Recently, a group of American Jews, including Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ);Rabbi David Ellenson, President of the URJ’s Hebrew Union College and Jewish Institute of Religion; Rabbi Eric Yoffie, previous URJ head; and Rabbi David Saperstein of the URJ’s Religious Action Center, signed a letter to Israel’s PM Netanyahu. Joining them were several prominent Jewish philanthropists, academics and liberal politicians.
The letter lauds President Obama’s ‘leadership’ for helping to bring about Netanyahu’s apology to Turkey over the Mavi Marmara affair, which I and others believe to be a disastrous mistake.
And — almost incredibly, given the recent history of Israeli withdrawals and concessions answered only by war, terrorism and further demands — the letter has the chutzpah to call for Israel to make “painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace.”
This point of view may have made sense thirty years ago, but the world, as they say, has moved on, with the rise of Hamas and its violent takeover of Gaza, the second Intifada, the 2006 Lebanon war and consequent re-arming of Hizballah, the abrogation of the Oslo accords by the PLO, the ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Iranian nuclear program, the civil war in Syria … need I go on?
As always, the letter fallaciously conflates actual peace with the signing of a ‘peace’ agreement between Israel and the PLO and concomitant concessions and withdrawals by Israel.
The endorsement of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish denomination in America, placed on this piece of obsequious stupidity is not surprising, considering that Rabbi Jacobs was an activist in the phony ‘pro-Israel’ group J Street as well as the New Israel Fund before being selected to head the URJ. Yet again the liberal Jewish establishment demonstrates that support for President Obama trumps concern for Israel’s survival.
The Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), a conservative advocacy group which supports US political candidates and policies favorable to Israel, put it remarkably well in its own letter to Netanyahu, which I reproduce here:
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:
We know you don’t need our advice on how to handle the peace process – but given the decision by a group of self-described American Jewish leaders to call for you to make “painful territorial sacrifices,” we felt it appropriate to convey our own thoughts on the matter.
Be assured that they don’t speak for us or for a majority of Americans. We not only question the wisdom of their advice, we question their standing to issue such an admonition to a democratically-elected prime minister whose job is not to assuage the political longings of 100 American Jews, but to represent – and ensure the security of – the Israeli people.
Indeed, it’s puzzling to us why a small group of American Jews believes it appropriate to demand “painful territorial sacrifices” of Israelis, when those issuing the demand will not experience the pain, or be compelled to sacrifice anything, should their advice prove foolish – as it has so many times in the past. We affirm the words of Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, who recently asked an American Jewish audience to “respect the decisions made by the world’s most resilient democracy.”
The “American Jewish leaders” who deign to advise you today are largely the same leaders who rarely, if ever, demand “painful sacrifices” of Palestinian leaders – or even demand that they come to the negotiating table, which they have refused to do in any meaningful way since 2008. From the safety of America, in the past they have recommended trusting Yasser Arafat, dividing Jerusalem, surrendering the Golan Heights to Syria, and withdrawing from territory that today is controlled by Iranian-backed terrorist groups.
Before rushing to issue new recommendations, we suggest that these oracles of bad advice might pause to reflect on the wisdom of the recommendations they’ve already made.
We, too, have strong opinions on the peace process – but one thing we never presume to do is instruct our friends in Israel on the level of danger to which they should expose themselves.
We trust, of course, that you are under no misapprehensions about any of this. But we felt it important that you heard from a mainstream voice in addition to the predictable calls from a certain cast of American activists for more Israeli concessions.