Former New York Mayor Ed Koch speaks during a news conference on March 1, 2011.
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch speaks during a news conference on March 1, 2011. Mike Groll/AP
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch just sent a message to President Obama: Change your position on Israel, or face trouble with Jewish voters in 2012.
And he delivered that message at the ballot box in New York City.
Koch is a Democrat, but in last week's special election to replace U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner last week, Koch was a vocal supporter of Republican Bob Turner.
The reason, he tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, is his unhappiness with the Obama administration's approach to Israel.
Turner, the Republican, won that race, in a heavily Jewish district dominated by Democrats. It's the first time the New York 9th has elected a Republican since 1922.
"I'm hopeful that the President and the Democratic Party will look at the election which took place in the 9th CD [Congressional District] in Brooklyn and Queens and decide that they were on the wrong track," Koch says. "They ought to revisit their position on how to deal with Israel in a way that would be comparable to what every president since 1948, Harry Truman, did — a special ally relationship."
Koch stumped for Obama throughout Florida and other heavily populated Jewish areas in 2008. He says he hopes to do so again in 2012, but says he needs more assurances from Obama.
"What the president can do is what Jack Kennedy did in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962," Koch says, referring to a letter that Kennedy sent to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. That letter basically said that any attack on a country in the Western Hemisphere by the Soviet Union would be considered an attack on the United States. Koch says Obama should stand up for Israel in the same manner. "That would be the optimum," he says.
Koch says a White House official has already called him to talk about his concerns.
"Jews are only 2 percent of the American population but God put them in Florida and Pennsylvania ... where their votes are extremely important," he says.
And while he he doesn't see a GOP candidate that he could support in 2012, the ex-mayor says that if Obama doesn't change his stance, he might just stay home on Election Day 2012.