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Monday, August 17, 2009

Israelis never thought much of Rahm Emanuel

Politico reports that Israelis are taking out their anger with the Obama administration's policies in our region on White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The story is headlined 'Israelis sour on Rahm Emanuel.'
When Emanuel was tapped to be Obama’s chief of staff, a headline in the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz kvelled “Obama's first pick: Israeli Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff,” while the Jewish news service JTA went with “Rahm Emanuel: attack dog, policy wonk, committed Jew.” [Haaretz is Israel's Hebrew 'Palestinian' daily, while JTA is an American news service that represents a certain stream of American Jews - and not Israelis. CiJ]

But in a dramatic emotional shift, Israelis have become increasingly disenchanted with Emanuel, and the disappointment is especially intense on the Israeli right, which supports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opposition to Obama’s call for ceasing settlement activity. [Except that the Right has become the country with the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews supporting Netanyahu. CiJ]

Israelis across the political spectrum were skeptical of Obama’s commitment to the Jewish homeland during the presidential campaign but many viewed Emanuel as a guarantor of their interests, the best hope for continuing the U.S. government’s favorable treatment of the Jewish state.

Today, however, widespread unhappiness with their treatment at the hands of the Obama administration has led to feelings of betrayal—and Emanuel is bearing the brunt of it.


Haaretz reported that conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has feuded with Obama, has slurred both Emanuel and fellow senior adviser David Axelrod as “self-hating Jews.”

A Netanyahu spokesman denied the report, but an Israeli pollster interviewed by POLITICO said Netanyahu’s point of view is shared by many Israelis, and that resentment tends to focus more acutely on Emanuel—whose father is Israeli, and who friends and associates say maintains deep connections to the Jewish state—than Axelrod.


Shortly after Obama selected Emanuel for his post, a story in the Israeli tabloid Maariv quoted his father, Benjamin Emanuel, asserting that his son "obviously … will influence the president to be pro-Israel. Why wouldn't he? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

That comment caused an outcry among Arab American groups and prompted an apology from his son [which should have told you all you needed to know about Rahm Emanuel's support for Israel. CiJ].

But late last month, Benjamin Emanuel – a retired Chicago doctor who was born in Jerusalem and served in a pre-Israeli-state militant Zionist group known as the Irgun or Etzel – lashed out at Israeli treatment of his son.

"I'm simply surprised that in Israel they jump down his throat," he told a Haaretz reporter angrily—and in Hebrew.

"I love the country, my children are Zionists, they came to Israel every year, and I don't know why they're attacking Rahm. I support Netanyahu, I was a member of the Etzel," he is quoted as saying.

Asked about his comments, Benjamin Emanuel told a POLITICO reporter, “I don’t talk to journalists, I’m sorry.”
Perhaps a few words are in order about how Israelis feel about yordim - people who leave the country (the opposite of olim - people who immigrate to Israel).

Rahm Emanuel grew up in the United States. His parents left Israel at a time when parents across the board were ashamed of their children who left this country (today, that feeling only predominates in the national religious community - everyone else takes it for granted that some of their children may move abroad). They looked at their children as abandoning them and abandoning their heritage. If the parents moved to Israel themselves - especially if they came from the West - the parents looked at the children moving to the US (for example) as rejecting their beliefs.

While Haaretz may have believed that Emanuel would protect Israel from the Obama White House, I doubt that anyone on the right of the political spectrum here believed that from the outset. First, because the old-time Israelis who left here before it became fashionable in the serious economic crises of the '80's are mostly creatures of the far left (think Noam Chomsky). And second, because there was nothing in Emanuel's background to indicate that he would support an Israeli government that leaned at all to the right.

The fact that Emanuel visited here every summer as a child is meaningless when it comes to his political positions on Israel. Hundreds of kids come here every summer to visit their grandparents. If you fly into Israel in the summer, most of the flight - except the first week or two in July and the last week or two in August - is native Israelis, all of whom will tell you that they are planning to move back to Israel... eventually. But they aren't necessarily familiar with the political situation here and they don't necessarily hold the views that people whose first concern is Israel's security would hold. That's why they apologize to Arab Americans at the implication that they might feel any loyalty to the State of Israel.

