With his approval rating among Jews down 20 points from his showing in the 2008 election -- and with Republicans eager to exploit Jewish anxieties about Obama's commitment to Israel -- the president isn't passing up many chances these days to proclaim that he's a loyal friend of the Jewish state.
On Friday, he spoke to the Union for Reform Judaism and maintained that his administration has done right by Israel. Under his watch, he said, the U.S. has "secured the most funding for Israel in history." What's more, America has worked with Israel to devise an anti-missile system and is taking "no options off the table" in its effort to deprive Iran of nuclear weapons. "No option off the table" is code for a possible military strike.
Obama got a "rock star reaction," according to a pool report recounting the event.
Republicans would love to pry loose the Jewish support that has traditionally gone to Democrats.
A group called the Emergency Committee for Israel placed an ad in five newspapers around the country this week posing the question: "Why Does the Obama Administration Treat Israel Like a Punching Bag?"
The ad recounted a private conversation between Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy last month that was picked up on a live mike. Sarkozy called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "a liar."
Obama replied, "You are fed up with him, but me, I have to deal with him every day."
The ad shows a Jewish star superimposed over the heavy bag boxers use to train.
The Emergency Committee's board includes Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and former chief of staff to ex-Vice President Dan Quayle; and Gary Bauer, a Republican candidate for president in 2000.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney fielded a question about the ad in his briefing on Friday.
Carney said, "I would simply reiterate that this president's commitment to Israel's security is unshakable. And that's this administration's policy, and it has been demonstrated I think amply by the steps that we've taken in the last nearly three years in regard to Israel's security."
Republicans have had their own troubles navigating Middle East politics. In an interview last week with The Jewish Channel, GOP front-runner Newt Gingrich described the Palestinians as "an invented people."
"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state," Gingrich said. "It was part of the Ottoman Empire."
Gingrich's campaign later tried to clean up that assertion, which drew a fierce rebuke from the Palestinians.
A Gingrich spokesman said that the candidate supports a two-state solution that would arise from a negotiated peace agreement.