Benjamin Netanyahu at Congress - Reuters - 24.5.2011
American politicians giving Benjamin Netanyahu a standing ovation, one of dozens, during his speech to Congress, May 24, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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Tense relations between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are raising concerns in both Washington and Jerusalem, but for political activists vying for Jewish votes, they could mean a new opportunity to sway the pro-Israel community.

The potency of Israel as a wedge issue for Republicans going into 2012 was on full display when Netanyahu invited a small group of Democrats and Republicans to a first-ever joint meeting at Blair House one day before his May 24 speech to Congress.

During his high-profile congressional speech, Democrats and Republicans rose as one to applaud Netanyahu about 30 times. But at the smaller meeting, what was meant to be a show of bipartisanship ended as a war of words between the heads of the National Jewish Democratic Coalition and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Such a shift would depend largely on the AIPAC crowd, a group that has Israel as its top concern when making political decisions. While a majority of AIPAC members and activists, according to a former staffer, are Democrats — as are most members of the Jewish community — strong supporters of the group are more likely to make political decisions based on the candidate’s views on Israel.

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