Last week, I joined more than 1,000 Jewish community leaders for an emergency briefing hosted by the Union for Reform Judaism following the Knesset’s passage of the “reasonableness” bill.
Among the presenters was Rabbi Gilad Kariv, a current Knesset member from the Labor Party – the first Reform rabbi to serve in Knesset – and a trusted voice on core issues that matter to the Reform Jewish community.
Kariv didn’t mince words and passionately urged us to stand resolutely with Israelis protesting the judicial overhaul.
Then he was asked a question that many American rabbis have fielded from congregants, and has recently appeared in various op-ed pieces: Should America condition foreign aid to Israel?
Kariv’s message was clear. “Leave the foreign aid aside.”
“We are not allowed to forget the existential threats…We need to understand that there are a few red lines that we cannot cross. Conditioning foreign aid is one of those bright red lines.”
This is a critical distinction for pro-Israel Americans to internalize. There are many ways we can oppose dangerous moves by this government and stand with our Israeli friends. But the security challenges facing Israel are dire, and conditioning the aid that protects Israelis from those threats will not help them – it will only put them in greater danger.
Kariv is not alone in this perspective. President Biden and Israel’s strongest supporters in Congress have expressed their frustration over the overhaul while opposing efforts to jeopardize security aid. In fact, Rep. Ritchie Torres, a Democrat from New York, recently published the affirmative case for security assistance.
Yet not everyone agrees.
J Street sees America’s lifesaving aid as a lever to punish the Israeli government and is fighting against Gilad Kariv, President Biden, and the overwhelming majority of the Democratic party on this most critical point.
In fact, J Street is currently lobbying for a bill to add conditions on how and where Israel can use security aid.
Bernie Sanders, a top J Street endorsee, proposed an amendment in July to condition all security funding for Israel.
J Street endorsees are consistently among the most vocal proponents of conditioning aid.
Jeopardizing Israel’s security jeopardizes Israeli lives. As Kariv points out, this is “a bright red line” that J Street has crossed.
But that is only half the equation. A strong Israel is vital for America. This aid is an investment that helps them and helps us in countless ways, as Rep. Torres detailed in his piece.
I share the anger and pain of so many in our community who are watching what’s happening in the country we love. I will continue to link arms with those demanding an end to this government’s destructive actions. But the policies being pushed by J Street and its allies are not productive – they are harmful political stunts meant to demonize our ally and jeopardize its security, at precisely the moment when Israel is most vulnerable.
Those who wake up each day plotting Israel’s destruction want to exploit every perceived weakness in its security to attack and harm Israelis. They are growing in military might and they are right on Israel’s doorstep. Cynically targeting the lifesaving aid that protects Israelis from terrorism, as J Street and its partners in Congress are doing, is not a pro-Israel response. It’s a poison pill.
We must resist those calls and refuse to give those voices a corner.
If we truly care about Israel’s future, we must be able to draw the line.