Hillel the Elder once famously asked:
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself, what am I?
A similar question has risen across the world this week. It is a question that has stirred controversy and debate amongst Jews worldwide. But unlike the question of Hillel the elder, this is not a rhetorical question, and it does indeed have a clear answer.
Allow me to now throw this important question out there:
Who speaks for the Jewish people?
Benjamin Netanyahu stated earlier this week that this important job of speaking out for the Jewish people belongs to him, as Prime Minister of Israel.
That claim has been heavily criticized by the controversial lobby group, J Street. So much so, that they have begun a social media campaign entitled: “Bibi Doesn’t Speak For Me.” This smear campaign has now spread from Twitter, to Facebook, and even to Instagram.
Here’s my problem with J Street’s claim: If the Prime Minister of the Jewish State doesn’t speak for the Jewish people, then who does?
Prime Minister Netanyahu was democratically elected to speak for the six million Jews in Israel. There is no other person on the face of the earth who was democratically elected to speak for more Jews than that. Not the ADL’s Abe Foxman, and certainly not J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami.
That is why the Prime Minister can claim to speak for the Jewish people when he accepts an invitation to address a joint session of the United States Congress. No one else can claim a larger Jewish mandate than he can.
There are those who say the Prime Minister should postpone this speech, despite the approaching deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran. There are those who say that the Prime Minister should delay the timing of this speech, despite the fact that a majority of both Democrats and Republicans have said that they will attend.
But if the Prime Minister were to reschedule his speech for after the Israeli elections, an nuclear deal with Iran may have already been reached by then, and it may likely be a deal that threatens Israel’s security.
That is why the Prime Minister has chosen to speak out for the Jewish people at this time and place. So that he can speak up before a deal comes into place, and not afterwards.
For the Prime Minister also knows the teachings of Hillel the Elder, including one of his most famous teachings:
“If not now, then when?”
Indeed, now is the time for the Prime Minister to speak for the Jewish people. He heeds the wise words of Hillel the Elder, to speak up while there is still time to do so.