Sarah and Sarah
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
One of the things that Sarah Palin did on her stopover at Israel was announce that she was eager to return for a longer visit, and we found ourselves wondering whether she will eventually make a visit to the Machpelah. For the first body laid to rest there in the cave purchased by Abraham was that of Mrs. Palin’s namesake, Sarah, Abraham’s wife and the mother of Isaac. We have sometimes found ourselves wondering whether the affection Mrs. Palin exhibits in respect of Israel is related to the fact that the former governor — the Alert Alaskan is our favorite alliteration for her — is named after the first, the most beautiful, and the most prickly of the Jewish matriarchs.
We were put in mind of this not only by Mrs. Palin’s visit to Israel but also by the contretemps that followed the suggestion by a leading journalist in Washington, David Frum, that Mrs. Palin was alienating Jewish voters by failing to arrange her visit through a the Republican Jewish Coalition, of whose board Mr. Frum is a member. The RJC has been paving the way for one of the most important migrations of American Jews, from the Democratic Party to the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It’s sometimes lonely but always heroic work, and no doubt there were those in the RJC who wished they could have been the organizing party of Mrs. Palin’s first visit to the Jewish State.
The contretemps, however, was a matter of politics rather than principle, and how could it be otherwise? For on the substance Mrs. Palin has been a passionate supporter of Israel. This seems to be well-recognized by the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition Matthew Brooks, who made a point late last week of defending Mrs. Palin’s most recent critique of President Obama. Mrs. Palin, moreover, is, so far as we can detect, the only politician, in either party, who has been prepared to speak up for the right of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria and in terms — she has spoken of the need for Israel to be able to accommodate more Jewish immigrants — that would please the most ardent protectors of the Machpelah.
Not that there is unanimity among Israelis or Jews themselves on the settlers. There are those who believe that the expansion of the settlements is in and of itself a threat to the political, if not theoretical, security of Israel. It’s hard to imagine that Mrs. Palin is unaware of this. All the more remarkable that at the start she is prepared to position herself where she has. To those who say this only marginalizes her even more, we would repeat the aphorism of the late editor of the Wall Street Journal, Robert Bartley: Change happens on the margin. It is no small thing that Republicans have in the wings as a possible contender for 2012 a candidate who echoes, as Mrs. Palin did this past trip, Jabotinsky’s famous advice to the Jews to avoid apologizing.
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Here at home the central point we keep making about Mrs. Palin is that of all the streams of American conservatism hers is the one that is most welcoming to Jewish Americans. Her mantra is what she calls constitutional conservatism, meaning one that is grounded in the bedrock of the American Constitution. It is different from what, in a previous generation, was called Christian Conservatism, a political flag that rallied a magnificent band of followers but that was not the logical rallying cry of Jewish Americans. It is also different from libertarian conservatism, which has attracted legions of lovers of individual freedom but which, with its hostility to an activist foreign policy, often finds itself at odds with the pro-Israel community. Constitutional conservatism, by contrast, is grounded in a founding law that welcomes everyone — Christians, Jews, Muslims, and those of a secular bent. Mrs. Palin would be the first to recognize that nothing she has done, or ever will do, could rank her with the Sarah who married Abraham. But she has already emerged not only as a remarkable friend of Israel but also as a political matriarch here at home for articulating a widely welcoming political philosophy on the Republican right.