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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Jewish criticism of Obama goes mainstream

It started with Malcolm Hoenlein, it continued with Alan Dershowitz, and now comes Gary Rosenblatt, editor of the 'mainstream' New York Jewish Week, and asks "Are the Jews worried about Obama?" (Hat Tip: NY Nana)
Is it possible that the "unbreakable bonds" between Israel and the U.S. that the president referred to in his Cairo speech are on shaky grounds? And is the gap growing between leaders of mainstream Jewish organizations and the majority of American Jews, more than three-quarters of whom voted for Obama, support a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis and may well agree that settlements are a hindrance to peace?

Several of those leaders, speaking off the record, account for the gap by pointing out that they are more knowledgeable than most people about the complexities of U.S.-Israeli policy, following it every day on a high level. They note, for example, that on the topic of settlements, most American Jews (and most Israelis, for that matter), do not distinguish between large, established suburbs of Jerusalem, like Ma’ale Adumim, with a population of 35,000, and hilltop outposts led by a handful of religious zealots attracting media attention.

Not all settlements are equal, and virtually every peace proposal under serious discussion calls for those settlements in the vicinity of Jerusalem, containing the majority of the West Bank Jewish population, to end up as part of Israel. President George W. Bush acknowledged in his 2004 letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that "in light of the new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion."

But the Obama administration has a different take, and its seemingly willful refusal to recognize past U.S. commitments makes Israeli leaders worry about the trustworthiness of guarantees in the future.

Several weeks ago Secretary of State Hilary Clinton asserted that President Obama "wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions." Such a blunt, public statement about a close strategic ally caused a ripple of worry among Jewish leaders, one of whom told me the only conclusion he could reach was that the administration wanted to bring down the Netanyahu government, hoping it would be replaced by a more moderate one.

But both Israeli and American Jewish leaders are well aware of the widespread popularity of President Obama and are reluctant to take him on. There is a debate going on among Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem; some are describing the administration as unfriendly while others are urging caution and a more nuanced response.

Hoenlein says the point is to "deal honestly on the issues themselves, not the personalities. You deal with substance, and with sensitivity — not always in the media. These issues are of such consequence that we dare not avoid confronting them forthrightly, and we are respected when we do that. You don’t whitewash issues that are troubling."

Complicating the problem further is that this administration is relying less on American Jewish leaders for input because two of the most powerful men in government, with daily access to the president, are high-profile Jews: senior adviser David Axelrod and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

When one Jewish organizational leader questioned a White House aide as to why the president only sought advice from American Muslim leaders prior to the Cairo speech, he said he was told: "Why should we invite Jews in? We have so many here."

The ADL’s Foxman says, "What troubles me most is a lack of consultation and the need [for the administration] to do things publicly. There’s a [U.S.-Israel] relationship of 60 years and all of a sudden they’re treating Israel like everyone else. I find that disturbing."

At this point it is difficult to tell how much of the backdoor complaining from some Jewish leaders is about serious policy concerns and how much is sour grapes over reduced access. What is clear is that there is worry that this administration, with its emphasis on change, appears convinced it can resolve the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict within two years, and seems bent on extracting concessions from Israel before getting tough with the Palestinians. And there are worries that after pledging dialogue with increasingly intractable enemies like Iran, Obama has no substantive Plan B.

None of the leaders I spoke with think this administration wants to endanger Israel in any way. Far from it. But some question whether focusing on settlements was an attempt to weaken Netanyahu and split the American Jewish community.

For now, it’s important for supporters of Israel to make their voices heard, pointing out the nuances and critical distinctions in discussing "the settlements"; emphasizing that the crux of the problem is and has always been Palestinian intransigence, terrorism and refusal to accept a Jewish state; and pressing Washington for a clear policy on dealing with Iran, and the Palestinians, beyond diplomacy.
The average American Jew may not know the difference between Maaleh Adumim and Migron, but the average American Jew definitely knows the difference between Jerusalem and Migron.If the 'leadership' is so far to the right of the flock as this article indicates, it's because the flock has become less supportive of Israel generally, which is a story we've known about for a long time. The younger generation of assimilated American Jews doesn't understand why Israel's continued existence benefits the Jewish community in the United States. And they have no Jewish education that would teach them that there is any other reason for Israel to exist except as a backstop against a future Holocaust, God forbid.

I don't buy Gary's implication that the leadership's complaints over access amount to sour grapes. If Emmanuel and Axelrod were advocating for Israel's - and the Jewish community's - interests, you wouldn't be hearing those complaints. But Emmanuel and Axelrod aren't there to advocate for Israel or the Jewish community, as Emmanuel made clear when he disavowed comments by his father about how he would protect Israel. Emmanuel and Axelrod are loyal hounds for Obama and they are trying to gauge for him the maximum that he can push the Jewish community and get away with it. The Jewish leadership knows that its interests are very different from Emmanuel's and Axelrod's. It's not comfortable with Obama's pitching to Muslims. It feels guilty that it didn't heed the cries of many who warned that Obama would be anti-Israel. It is recognizing that it should have stood up and warned the Jewish community but failed to do so.

