Michael Boyden

Bibi is guilty

It might wrongly be assumed from the title of this Blog that is deals with whether our prime minister is guilty of the various allegations that have been made against him and which are currently being investigated by the Attorney General’s office. Dr. Avichai Mandelblit is expected to rule at the end of this month on whether to press charges against him. It would be inappropriate to prejudge the outcome.

However, whether our prime minister is guilty or not of the charges being levelled against him, there is no question that during his current term in office he has caused immense damage to the relationship between Israel and much of American Jewry. At least on that count he stands guilty.

Bibi was ill-advised to accept an invitation in 2015 from U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to address the US Congress over the head of the then president, Barack Obama.

He might have rightly thought that it was important to speak out against the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, but there were other ways of making his point that would have been less provocative.

While the Republicans were delighted with his visit, the Democrats quite rightly viewed it as a slight to their president. In the past, Israel was careful to maintain a bi-partisan relationship with America’s political leaders wisely recognizing that governments change.

Bibi was quick to express his regret and to state that his address to a joint session of Congress had been politicized, but the damage had already been caused. President Obama refused to meet with him citing the approaching elections as a justification.

As if that were not enough, Bibi caused immense damage to Israel’s relationship with the vast majority of American Jews, who are Reform and Conservative, when he backtracked on the agreement that had been reached with the Jewish Agency to provide an area at the Kotel where egalitarian services could be held and women could read Torah.

Jewish Agency head, Natan Sharansky, went so far as to say that Bibi’s government would go down in history as having widened the gap between Israel and the Diaspora and “deepened the current crisis” with American Jewry. The Jewish Agency responded by cancelling a dinner at which Bibi was scheduled to speak.

One of North America’s leading rabbis wrote to me today expressing his concern that the Reform Movement, which comprises a third of American Jewry, was “weakening on Israel”. Given the fact that most of its members are Democrats and in light of the manner that their co-religionists are treated in Israel, that is hardly surprising.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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