On a certain level, prime minister Netanyahu’s speech has turned out to be a huge win-win situation. And also the most damaging imaginable victory for Israel and the Jewish community here.
Netanyahui and John Boehner got exactly what they wanted. Bibi spoke brilliantly to a huge booster club in a room that had been packed to the rafters with people who admired him and actually wish he was president of the United States.
“Honored” guests were invited such as Sheldon Adelson–Netanyahu’s largest political contributor and editor of an Israeli pro-Bibi newspaper that is given away for free there, “America’s Rabbi” Shmuley Boteach who just took out an ad in the New York Times smearing Susan Rice as being indifferent to genocide,and J Street basher Alan Dershowitz. Many of the seats left empty by Democrats who boycotted the speech were filled with fans of Netanyahu and enemies of Obama. No wonder the ovations were mind-blowing.
Netanyahu was handed the best backdrop for a campaign ad imaginable–speaking at the exact spot where Obama delivered his State of Union speech a month ago except this time Boehner was looking thrilled and respectful instead of glowering like the Grinch who stole Hanukah in the background.
Bibi framed all issues relating to Israel as being about Iran, nuclear weapons, and the imminent and perpetual threat that Jews will again be victims of genocide. He never said a word about the Occupation and the growth of settlements and the need for a two-state divorce with the Palestinians. Even though those are the issues that are leading to the rise in acts of Jew hatred and calls for boycotts and economic sanctions against Israel around the world, they disappeared from the agenda as if by magic. Not a word.
Meanwhile Boehner and the Republicans had to be equally ecstatic. They had succeeded in blindsiding President Obama with a secretly arranged speech and then just sat back and listened to the leader of a foreign country–a nation that has received more than $20 billion in aid since Obama became president–lecture Americans about our own history and explain all the reasons why President Obama is on a fool’s errand that is jeopardizing the survival of Israel and essentially the rest of the world.
As an art form the day went perfectly for the artists and performers.
Unfortunately for those of us–including dozens of Israeli military and security leaders–who believe that the survival of Israel as a Jewish democracy is dependent upon ending the 48-year occupation of the West Bank and resolving a two-state divorce with the Palestinians that insures both states can live in safety and security–the Academy Award quality spectacle represented a step in the wrong direction.
Netanyahu spoke in great detail about the deal that Obama was about to agree to–a deal that hasn’t even been finalized yet.
He framed Israel and Jews in general as victims who continue to live in daily fear of victimhood, powerlessness, and genocide even though more than 85 percent of the Jews in the world now live in Israel or the U.S where individually and as a community we actually enjoy unprecedented power, influence, affluence, and acceptance and where we live with more safety and securely than any Jewish community in history.
But now that Bibi has chosen to merge Likud with the Republican party here and adopt the same guidelines of substituting exaggeration, passion, fear, anger, and hatred for truth and, of course, passionately hating President Barack Obama, none of that seems to matter.
Never mind that despite Netanyahu’s theme, the fact is that it is Israel–not Iran or any of Israel’s neighbors– is the major nuclear military and economic power in the region. There was no mention of any of that. Nor was there a single mention of what Israel and its prime minister were willing or planning to do to make the world a better place.
I sincerely believe that the event has in just one month destroyed the unique and unanimous bipartisan support for Israel that AIPAC and others have been building for decades.
In our community, Israel is a source of great pride and affection and rightfully so. Israel is not what is destroying our community. It is the LOVE of Israel that is leading many of our most powerful and wealthiest leaders to abandon Jewish values regarding civility and the decent and respectful treatment of those with whom we disagree and instead are adopting the hateful and slanderous tactics and speech that they have learned from Obama-haters over the last seven years.
Jews like “America’s Rabbi” are now spreading same kind of hate speech that those who came before us fought for centuries when THEY were the targets. And then getting invited to Congress as honored guests.
The future of Judaism and appeal of American Jewish groups and organizations as places where decent people will want to spend time and energy and money is not in jeopardy because of intermarriage or anti-Semitism or Muslim terror or the prospect of genocide. It is in danger because so many of our most visible self-proclaimed leaders are treating those with whom they disagree in such a disgusting way that no reasonable person will want to associate with those people or the groups they lead