Romney lags among Jewish voters, offends Palestinians too

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney travelled to Israel hoping to win support among Jewish Americans, but it looks as if U.S. Jewish voters will go heavily for Obama in the upcoming elections.

According to a Gallup tracking poll taken from June 1 through July 26, an overwhelming majority of Jewish Americans, 68 percent, supports President Obama. Only one in four American Jews favors Romney.

According to Gallup, “Although one goal of Romney’s Israel visit could be to attract greater support among Jewish voters in the U.S., Jewish Americans have been a traditionally strong Democratic group, so they are unlikely to become much more supportive of Romney regardless of the outcome of the trip.”

In 2008, Jewish voters gave Obama 78 percent of their votes.

In addition, Romney offended Palestinian leaders and, likely, Arab American voters.

His fundraiser speech in Jerusalem Monday morning seemed aimed at cashing in on Israeli nationalism and the longstanding regional conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Romney told those assembled at the $25,000 per person fundraiser that the reason for Israel’s economic success – and, by extension, the poverty of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – was due to both Jewish culture and an act of God.

“As I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things,” Romney said in the widely reported speech.

Among those “other things,” the GOP hopeful added, was “the hand of providence.”

Romney did not mention Israel’s four-decade-old occupation of the West Bank, which has severely disrupted the Palestinian economy.

Palestinian officials immediately bristled. Saeb Erekat, a senior official to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and a chief negotiator between the two sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, told the Associated Press, “It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people.”

“He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves,” Erekat continued, adding that Romney had taken on an extreme tone that even far-right Israeli leaders had not taken: “I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.”

Gallup, in interpreting the results of its poll, suggested that the trip might also be an attempt by Romney to show expertise in handling foreign policy. “And there is room for Romney to improve in that respect, given that Americans currently view Obama as significantly better able than Romney to handle foreign affairs,” Gallup said.

The poll was conducted by telephone with a random sample of 1,014 American adults. There is a margin of error of 4 percentage points, and the poll has a confidence level of 95 percent.

Photo: Republican presidential Mitt Romney delivers a speech in Jerusalem, July 29. Charles Dharapak/AP