House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) argued that Jewish voters are being “exploited” by Republicans over the issue of Israel’s security, calling President Obama the “strongest” supporter of Israel and accusing the GOP of seeking to distract from their domestic agenda.
The remarks provoked a fiery retort from the nation’s most prominent Jewish Republican, who called it “patronizing” and “insulting” just hours before a Sunday speech in Israel by the GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Asked on Bloomberg TV’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt” whether the issue of Israel could help Republicans chip away at Democrats’ advantage with Jewish voters in the fall elections, Pelosi chafed.
“You know, as many of the Republicans are using Israel as an excuse, what they really want are tax cuts for the wealthy,” she said. “So Israel, that can be one reason they put forth.”
Told that Jewish voters are active over the issue, Pelosi added: “Well, that’s how they’re being exploited. And they’re smart people. They follow these issues. But they have to know the facts. And the fact is that President Obama has been the strongest person in terms of sanctions on Iran, which is important to Israel. He’s been the strongest person on whether it’s Iron Dome, David’s Sling, any of these weapons systems and initiatives that relate to Israel. He has been there over and over again.”
Her comments didn’t sit well with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who has evoked Obama’s rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an opportunity for Republicans to win over American Jews, a solid Democratic voting bloc.
“It is both patronizing and deeply insulting for Nancy Pelosi to suggest any Jew is ‘exploited’ for their political beliefs or that support for Israel is somehow an ‘excuse’ for anything,” he said in a statement. “Such thinking diminishes the importance of issues affecting Jews everywhere.”
The latest Gallup tracking poll finds that Jewish registered voters prefer Obama over Romney by a whopping 68-25 percent margin.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.