The National Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership Summit: A Crucial Event Amidst the Israel-Hamas War
Long considered a “can’t-miss” annual event for GOP politicians, the national Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) leadership summit is occurring at a crucial time, shortly after the Israel–Hamas war erupted.
“The summit has taken on added significance and added weight, given what’s going on in Israel,” RJC spokesman Sam Markstein told The Epoch Times.
The gathering also comes at a time when more American Jews may be ready to shift their political affiliation from Democrat to Republican, given that Democrats’ support for Israel has waned, he said.
Former President Donald Trump and seven other Republican presidential hopefuls are scheduled to speak on Oct. 28 at the summit, which is being held at the Venetian Resort’s conference center in Las Vegas.
About 1,000 people and more than 50 media outlets, including international press and Israeli TV, are expected for the three-day event, which begins on Oct. 27.
State and national elected officials will meet with “some of the most engaged and influential party activists in the country,” according to Mr. Markstein.
“This conference is going to show that the Republican Party unequivocally and apologetically stands with the Jewish state of Israel,” he said.
“Back in the day, you’d be able to get up at a Republican or a Democratic event, and you could say, as a candidate, ‘I stand with Israel,’ and it was always an automatic ‘applause line,'” Mr. Markstein said. ”But I think you would get booed off the stage if you said that in the Democratic Party today.”
The summit, which was scheduled many months ago, begins 20 days after Hamas terrorists swooped in on unsuspecting Israelis. The attackers killed, raped, and kidnapped innocent civilians. Hostages, including Americans, are still being held.
The attackers behaved with “such barbarity, it is hard to wrap your mind around,” according to Mr. Markstein, who’s Jewish. The initial attack killed about 1,400 people, and thousands have been killed in Israel and Gaza since.
Eric Levine, a New York attorney who serves on the RJC board, told The Epoch Times that he expects that “all the presidential candidates and every elected official that shows up is going to talk about the Israel–Hamas war.” As well they should, he said.
“There is no more important issue in the world today than America defending Israel,” Mr. Levine said.
He said he thinks many Americans don’t understand that “Israel is fighting our war.”
“Israeli men and women are going to die to advance America’s national security interests,” Mr. Levine said.
Hamas’s attack on Israel is “an assault on Western civilization,” he said. “Western civilization is either going to win or lose. That is what is at stake.”
Hamas, which controls a 140-square-mile area that includes about 2 million Palestinians, has long declared that it wants to destroy Israel.
Mr. Levine said he finds it deeply disturbing and outrageous that ”we’re seeing the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism from the left,” pointing to the recent pro-Palestinian protests on liberal college campuses.
“That is waking up American Jews,” he said. “It is a very troubling time for American Jewry.”
Trend Toward Jews Voting Republican
He and Mr. Markstein said they see signs that Jews are turning toward conservatives, realizing that it’s in their best interest.
Since 1968, 71 percent of Jews have voted for Democrats in presidential races, with only 26 percent voting for Republicans, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
In 2020, 68 percent of the Jewish vote went to the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden. Only 30 percent of U.S. Jews voted for the then-incumbent Republican president, Donald Trump.
Still, President Trump’s share of the Jewish vote was 6 percent more than he received in 2016. His 2020 total was also nearly triple the percentage of Jews who voted for Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Mr. Markstein said President Trump’s pro-Israel actions impressed many American Jews. The 45th president relocated the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. He also negotiated the Abraham Accords, considered an important step toward fostering peace between Israel and its Middle East neighbors.
Last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attracted 45 percent of his state’s Jewish vote when he won reelection to the governor’s post, Mr. Markstein pointed out.
“[So among Jewish voters,] the trend lines are very significantly moving toward the Republican Party,” Mr. Markstein said. “And we fully anticipate here at RJC that those numbers will continue to improve for the GOP and next year and into the future.”
At the summit, President Trump, Mr. DeSantis, and six other Republican presidential candidates will each be allotted about 25 minutes to speak on Oct. 28. The other candidates are North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
Other featured speakers at the summit include Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.), Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), and Fox News commentator Mark Levin.
What percentage of Jews surveyed said they would vote for a Republican candidate in the upcoming elections?
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However, that trend may be shifting. A survey conducted in August by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 29 percent of Jews surveyed said they would vote for a Republican candidate if the election were held today. This is a significant increase from previous years.
”People look at the Democratic Party, and they see something that doesn’t relate to their values,” Mr. Markstein said. “They see something that is anti-Israel, that is anti-religion, that is anti-small business, and quite frankly, that is anti-American.”>
He mentioned the rise of the far-left progressive “Squad” within the Democratic Party, which includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. These members have been vocal in their criticism of Israel and have supported the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
”It’s really opened people’s eyes,” Mr. Markstein said. “It’s been very easy for American Jews to be Democrats because of the history of the Democratic Party and the strong support for Israel. But now it’s different.”
“And that is scaring a lot of people,” he added.
Both Mr. Markstein and Mr. Levine said that one of the goals of the conference is to reach out to Jews who may be considering a shift in their political affiliation.
”We want them to know that they have a home in the Republican Party, that there’s a place for them,” Mr. Levine said.
Republican Support for Israel
The summit will also serve as a platform for Republican politicians to reaffirm their support for Israel, a key ally in the Middle East.
Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the United States
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