Nowhere was Netanyahu’s erasure of American Jews more obvious than in his relationship with President Barack Obama.
At least three million American Jews are estimated to have voted for Barack Obama in 2008. That is twice the number of Israelis who voted for Netanyahu for prime minister in the only direct elections Israel ever had, in 1996. Likud under Netanyahu has never surpassed the million-voters mark.
No elected leader in any country has ever received more Jewish votes than Obama did, by a wide margin.
But as leader of Israel, Netanyahu has claimed to be acting “not just as the prime minister of Israel but as a representative of the entire Jewish people.”
This was the claim he used to justify his biggest challenge ever of an American president, his address to Congress on March 3, 2015. There he exhorted members of congress to block Obama’s key foreign policy legacy, the nuclear agreement with Iran. Though his decision to go to Washington and confront the president head-on caused much hand-wringing among the American Jewish establishment, vanishingly few senior figures in its leadership openly called upon Netanyahu to stay at home.
Why did next to none of them stand up for their own president? Why did none of them stand up for the American Jews who voted for him by huge margins?
It has to be said that there is a powerful argument on Netanyahu’s side. The majority of the Jews in the world may have chosen to remain in the Diaspora, but the prime minister of Israel has been elected not only to protect Israel’s citizens; he also has a duty to safeguard the haven for the Jewish people, which hopefully they will never need, but one day they might.
Still, the covenant between Israel and the Diaspora should go both ways, especially when the leader that the prime minister is challenging on the Jews’ behalf is their own president.
The silence from the Jewish establishment over Netanyahu’s address to Congress was deafening. And it was the ultimate enabling of Bibi.
It wasn’t always so. In 1950, when David Ben Gurion proclaimed that Israel was now the center of the Jewish people, Jacob Blaustein, president of the American Jewish Committee, rushed to Jerusalem to upbraid the prime minister.
“There can be no single spokesman for world Jewry no matter who that spokesman might try to be,” he insisted.
Blaustein then forced Ben Gurion to give him a written commitment that Israel would not speak on behalf of the Jews of the Diaspora.
Can you imagine the head of the AJC, or any other major Jewish-American organization for that matter, doing that today?
Netanyahu believes he can say what Ben Gurion could not, electing himself as the representative of all Jews, because today there are in Israel almost as many Jews as in the US and Israel has much less need of their support. He believes he can say it because he is Netanyahu and he knows best.
But most importantly, Netanyahu believes he can say he represents all Jews because American Jews have always let him get away with whatever he wanted, which ultimately included their own erasure at his behest. [Continue reading…]