GOP seizes on Obama-Netanyahu rift

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orig netanyahu palestine two-state solution peace israel_00000325

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Washington (CNN)With relations between Israel and the White House at a new low, Republicans are seizing on the opportunity to peel Jewish voters away from their historic home in the Democratic Party.

GOP politicians are stressing their enduring bonds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and criticizing President Barack Obama for giving the Israeli leader the cold shoulder.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner announced Friday that he'll be visiting Israel later in the month. Though his office said the trip was long in the works, it will take place less than a month after Boehner hosted Netanyahu for a controversial address to Congress in which the prime minister ripped into Obama's Iran diplomacy.
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And like clockwork, nearly every potential 2016 GOP presidential contender raced to offer their congratulations to the Israeli leader on social media Wednesday morning. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called him a "true leader," Sen. Ted Cruz called him an "extraordinary" one, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum called him "a man of courage, candor and strength."
    Their noise about his win was amplified by the silence from Obama, who waited two days to call Netanyahu to offer his congratulations — a delay that Republicans denounced as inappropriate and offensive.
    Before Obama called, the Republican Jewish Coalition blasted out an email asking, "What is the White House waiting for?"
    GOP figures then piled on more when anonymous White House officials let reporters know that when the long-awaited call came Thursday afternoon, Obama told Netanyahu he might "reassess" the U.S. relationship with Israel.
    On Thursday night, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took to the Senate floor to accuse Obama of making "a historic mistake" with his warning.
    The moves, Republicans say, stem from a concern for the safety of one of America's closest allies and the only democracy in the Middle East. But they have the added effect of staking a Republican claim on support for Israel and, with it, the Jewish vote in America.
    "Have Obama's actions and attitude toward Israel over the past six years put the Jewish vote up for grabs? I think the answer's yes," said Texas-based Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak.
    He added, "I think 2016 does present an opportunity for Republicans to massively improve their performance with Jewish voters."
    Mackowiak noted the issue appeals to two core constituencies of the GOP base.
    "Evangelical Christians in the United States strongly support Israel, and they do it from a biblical position," he said. "National security hawks strongly support Israel, too."
    Though Jewish Americans have traditionally voted Democratic, there's evidence that could be shifting. American Jews' support for the Republican Party has been growing as the population becomes more Orthodox and as some have become more critical of Obama's policies in the Middle East.
    According to a Pew Forum analysis of exit poll data on midterm House elections, 33% of Jews voted for Republicans in 2014, up from 12% in 2006.
    Iowa Rep. Steve King crystallized the implicit, if elsewhere mostly unstated, Republican argument to Jewish voters in an interview on Boston Herald radio Friday.
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    "Here is what I don't understand," he said. "I don't understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their president."
    But Democrats say they're confident they'll hold onto the Jewish vote, which polls show still overwhelming favor their party.
    Jewish Democratic strategist Matt Dorf dismissed the Republican rhetoric as bluster and simply an effort to curry favor with wealthy Jewish donor Sheldon Adelson.
    "This is a storyline that gets promoted every two, and certainly every four years in a presidential cycle, and it's never true," said Matt Dorf, former Jewish liaison for the Democratic National Committee.
    Dorf said regardless of how supportive Republicans are of Israel, their policies are "too out of step with the values that Jewish Americans have, which is this intense responsibility for the most vulnerable among us."
    But Mackowiak pointed to slipping support for Israel among Democrats, suggesting that the party isn't the best choice for those who care about the Jewish state.
    "Israel is a wedge issue in the Democratic Party. It's not a wedge issue for us."