Pressuring Israel: how to be “inside the tent”

I’ll admit, I’m not entirely sure what “inside the tent” means. It’s kind of like being “on the wagon” or “off the wagon.” I can never remember which one refers to being drunk. Yet without mentioning anyone in particular, let’s just say that I’ve heard about some organizations that wish to be “Pro-Israel” yet try to pressure Israel through foreign bodies. That makes me think about marriage.

I’m not married, and perhaps that means I have zero credibility on the topic, but I have close friends who are married, and I’m an “honorary uncle” to their children. Here’s what I’ve learned about marriage: my friends love their spouses. My friends are FRIENDS with their spouses. My friends do NOT always agree with their spouses! When my friends disagree with their spouses, here is what they do: they tell them! And they have a disagreement. And eventually, they work it out. What my friends do NOT do when they disagree with their spouses: they do not lobby their spouse’s friends to apply pressure. That’s a great way to end a marriage quickly and unhappily. It’s not useful for very much else.

In a political sense, it’s kind of like disagreeing with your Senator, but instead of writing to Congress, you write to Russia and ask them to condemn your Senator at the U.N. Would you really want a foreign government making domestic decisions for you? You might agree with the foreign government this time, but what about next time, or the time after that? Would you really want your wife’s or husband’s friends to be involved in your intimate family decisions?

Some organizations wish to be “friends” of Israel yet they try to communicate with Israel by lobbying to apply outside pressure: through foreign governments or the U.N. It is perfectly respectable for an organization to apply pressure on Israel through foreign governments and international bodies, yet one cannot do this and ALSO claim to be a “friend.” This is not what friends do: not in marriage and not in politics. I even heard one organization (that claims to be “Pro-Israel”) say that Israel shouldn’t exist, or at least should not exist as a Jewish state. Everyone has the right to their opinion, and this is indeed… an opinion. In fact, many groups around the world share this opinion, such as the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the ruling party in Iran. However, this is not the position of a “friend.” Not by a long shot.

When faced with this basic truth, certain organizations will say things like, “I have a right to disagree with the Israeli government!” I say, “Join the club!” Disagreeing with the Israeli government is practically a national sport out here. More than one Israeli Prime Minister has said, “Israel is a country with seven million prime ministers.” I can’t think of a better way to put it. Everyone in this country knows everything. It’s democracy in action.

So come to Israel, and join our national sport of drinking coffee and arguing! Or write to Israel, talk to Israel! Set a meeting at your local Israeli consulate, or in Jerusalem with a member of Knesset (Israeli Parliament), and make your voice heard! Unlike most (ok, unlike ANY) of Israel’s neighbors, you have completely protected freedom of expression here, no matter your citizenship. Israeli leaders will hear you, and they will balance your concerns against their legal duty to protect the real-world, physical safety of the people who elected them. Because, let’s face it: no matter how much of a friend you may be in your heart, from over six thousand miles away you simply will not face all of the same concerns. That’s OK, you don’t have to face the same dangers as Israelis in order to be a friend. Yet you do have to respect that those issues exist, and that the elected leaders of Israel have a duty to protect Israeli citizens in a way that other governments do not.

In the end, you might not always agree with the Israeli government, but pretty much no one here ever does. Yet when you lobby Israel directly, rather than through foreign pressure, you will be acting as a real friend, and as one of Israel’s “seven million prime ministers.” Welcome to the tent.

Want to see some more detailed essays on Israeli politics?  Take a look at Israel Review.

About the Author
Daniel Pomerantz is the Senior Editor for the media watchdog HonestReporting and teaches Legal & Financial Aspects for Entrepreneurs at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. He is also a frequent guest on i24 News as a media/political analyst. Daniel previously served as CEO of Playboy Israel as well as a business attorney in the US.