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June 05, 2003

Push for Peace Poses Domestic Political Risk for Bush

Article should be read in its entirety to catch the many nuances of this thesis. Here a conclusion
[...]In an interview, Bauer acknowledged that Bush has built up "such affection among Christian conservatives" that few may reject him solely because of his shift on Israel. But he predicted that if Bush sustains this direction, it could reduce turnout among religious voters in 2004. The larger political question may be how Bush's shift will affect Jewish voters and donors. Representing only about 4% of the national vote, Jews are hardly a dominant constituency. But they could help tip a few hotly contested states, particularly Florida.

Bush's new peace initiative, while welcomed by liberal Jewish groups, such as the Israel Policy Forum, has been received more warily by more mainstream groups. Still, despite some private grumbling, analysts note, the major Jewish lobbies — particularly the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee — have not condemned the administration policy.

Although the number of Jews surveyed in the University of Maryland poll is too small to draw definitive conclusions, Steven Kull, its director, said the findings suggest most would support Bush in demanding concessions from Israel as well as the Palestinians if the peace process appears to be fair.

But James B. Steinberg, deputy national security advisor in the Clinton administration, said resistance from U.S. Jewish groups and evangelical conservatives would probably intensify if Bush presses Sharon to take steps the Israeli leader resists — as Steinberg believes is inevitable if the president is to steer the two sides closer to peace.

"That's the moment of truth when the administration's choice has to be made," Steinberg said.[more]