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A Primer on the Bibi-Barack Meeting

10:50 AM, May 11, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Elliott Abrams had a must-read in the Journal Saturday on the coming White House meeting. He offers guidance on how to interpret the language, the statements, the subsequent leaks, etc. And he offers this interesting assessment of what may be the most important issue on the table next week:

American Jewish leaders are much taken with the Iran issue, though, and if Mr. Obama seems to be tougher on Mr. Netanyahu than on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (or Hugo Chávez, for that matter), it won't take long for nerves to fray. Even the Jews, loyalists for the Democrats, can change their votes. Richard Nixon won 17% of the Jewish vote in 1968, but against George McGovern in 1972 that doubled to 35%. George H.W. Bush won 35% of Jews in 2008 [sic], perhaps a Jewish vote of thanks to Ronald Reagan, but when he lost his bid for re-election in 1992 he had whittled Jewish support down to 11%. In this league the winner and still champion is Jimmy Carter. Mr. Carter won 71% of the Jewish vote in 1976, but only 45% in 1980. It can happen.

I'm dubious that Obama would squander the Jewish support he worked so hard to earn during the campaign, but support for Israel in this country obviously extends well beyond the mostly liberal Jewish community. Certainly both leaders will pay some political price if things don't go smoothly, though as Abrams says, "this meeting is far more important for Mr. Netanyahu than for Mr. Obama; Mr. Netanyahu has a lot more at stake."