Romney's post-Tish'a B'Av faux pas, Sheldon Adelson's 'tainted money'
Mitt Romney says he won't hold a dinner fundraiser in Jerusalem on a fast day; Hillary Clinton prepares to visit Egypt and Israel.
1. Romney's embattled Israel fundraiser
Even before landing in Israel as part of a foreign trip that includes Britain, Germany and Poland, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney experienced some of the complexities of Jewish-American politics - reports that he intends to attend a $50 thousand-a-plate (or $100 thousand per couple) fundraiser in Jerusalem on the day of the Tish'a B'Av fast raised some eyebrows.
Romney's campaign was quick to point out that they were fully aware of the sensitivity of the date. And while Romney will be in Israel, he will not hold fundraising at the time of the fast. When, then?
They can't tell, since it's not official yet. According to the invitation obtained by Haaretz, the fundraiser will take place on July 29 at 9:30 PM, after the fast ends. Not an ideal arrangement, and certainly not the first headlines Romney would like to get in Israel, since it's still on the 29th. But hey, officially it's not the fast time.
2. From Cairo to Jerusalem
While Romney is not aiming to make any Arab friends on his foreign journey, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will finalize her almost two-week, eight-country trip in Egypt and Israel, will have to deliver on a complicated task: strengthening connections with the new and old players in Cairo to ensure the U.S. is still relevant in the changing region (among other officials, she will meet with President-elect Morsi, who was also invited to meet with President Obama on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting that will take place in the fall in New York).
With Netanyahu's coalition wavering and Levy's report on the settlements, Clinton will have to preempt Romney's attempt to draw a silent comparison between his caring about Israel and the current administration's cold shoulder - without any major positive strategic announcements hidden up her sleeve. One could guess Jerusalem wouldn't be Clinton's default choice for a place to finish what will most likely be one of her last major journeys as secretary of state - but she cannot afford to repeat President Obama's early mistake of going to Cairo while skipping Jerusalem.
3. Who's afraid of Sheldon Adelson?
Speaking of funds and donations – the National Jewish Democratic Coalition had to deal this week with some adjustments of their own. About a week and a half ago, NJDC posted a petition calling on Romney and other Republican politicians to stop accepting Adelson's "tainted money," following his reported approval of prostitutes' presence in his Macau casinos.
The petition made critics recall that while Mr. Adelson was donating large sums of money to programs such as Birthright, he was perfectly "kosher" as far as Democrats were concerned. They also wondered what exactly the difference is between Adelson and George Soros, except for Adelson talking openly about his desire to influence the outcome of the elections?
On Wednesday, NJDC chair Marc R. Stanley and President and CEO David A. Harris said in a statement they had decided to scrap the petition "in the interest of shalom bayit [domestic tranquility]," following the "concern that this campaign has caused." The two stressed, however, that they "stand by everything we said, which was sourced from current, credible news accounts. Accusations against Mr. Adelson were made not by us, but by others, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ)" - and pledged "to continue to work hard to fight against the unique threat posed by the outsized influence of certain individual megadonors, which rightly concerns most Americans and most American Jews."
NJDC will probably be relieved to know they are not the first ones to backpedal on an offense against Mr. Adelson – some of the staff at Israel's Channel 10 could share some of their rich experience on this.
4. Who is pro-Israel, again?
Following J Street's fierce opposition to the BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement, it was heavily criticized from the left for giving a hand to the settlement project. J Street, instead of continuing to engage in this back and forth, announced Thursday a new campaign focused on two Congress members - Florida Rep. Allen West and Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh - who oppose the two-state solution. Two separate videos call the congressmen's positions “playing with fire.”
“We intend to make it crystal clear that there are, indeed, many ways to be ‘pro-Israel’—but supporting a nightmarish one-state scenario is not one of them,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “These positions may resonate with wealthy right-wing stalwarts like Sheldon Adelson and Irving Moskowitz, and some extremist Christian Zionists like Pastor John Hagee. But they are not pro-Israel and run counter to the long-term interests of both the United States and Israel."