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Friday, 09 December 2011 04:24
To fund Israel or not
to fund Israel?
To fund Israel or not to fund Israel?

Joshua SteinJoshua Stein

I don’t normally think of myself as being particularly sadistic; I’m not the sort of guy who rues missing the opportunity to cheer on gladiators going at each other to the death, but let’s face it – who doesn’t love the way the Republicans are behaving in the pre-caucus, pre-primary phase of their blood sport?

They all want to unseat President Obama, and none is willing to raise a penny in taxes to help resolve the debt brought about by the Bush tax cuts and unfunded wars. All believe in cutting off their noses to spite their faces. For example, when asked at a recent debate if they would be willing to increase taxes by a dollar in return for spending cuts of $10, there was a universal response – none would. But after those areas of agreement, it’s strop the razor, hone the machete, sharpen the tongue and praise Jesus. (Mitt Romney is a bit behind on the praise Jesus part, though as a Mormon he does believe in three gods, one of whom is the aforementioned gentleman from Nazareth.)

Romney has always been the pacesetter, the one the others are trying to dethrone.

One by one they rise up against him and one by one they fall by the wayside. I write this on Dec. 2 so don’t know how things will be on Dec. 9, but I can report with certitude that today Newt Gingrich is the current first-tier challenger, having replaced Herman Cain who previously had edged aside Rick Perry who’d steamrollered over Michele Bachmann. At this pace, poor Rick Santorum, who is universally ignored, might just emerge as the next “great white hope” to defeat Romney. Tim Pawlenty may have dropped out too soon. And Sarah Palin, too. Even she might have had a decent run at Romney before going down in flames against Obama. It’s all too wondrous to behold. Like watching gladiators. As is said about fox hunting, enjoying this is indefensible, but irresistible.

And what does all this mean to the Jews? Well, on the one hand, nothing more than to gentiles, but there is the Israel question now. Yes, all are passionate about the survival of the Jewish State but Ron Paul, who is opposed to spending any money unless it can be justified by the standards of the 18th century, opposes foreign aid altogether and Rick Perry, in what seems by comparison to be a more moderate view, has come out with the idea that in any decision on foreign aid he would start at zero dollars and “then we’ll have a conversation in this country about whether or not a penny of our taxpayer dollar needs to go into those countries.”

Gingrich immediately signed on. The former House speaker who looks fondly back on his suicidal shutting down of the federal government in ‘95-‘96 said the idea “made absolutely perfect sense.”

Off-camera, Perry latter waffled, a technique he learned from Romney. “Obviously,” he said, “Israel is a special ally. And my bet is that we would be funding them at some substantial level. But it makes sense for everyone to come in at zero and make your case.” With all that waffling, it’s time to bring out the maple syrup and save some for Romney whose spokesmen announced immediately after the debate that he would exempt Israel from the policy.

What Perry seems to have forgotten (or never knew about) is a 10-year memorandum of understanding that governs domestic funding levels for Israel. Signed in 2007, it provides long-term assurances guaranteeing Israel both financial assurances and political support. So, while reneging on international promises is not unheard of, no Republican, whether Perry or any other GOP candidates in unison with him, would start with zero dollars for Israel; and if not for Israel, than probably not for other countries in the Middle East, all of which would look askance at America supporting the Jewish State to the exclusion of their own. Well, it sounds fiscally conservative anyway, if undoable (like much fiscal conservatism).

So, as Republicans vie with each other uttering “morituri te salutant” (“We who are about to die, salute you.”) their razors stropped, their machetes honed, their tongues sharpened, their minds numbed (Oops, I shouldn’t have said that) how will evangelical Republicans or Orthodox Jews feel when Gingrich is brought low and they are ultimately forced to choose between voting for Obama or Romney? Who can say? We can only sit back and enjoy the spectacle. Let the games continue!

Josh Stein is a professor of history at Roger Williams University. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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