American Jews at the Service of Netanyahu

Who are U.S. Jewish leaders really representing when they lobby the American president on behalf of Israel’s prime minister? Not their fellow countrymen, for sure.

Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, July 27, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, July 27, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman
Uri Misgav
Uri Misgav

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared jihad on the U.S. president and the Iran nuclear accord, bringing things to a climax this past week. There’s no point expecting him to take stock following the debacle or consider its ramifications. Netanyahu doesn’t recognize the concept of introspection or the notion of accountability. However, it is appropriate to suggest that America’s Jewish population and the organizations representing it look inward and do some serious reflection. Even if we attribute only the best of intentions to them, these intentions again lead to a well-known place.

It’s hard to overstate Netanyahu’s insolence. In a Web speech given from his office and with the Israeli flag behind him, he called on American Jews to unite against the accord, “regardless of your political affiliation.” It’s even harder to understand how the leaders representing these Jews didn’t recognize the trap Netanyahu was leading them into – regardless of their political affiliation. The apex was the surreal meeting between 20 U.S.-Jewish leaders and President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. I can’t recall a meeting between a U.S. president and vice president with U.S.-German leaders in order to discuss American relations with Europe. Or a conversation with U.S.-Japanese businessmen prior to the signing of a trade agreement between the United States and Japan.

It’s unclear who these Jewish leaders were actually representing in the Oval Office. Certainly not me or the half of Israelis who didn’t want Netanyahu as prime minister. In any case, they can’t represent Israeli interests. They may donate generously to projects in Israel or send their children and grandchildren for a rousing Zionist week arranged by Taglit-Birthright. But neither they nor their flock live here. And they didn’t even pretend to represent Americans of Jewish descent, since what was on the table was the implications of the nuclear deal for Israel. In other words, the assumption is that the clear-cut interest of the Jewish people everywhere is expressed only via the Israeli interest.

But thanks to Netanyahu and his irresponsible call, boundaries were again blurred. It’s no longer clear who is representing whom. Are American Jews supposed to be functioning as Israel’s arm in the midst of the world’s greatest superpower? Or is Israel their delegate, the aircraft carrier of the Jewish people, floating in the distant and stormy seas of the Middle East? Both options are obviously bad and distorted ones. This game squarely places U.S. Jews in the twilight zone of dual loyalty. How symbolic that the awful show on Capitol Hill took place at the end of a week in which the release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was announced.

It’s time for U.S. Jews to consider the harmful message that emanates from the trap Netanyahu is pulling them into, as well as the harm done by the lobbying, arm-twisting, as well as their political and financial machinations. Let’s avoid sanctimoniousness – Obama made time for them in his busy schedule as leader of the Free World because they represent voters and donors. Didn’t it occur to these Jewish leaders that their actions concerning the nuclear deal might reinforce classic anti-Semitic narratives such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

American-Jewish leaders celebrate a Passover seder with the president at the White House every year. That should suffice. They shouldn’t drag the nuclear deal there as well.



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