Palin’s Israel Trip

Philip Weiss criticizes a Hardball panel of host Chris Matthews, and guests David Corn and Eugene Robinson, for focusing too much on whether Sarah Palin is seeking to appeal to Christian Zionists rather than the American Jewish establishment with her trip to Israel. Weiss:

This is not about evangelical Christians, this is about raising Jewish money, as honest Republican David Frum instructed us the other day. None of these three Dems speaks to the power of the Israel lobby inside Democratic Party life, which caused a progressive president to go back on his word to the Muslim world and support Israeli settlements, and which ties their tongues.

This is not an unexpected interpretation of events from Weiss, but I’d hazard a guess that Palin is indeed concerned about her evangelical base if she is going to compete for their affections with candidates like Mike Huckabee. Although Frum notes in the fascinating column Weiss links to that Republican Jews are a small but very politically active minority, I’m not at all convinced that they would make a difference for Pain in Iowa or South Carolina, although they more obviously could in Florida.

Frum, a Republican Jewish Coalition board member, complains in his column that Palin snubbed the group’s offers to sponsor her Israel trip, as it has done for other presidential hopefuls, instead booking it through a Christian tour agency. He thinks, perhaps, that Palin is miffed that he and other RJC board members have been critical of her, but that she’s unwise to rebuff them because they could be so helpful to her.

But this is characteristically Palin behavior — with or without the criticism. She is, for example, the only GOP aspirant who has never spoken at the Values Voters Summit, the premier base ring-kissing event, or at CPAC, where this year someone went to the trouble of appearing as the fake Sarah Palin trolling the conference hallways. Maybe she has a gripe with the RJC, but she has made clear that she has no use for much of the conservative infrastructure.

Even if Palin is not viewing her trip through an electoral lens, she is, I suspect, far more comfortable with an evangelical approach to her trip. She’s a Christian Zionist, to be sure, and like many of her co-religionists, the Jews are adorable pawns in God’s plan. Spiritually speaking, she’d be far more at home with a Christian tour. And if she is trying to appeal to Jewish Republicans, I’m guessing she thinks the trip alone is enough to make them happy, and that she doesn’t need to cozy up to the RJC, just like she thinks she doesn’t have to cozy up to the Family Research Council or the American Conservative Union.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email