be “distant” and “aloof.”
Others were big fans, however, pointing to his unwavering support for Israel.
So far, Romney’s pro-Israel tactics are having a small but noticeable effect: a recent Gallup poll reveals that President Obama’s support among registered Jewish voters has fallen by ten points since the 2008 election, though Obama still leads his rival 64 to 29 percent.
Meanwhile, Romney is expecting a big donation from Boston-born Sheldon Adelson, a Jewish casino magnate who bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s campaign.
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