As to the leaders not believing that the administration does not want to endanger Israel, I don't know whether that belief is sincere (I tend to doubt it) or whether it comes from a reluctance to admit the truth, whether out of fear of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy or out of fear of causing panic. They'd have to be blind to miss this administration's open hostility to Israel.

I believe we will see more and more mea culpa's from Jewish leaders over the next several months as the full extent of the Obama disaster becomes clear.


At 1:12 PM, Blogger Ashan said...

Emanuel and Axelrod are not Jews. They are imPOTUS Hussein's ideological bedfellows.

At 3:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe we will see more and more mea culpa's from Jewish leaders over the next several months as the full extent of the Obama disaster becomes clear.

posted by Carl in Jerusalem at 11:53 AM on Jul 5, 2009

All their mea culpas will make no difference. 99% of the lunatic left, especially the Jewish ones, are stuck on stupid. It is an extreme rarity to see any of them shake off their idiocies.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger onlyajew said...

please correct-the editor is an old friend Gary ROSENBLATT-not rosenbrg-just an fyi

At 4:36 PM, Blogger ysh said...

It's Rosenblatt...

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Stuart said...

Evidently, Hashem has other plans. Emanuel and Axelrod will prove irrelevant. The American-Jewish so-called leadership and Obama's court Jews don't seem to notice Hashem's hand. How else explain Mahmoud (Monica Lewinski) Ahmmadinijad, Kim Jung (Jennifer Flowers) Il, Ousted Honduras President Manuel (Paula Jones) Zelaya, and the other subject changers and opportunities for embarrassment that have arisen for Obama in earnest since Obama's Cairo speech.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger Chaim said...

"Jewish Leadership in America" is an oxymoron. Jewish organizations, pretending to represent the Jewish Vote, have lost their moral and ethical compass as they scurry around Washington DC seeking free money from the failed "Stimulus package".

American Jewish Organizations parrot the Democratic Party mantra without question.

If you've never witnessed a Jewish Community Relations Council meeting I invigte you to attend sometime - it will shock you and compell you to recoil in abject horror that Jewish Community Leadership has eroded to "yes men".

At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very unfair ashan, especially about rham...who by all accounts is shomer shabos.

and im confused, most jews do not distinguish between set suburbs of 35k and some hut on a hilltop? that is absurd, and i dont buy it.

as for obama being anti israel, i still recall the same things being said about clinton.

so bush was aparently pro israel...how did that work out?

was israel more secure during his administration?

were hamas wiped out?

was israel any closer to a state of peace during the 8 years of bush?

obama will discover, as did clinton, that the arabs do not want peace, nor do they truly want a state...they just want the jews out. it just might take him a bit longer to figure that out.

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Michael B said...

"Seemingly willful," yes, seemingly abjectly and incoherently willful, yes as well.

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...

Thanks for the hat tip,Carl.

It seems that the majority of American Jews choose to live in the state of Denial re Israel. You are spot-on re the situation here.That is why the article impressed me..the start, albeit too late, of an awakening.

'As to the leaders not believing that the administration does not want to endanger Israel, I don't know whether that belief is sincere (I tend to doubt it) or whether it comes from a reluctance to admit the truth, whether out of fear of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy or out of fear of causing panic. They'd have to be blind to miss this administration's open hostility to Israel.

I believe we will see more and more mea culpa's from Jewish leaders over the next several months as the full extent of the Obama disaster becomes clear.'

We are between a rock and hard place, as even when the liberal Jews awaken to just what a disaster for Israel and the Jews and to the US, Hussein is, he stays in office until 20 Jan.,2013, and it is not even 6 months that he has desecrated the office of President, and done more damage than any President in history, IMHO. Even Jimmy the Jew hater was not this quick.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

One wonders if American Jews are finally starting to wake up. Israeli Jews have already seen light about Obama. The next 3 years are going to be tumultuous compared to what we've seen to date.

Hopenchange, any one?

At 11:18 PM, Blogger Ashan said...

Bacci40 - You are indeed confused. Just because someone may be shomer shabbat doesn't get him off the hook morally. (There are plenty of criminals and thugs who wear a kippa and say that they are Torah observant.) Rahmbo is a deceitful ideologue and very dangerous to Israel. He orchestrated that fateful signing of the treacherous Oslo Accords on the WH lawn. He should be repudiated.

At 12:12 AM, Blogger Lois Koenig said...


Check Wiki. He was not even brought up Orthodox. His family was Conservative.


He is a shanda, at the very least, especially because of all the Jew haters he has worked willingly for and with. It is no surprise that he works for Hussein. No surprise at all.

At 2:36 AM, Blogger LB said...

bacci40 - Emanuel's level of ritual observance is irrelevant, unfortunately. Dan Kurtzer leads an orthodox lifestyle - where did that get us?


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