By Alex Kane
Newt Gingrich’s jaunt to New York early this month was well–covered in the media, but one crucial aspect went unexplored: the Israel lobby angle. But good reporting from The Jewish Week‘s Adam Dickter makes clear that Gingrich came to New York looking for right-wing Jewish campaign donors who are hardline supporters of Israel.
Dickter reports that Gingrich has only raised around $52,000 from New York campaign donors, a paltry sum compared to Mitt Romney’s New York totals. So Gingrich came to New York in search of some much-needed funds in order to compete with Romney, his chief rival for the Republican nomination.
Not coincidentally, Gingrich’s controversial remarks on Palestinians came only a few days after a major New York meeting with donors.
Who did Gingrich meet with? Dickter reports:
On Dec. 6, at the Hyatt in Midtown, Gingrich met with some 30 prominent Jewish New Yorkers, including Daily News publisher Morton Zuckerman, an ex-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; developer and Republican Jewish Coalition co-founder George Klein; Presidents Conference executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein; National Council of Young Israel Executive Director Rabbi Pesach Lerner and Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind.
Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein, who lives in Pennsylvania, also attended.
“[Gingrich] was extremely impressive,” said Hikind, a Democrat, who has been said to be considering an endorsement of Gingrich, whose views are in line with many constituents of Hikind’s heavily Orthodox Borough Park and Flatbush district. “There are a lot of people from my part of the Jewish community that are pro-Israel that really like the guy. There’s no question that he is refreshing.”
Gingrich’s meeting was an effort to broaden his appeal to donors who are right-wing on Israel, and his remarks about Palestinians are part of that effort. Already in Gingrich’s corner is “Lawrence Kadish, a Long Island-based real estate investor and co-founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition,” reports Dickter. “Kadish is president of First Fiscal Trust and a resident of Old Westbury. He serves on the board of the conservative think tanks Hudson Institute and Claremont Institute and supports the pro-Israel media-watch organizations CAMERA and MEMRI.” But Gingrich needs more money, and so he’s pandering hard to the right on Israel. It will also help in Iowa, where Gingrich wants to capture the Christian evangelical vote, a vote that is solidly Zionist.
Note that his meeting in New York was bipartisan. It’s not just Republican Jewish donors Gingrich is looking to for help; it’s also Democrats like Dov Hikind (who is quite conservative for a Democrat) and Mort Zuckerman. And they’re all about Israel. It’s another example of how the Israel lobby crosses party lines.
Thomas Friedman today said that Congress’ standing ovations for Benjamin Netanyahu was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” He could also extend that line of thinking to include the presidential candidates, including Obama. Sure, Gingrich is tapping into genuine support for Israel among some Americans. But the financing of his campaign is a core reason why Gingrich continues to run to the hard right on Israel. Perhaps now, with an opening in the discourse, we can talk frankly about why Gingrich, and Obama, come to New York and talk about Israel.
Alex Kane is a staff reporter for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.