In these days of political grandstanding, in the build up to the American 2012 presidential elections, with the constant bickering between the Republicans and Democrats over who really supports Israel in the background, the promise of "bipartisan support" seems to be a naive pledge.
But that didn't prevent the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) from offering Jewish organizations and individuals to join them in signing the “National Pledge for Unity on Israel," aimed, as it stated, "to rally bipartisan support for Israel while preventing the Jewish State from becoming a wedge issue in the upcoming campaign season."
AJC Executive Director David Harris said that all the candidates could agree on "the importance of the long tradition of bipartisan support for our friend and ally, Israel."
ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman's explanation stressed that "we want the discourse on U.S. support for Israel to avoid the sometimes polarizing debates and political attacks that have emerged in recent weeks, as candidates have challenged their opponents' pro-Israel bone fides or questioned the current administration's foreign policy approach vis-à-vis Israel."
"The last thing America and Israel need right now is the distractions of having Israel bandied about as a tool for waging political attacks," he added.
"Support for Israel has never been merely a plank in a Republican or Democratic Party or candidate’s platform," the pledge stated, adding: "It is a core American policy that serves our nation’s most fundamental national interests."
"The Jewish community has had a strong interest in ensuring that American support for Israel is one of the critical strategic issues that unites rather than divides parties and officials... Now is the time to reaffirm that Israel’s well-being is best served, as it has always been, by American voices raised together in unshakeable support for our friend and ally," it added.
A couple of days after the pledge landed in the mailboxes of the Jewish activists, Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Executive Director Matt Brooks issued a combative response, saying: "This effort to stifle debate on U.S. policy toward Israel runs counter to this American tradition. Accordingly, the RJC will not be silenced on this or any issue."
"An open and vigorous debate on the questions confronting our country is the cornerstone of the American electoral process. Allowing the American people to see where candidates stand, pro and con, on critical issues, is the hallmark of our free and democratic political system. For this reason, the RJC will not be a signer to this pledge," he concluded.
Emergency Committee for Israel joined the opposition to the pledge with a blunt opening: "You must be kidding" and promised that "this attempt to silence those of us who have “questioned the current administration’s foreign policy approach vis-a-vis Israel” will re-energize us... Directors Harris and Foxman need a refresher course on the virtues of free speech and robust debate in a democracy. Their effort to stifle discussion and debate is unworthy of the best traditions of America, and of Israel."
"So much for the unity."
But those who know Foxman did not really expect him to take the contemptuous responses lying down, and he indeed replied, saying that "there has been some distortion of our announcement of the ADL-AJC National Pledge for Unity on Israel.”
"The pledge is not intended to discourage raising questions about a candidate’s support for Israel or the policy decisions of the current administration regarding Israel. In fact, ADL has been outspoken in questioning and even criticizing U.S. policies and positions toward Israel during the last three years. We will continue to raise concerns about those policies and positions when we believe it is warranted, just as we will be supportive when we feel that is appropriate," he said.
What the pledge meant, Foxman explained, was to encourage "measured and thoughtful expressions of different points of view regarding U.S. policy toward Israel. What prompted ADL and AJC to launch this initiative was a desire to ask participants in the political discourse to avoid harsh and personal rhetoric or tactics in the form of attacks on political opponents’ positions on Israel."
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