Alan Edelstein

Dear Mr. Sargeant

Yesterday I received a letter via e-mail from Michael Sargeant, the Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Mr. Sargeant explained to me how important, indeed, “critical,” it is to elect Democrats in the 2016 election, and he asked me to sign up to support the effort.

Here is the response I sent to Mr. Sargeant:

Dear Mr. Sargeant:

I am writing in response to your e-mail on behalf of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, in which you asked me to sign up to join the fight to elect Democrats in 2016. Unfortunately, I must decline at this time. I would like to explain why.

I voted for President Obama in the 2008 California primaries and in the general election. I was a lifelong Democrat until a few years ago. At that time I re-registered as a Decline-to-State. I did so in protest of President Obama’s actions and policies toward Israel. I felt that he had misrepresented that he would be a strong supporter of Israel. Here is the letter I wrote to the President at the time.

I acknowledge and appreciate the fact that the Administration has supplied key military equipment to Israel (other than when it briefly suspended such shipments in last summer’s war) and that he has been a backstop at the UN and other world bodies. However, in the general diplomatic sphere and in public statements and positions, he has been terrible, blaming Israel and its leadership at every turn. Moreover, his positions have hurt rather than helped advance a process toward a two-state solution, something I have long-favored.

Despite the fact that I re-registered as a Decline-to-State as a protest, I continued to vote and to support mostly Democrats for office. That is now in question, however.

I am deeply disturbed about recent events relating to Iran, U.S. post-war foreign policy, and the behavior and attitude of the Obama Administration and some Democrats. Regarding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, Speaker Boehner reportedly breached protocol in extending the invitation. The Israeli Ambassador may have participated. It was wrong. Express your displeasure and move on.

Instead, the Administration has made a major issue out of it and is basically promoting a boycott of the Prime Minister’s speech. The Administration is using the breach of protocol as a way to discredit the Prime Minister, undermine his efforts to call attention to the threat of a nuclear or near-nuclear Iran, and to stop debate. I find this conduct outrageous.

Any breach of protocol pales in comparison to the issues at stake here: Iran getting a nuclear weapon, Iran becoming a regional and perhaps world power, and, if you believe recent essays, a radical change in the post-war approach to American foreign policy.

These issues should be broadly and publicly aired. Instead, efforts are being made by the Administration to extinguish debate and to avoid Congress playing a role. A visiting prime minister was invited by the leader of one of the co-equal branches of government to speak on these issues, which are existential to his country (and, by the way, to my daughter and future grandchildren, and sometimes me).

It is unseemly for the Administration and for members of Congress to promote a boycott of the speech or to continue to try to defame and discredit the leader and his motives. I am sure the Administration would be having none of these problems if the Prime Minister was not the major spokesman in the world pointing out the dangers of its policies. The Administration apparently had no problem facilitating private lobbying in favor of its policies by British Prime Minister Cameron, lobbying that was not aired publicly and could not be challenged.

So, I say enough with problems with the invitation. Get over it. Pay respect to the Prime Minister of an ally. And publicly and freely debate the issue and the vision that gives rise to it. Our futures, and the futures of our children and grandchildren, could depend on how it is or is not resolved.

The Administration’s willingness to allow Iran to be near nuclear capability and to relax constraints after 10 years apparently is part of a broader vision for a new post-war arrangement of nations. As prior Presidents did, these major changes should be publicly announced and widely discussed. Either President Obama has deliberately hid the ball, or today’s media does not cover such radical public policy debates as they once did, or I simply missed it. Whichever, I feel like I and many millions of concerned Americans have been duped.

Instead of a public airing, we have misrepresentations and a smear campaign directed at the prime minister of the country most likely to bear the immediate consequences.

I recall a few years ago when President Obama visited Israel. He was invited to speak to the Knesset, as is traditional for foreign leaders. He chose to skip it, which was thought to be quite insulting. Instead, he went to the convention center in Jerusalem and spoke to young people, who he implored to pressure their government to take certain actions that were supposed to help the prospects for peace. Did anyone object to this breach of protocol and this interference in domestic political debates? The press noted it for a day or two. Prime Minister Netanyahu said nothing publicly. They showed respect and deference.

In contrast, the Obama Administration cannot overlook a breach of protocol by Speaker Boehner so as to graciously welcome the visit of a PM of a staunch ally and to allow him to speak to Congress on an issue of existential consequence to Israel and of crucial consequence to the U.S. and the world. Instead, it is encouraging a boycott. Moreover, it is also reportedly boycotting the annual conference of a group of American citizens gathering to petition their government, supposedly to further punish the PM.

I was involved in California politics for about 30 years. I cannot think of a lower, less respectful display than the one currently being orchestrated and/or encouraged by the Obama Administration.

Mr. Sargeant, I will defer joining you in supporting Democrats until I see how this plays out. I would like to see the Obama Administration and Democratic members of Congress give Prime Minister Netanyahu the welcome and the respect a visiting leader of a strong ally deserves. I would like to see the President and the Democratic members listen to his speech and broadly and publicly debate the merits of the deal with Iran that seems to be coming together. I would like to see the President’s now-apparent post-war reconfiguration of world power vigorously and widely debated.

When I see the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress giving such respect to the Prime Minister of Israel and debating an issue crucial to Israel, to Americans, and to the world, I will again give thought to supporting Democrats.

Thank you for your consideration.

Alan Edelstein


We constantly hear how Prime Minister Netanyahu insists on coming to speak to Congress because he believes it will help him in his upcoming election. (That is, when we are not hearing that he is coming to interfere in American politics.) Yet the latest polls in Israel show that most Israelis do not want him to speak in D.C. as they fear that he is antagonizing the Obama Administration. Israelis understand and appreciate the importance of Israel’s friendship with America.

And yet Netanyahu insists on coming. How is that possible? He is not dumb and he is the consummate politician.  While many in the public find it hard to believe, once in a while a politician does something because he feels very strongly on an important issue regardless of the politics. Not often, but once in a while.

Netanyahu carries a great weight regarding protecting the Jewish people. Both his father and father-in-law’s histories bear heavily. Begin’s lessons bear heavily. Hard to believe, I know, but it may be beyond politics at this point.


“Proportional.” Remember that word?  It was one of the favorite words of the summer, when Israel took action against Hamas in Gaza because thousands of rockets had been fired into Israel and because tunnels aimed at slaughtering innocent Israelis were discovered.

The media were full of charges that Israel’s actions were not “proportional.” The doctrine of proportionality in warfare was completely misused.

Now one Jordanian pilot is killed, albeit in a most barbaric manner. Jordan counters by bombing ISIS and who-knows-what-else to bits. Twenty-one innocent Egyptian Coptic Christians are beheaded. Egypt counters by laying down a blanket of bombs and promises more. The world cheers them on.

Anyone hear the word “proportional?” Anyone interested in applying or misapplying the doctrine of proportionality?

About the Author
Alan Edelstein made Aliyah in 2011 and lives in Jerusalem. He was the founding partner of a well-respected California government affairs firm and was involved in California government and politics as a lobbyist and consultant for 30 years. He blogs at He can be reached at