A Shakeup in District 9
by Theodore Samets
In Monday’s Huffington Post, Ed Koch, the former Democratic mayor of New York City, and an outspoken supporter of Israel, did something scandalous: He advocated that his former constituents in Brooklyn and Queens elect a Republican in the special congressional election taking place this September.
Koch’s principal reason for advocating this, according to his HuffPo column, is what he perceives as President Obama’s “hostility to the state of Israel.” Koch claims that by electing a Republican, the Jewish-dominated 9th district (until recently represented by the Honorable Anthony Weiner) will send a message to the president that he must “change his hostile position on the state of Israel” if he wants to be reelected next year.
Yet Koch is wrong when he claims that supporting a “Scott Brown”-style insurgency is the right tactic. Koch says he will support Republican candidate Bob Turner if he acquiesces to certain demands–committing not to cut Medicare or Social Security, for example. Who is the Democrat Koch will, in turn, oppose? David Weprin–a state assemblyman, former city council member, and according to The Jewish Week, an Orthodox Jew.
So in order to encourage the leader of the Democratic Party to be more pro-Israel, Koch wants Jews to abandon an Orthodox candidate, significantly favored by the political establishment, who last week had this to tell PolitickerNY about the “1967 lines” issue that Koch cites as his major concern with Obama:
“I think our commitment to Israel should be unequivocal,” said Weprin, when I asked about the president’s handling of the Mideast peace process and relationship with Israel. “It’s the only solid ally we have in the Middle East.”
Then, Weprin added, “I don’t think we should be going back to the pre-’67 boundaries. It’s clearly been part of Israel for many, many years.”
This just doesn’t seem like the right guy to be attacking in an effort to get the Democratic Party in line on Israel.
Koch’s concern about where President Obama stands on Israel is not entirely misplaced; the former mayor rightly identifies instances when this administration has not shown friendship to the Jewish state in the way previous presidents have. He’s been on this crusade for a while, after originally endorsing Obama and campaigning on his behalf in 2008. And he’s not the only Democrat concerned with the party’s trend on Israel. (I wrote on this issue a few weeks ago, and Politico’s Ben Smith, who has followed Obama’s relations with the Jewish community since 2007, raised the alarm in a much talked about piece at the end of June.)
What is the best way to address this? The Jewish community is actively engaging with the administration, and the Obama reelection campaign is working hard to promote what they believe is their candidate’s strong record on Israel. In the meantime, it seems that elevating strongly pro-Israel voices like David Weprin is a better move for Jewish Democrats than trying to tie him to a president’s policies that only some consider anti-Israel.
After all, in the same interview with PolitickerNY, Weprin also stated his support for Nancy Pelosi as leader of the House Democratic caucus. And who does Koch identify in his HuffPo column as a better spokesperson for his beliefs than President Obama? Nancy Pelosi.