The fact that Emanuel volunteered here during the first Gulf War in 1991 (which the American media thinks is such a big deal) is also meaningless. Many Israelis and foreigners came here to volunteer because that's what happens when there's a war on. I knew dozens of people who came here during the war, many of whom have little connection to Israel today. But it was also a big party of sorts (as long as you stayed out of Metropolitan Tel Aviv), especially after the first few days. Many people came here just to hang out. It was kind of like going on the roller coaster in an amusement park - just a little danger to get the adrenaline going.

1991 was the year I made aliya, and I was still living in America during the first Gulf War. During the Gulf War, an Israeli colleague told the firm that he was called up by the IDF (which was a lie) and used it as an excuse for a 2-week vacation in Israel without the firm deducting vacation time. He had a girlfriend in Israel, did some networking (it wasn't called that then) while he was here and decided he was going to move back to Israel (he had been in the US since law school). We both 'made aliya' at the same time. As far as I know, he's back in the US now - I think he's been back and forth on a 'permanent' basis 2-3 times since 1991. Would he protect Israel? Maybe, but maybe not the way I would want it protected. Just like Rahm Emanuel.

The problem with Rahm Emanuel isn't that he isn't protecting us from Barack Obama. No one who was realistic should have expected him to protect us. The problem with Rahm Emanuel is that like your spouse in (God forbid) a divorce proceeding, he knows how to hurt you like no one else does. Your spouse knows where you've been cutting corners with the tax authorities for years. Rahm Emanuel knows just where Israel has been cutting corners allowing just a little more 'natural growth' for years. Your spouse knows just how to get you angry and will pick the moment in court to do just that. Rahm Emanuel knows just what to say that will make the weaker parts of Prime Minister Netanyahu's coalition think that maybe supporting Bibi isn't such a smart idea after all.

Israelis are sour on Emanuel because he's shown a willingness to behave like that hostile spouse in the divorce court. Many Israelis (not this one) believed he'd be discreet enough to keep his mouth shut. They were wrong. Unfortunately, there may yet be a price to be paid.

Now watch all the yordim who read my blog come out of the woodwork. Tell me why I'm wrong guys.



At 3:55 PM, Blogger Andre (Canada) said...

I agree with your analysis totally but I think the main criticism you will have is that it "proves" the point of Jews having a dual allegiance to their country and to Israel. When De Gaulle (the ex-president of France) made a remark to that effect, Jews in France went ballistic that he would suspect Jews to have such divided allegiances. But I think he was correct. I, myself, do feel this double allegiance and I am sure many will criticize this.
Can we then criticize Obama for his obvious double allegiance to America and to Muslim countries and people?
I think this is a very difficult problem and it raises very sensitive issues.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Ashan said...

I don't think that this has anything to do with aliyah or yeridah. Rahmbo is an ideologue, along with Axelrod, and their "bible" is Alinskyism. Every move that man makes is by the book - intimidating, mocking, harassing. He a Chicago thug politico and back-room pusher. In short, he's a nasty piece of work. And his nastiest piece of work is the malignant narcissist Obama. For him - as it is for Obama, it's Israel be damned.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger bunuel said...

Ashan is right all the way.

At 7:34 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel is expendable - if it gets in the way of Obama's ambitions. The only way that will halt is when Obama is so unpopular at home that he is constrained in what he can do to pressure Israel to submit.

At 8:30 PM, Blogger Neshama said...

Most all Americans are dual-loyalists now. It's a joke to say that immigrants to any country are NOT dual-loyalists.

The following is from Wikipedia:
A new report from the Pew Research Center projects that by 2050, non-Hispanic whites will account for 47% of the population, down from the 2005 figure of 67%.

Non-Hispanic whites made up 85% of the population in 1960. It foresees the Hispanic population rising from 14% in 2005 to 29% by 2050.

The Asian population is expected to more than triple by 2050. Overall, the population of the United States is due to rise from 296 million in 2005 to 438 million, with 82% of the increase coming from immigrants.

I agree with Ashan

At 8:54 PM, Blogger Kae Gregory said...

IMO, Emanuel was selected to bring in Jewish votes and support that Obama didn't already have locked up. I have said this before and still believe it; Emanuel will wind up scape goated and under Obama's bus because, 1) Obama always blames someone else, 2) In the end, Obama is what he was mentored to be - a Jew hater. One day the stars will align where Emanuel will be more valuable to Obama as a representation of the root cause of a problem than as an ally. If Emanuel loses Jewish support and thus his value to Obama, his journey to the bottom of the bus will be sooner than later.


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