American Jews Should Stay Out of Israeli Politics

Whatever got into the minds of our friends in the American Reform and Conservative movements to write a letter to President Trump urging him to oppose bids to annex territory on the West Bank?

This is not the time to be ringing alarm bells. Bibi has yet to form a government or initiate any legislation that would change the legal status of settlements on the West Bank. While any action on that front would be worrying, we’re not there yet.

Of course, it is true that in the lead up to the recent elections Bibi indicated in a TV interview with Rina Mazliach that he intended to annex Judea and Samaria after the elections. However, that was done to win over right-wing voters from other parties, and there is a difference, as we all know, between election promises and actions. (Remember: “Read my lips”?) Mazliach understood that well when she asked Bibi why he hadn’t annexed Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion during his previous term in office.

The truth is that Bibi is an incredible canvasser but a nervous or careful (depending upon one’s point of view!) leader. He avoided going to war against Hamas for fear of its consequences, and he is unlikely to take action on the West Bank that would endanger Israel’s already fragile relationship with Jordan.

However, what is even more difficult to comprehend is why American Jews, who voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in America’s last elections, could possibly believe that President Trump would listen to them.

What is more damaging, though, is the perception in Israel that this is an attempt by a major component of American Jewry to persuade their president to interfere in Israel’s internal political process following our recent elections.

Let me put my cards on the table. I voted Meretz last week and still favour a two-state solution. Nevertheless, I recognize that such a resolution of the Israel/Palestinian conflict is unrealistic at this time given that the Palestinians still have a long way to go before they come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state. I also understand that there are Jewish messianic forces at work that will do everything in their power to sabotage a two-state solution. We have not forgotten the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin z”l.

However, Reform and Conservative Jews in the USA cannot play Israeli politics from afar by remote control. As American law professor David Bernstein wrote in a Tweet last Friday: “I don’t think Bibi will actually annex anything, it was just campaign rhetoric, nor do I think it’s a good idea, at least right now. But still… U.S. Jewish groups shouldn’t be pleading with the US gov’t to tell Israel what to do. Make aliyah if you want a say…”

That is the bottom line: Make Aliyah if you want a say. That way our friends in North America could have influenced the result of our recent elections and Bibi would not have been re-elected.

About the Author
Rabbi Boyden was educated and received his rabbinical ordination in London, England. Having served as the rabbi of Cheshire Reform Congregation for thirteen years, he made aliyah with his family in 1985. He has established Reform congregations in Ra'anana and Hod Hasharon and previously served as director of the Israel Reform Movement's Beit Din.
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