Watershed 2017: A year when the Jewish state decided it isn’t the state for all the Jews

As we prepare to say farewell to 2017, it is incumbent upon us to face up to an uncomfortable reality – this was the year in which the Jewish State of Israel, or, more accurately, its current ruling Coalition, has given a series of clear indications, that the welfare, political well-being and even the physical safety of the Diaspora is no longer a foremost priority.

The state which was founded to safeguard and nurture all the world’s Jews, is moving definitively in a direction where it will have a problem justifying its claim to speak for the interests and care for the welfare of the Diaspora. And, all because of base, domestic and international  political expediency.

States and governments do have a tendency to prioritize what they consider their own agenda. By the same token Diaspora Jewry must also face up to the new reality, no matter how uncomfortable it feels to do so. And, act, speak accordingly.

We need to understand and even accept – even if only for now – that, to paraphrase George Orwell, while we may have sincerely believed that all Jews are equal, as far as this Government is concerned, some are much more equal than others. Once such acceptance of political reality becomes an established fact, it will be much easier to face up to the challenge posed by the Netanyahu Government’s attitude and actions. To put it bluntly, Israeli realpolitik needs to be confronted by an equally hardnosed realpolitik on the part of the Jewish communities of the world.

This new era should be conducted in a thoughtful, well planned, realistic manner. And, most definitely not in the manner and substance of the American Reform movement and its Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ reaction to President Trump’s Jerusalem announcement. Such thoughtless, ridiculous intervention raises the danger of sidelining the mainstream of Diaspora Jewry, removing it from the most important intra-Jewish debate since the establishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948.

A new relationship has to be debated, negotiated, clarified and established between Israel and the Diaspora. Before anyone questions the motives of those of us outside of the physical State, it is important to point out, this new relationship is evolving not at the behest of Diaspora communities, but due almost entirely to the policy decisions and political juggling act of the Netanyahu Government.

There is no real reason at all for Israel to expect anything less than unconditional Diaspora support for the safety and security interests of Israel. By the same token, Diaspora Jews are entitled to assurance, that their legitimate interests, safety and security receive equally unconditional support from the State of Israel, regardless of which  political coalition is in government.

If Prime Minister Netanyahu considers the votes of a few extreme religious Members of Knesset, some of whom do not even accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel’s actual existence, more vital than implementing solemn agreements entered into with representatives of the majority of the Diaspora, then, in turn, he should also anticipate that the Diaspora will legitimately weigh up such attitudes when giving consideration to the Prime Minister’s preferred political expectations vis a vis Jewish communities around the globe.

When a minister, such as Tzipi Hotovely is allowed to remain in office after a mendacious tirade of unprovoked insults aimed at American (or, frankly, any) Jews, then this presents a strong signal that the longstanding status quo of a comfortable mutual admiration society no longer exists. The only sensible alternative is a hard nosed, realistic, dialogue. A dialogue which is based on recognition of both sides’ vital interests, a recognition manifested in serious political action and necessary compromise, followed by implementation.

And, of course, the sanctity of the given word between the two parties involved. Something which, as things stand now, no longer seems to apply.

There is a fork in the road ahead of us, Jews of Israel and the Diaspora. A choice will have to be made which direction to proceed in – if the wrong one is taken, the decision can have major influence on the future of all of us.

Make no mistake, the consequences — either good, or bad — will be with us for generations to come.

About the Author
Lived and worked over the decades in Sydney, London and Budapest. Happily settled in Vienna, family on four Continents. My heart is in and with Israel - the nation and the original idea, not any political party. A lifetime of professional journalism behind and, perhaps, ahead of me, both in the Jewish and mainstream media.