Yawning division among Jews

Recently I sent a list of questions about the pending deal with Iran to a small group of Jewish friends who live in the US. All are intelligent people who generally keep themselves aware of current events, including major happenings in Israel. Frankly, I’m a bit alarmed by their replies, which show a wide division from Israeli Jews.

Below are some excerpts from their letters:

The fact that the Israeli government and AIPAC could try to interpose themselves and influence American policy could be a strategic catastrophe for Israel if the treaty is ultimately perceived as an important opportunity that can never be resurrected. There seems to be a rising tide of anti-sSemitism worldwide and Israeli efforts to influence our national policy offers a fruitful target to these people as evidenced by the BDS movement.

I’ve been led to believe that P5+1 would crumble with rejection of the treaty by Congress. [Iranian] access to previously frozen Iranian funds that could now finance Iranian terrorist efforts were not the goal of the treaty and can’t be a reason for rejection. The military intervention can always be utilized should Iran cheat and the upside of creating dialogue with Iran whose well educated population seems interested in becoming a member of the world community is worthwhile.

Certainly if Iran cheats — and there is little risk of it escaping detection — then bombing their military capacity will be acceptable to most Americans — at least diplomacy was tried first. As to its gaining more funds to support terrorism, that will probably occur — the regime there needs to keep the heat on to stay in power.  I believe the Iranian populace is not as brain dead as other Arab groups, so they will restrain their religious leader/zealots to some extent. There might be hope to be found in allowing Iran to have some skin in the game of global economies — and with time, terrorism will be seen as what it is: counterproductive to the kind of life we all strive for as humans.

Also relevant is that Netanyahu notwithstanding, many top ranking and former heads of Israeli intelligence and military support the deal, as do many retired US military heads. Can’t trust the Republicans on this one, nor unfortunately, Senator Schumer.

The problem with your inquiry and indeed most of the opinions expressed at cocktail parties, across the media and in the halls of government is that they are rendered without complete information of the text of the agreement or, for that matter, even the underlying problem.  The reactions of government “leaders” both here and abroad are based almost entirely on local political necessities as they perceive them, not on the realities of the problem or the options truly available for its resolution. As former Speaker Tip O’Neill said: “All politics is local.”

As far as Netanyahu is concerned, I am not intimately acquainted with internal Israeli politics. Nonetheless, it is my understanding that he was reelected without any great mandate and does not enjoy anything near overwhelming support at home. Furthermore, inserting himself into internal US politics in a public way is not only relatively unprecedented but also ultimately poses a risk to Israel when the political winds here shift — as they inevitably will.

Netanyahu has nothing to lose by going along with the treaty and can always resort to a hard line with Iranian chicanery. He risks disrupting the strategic alliance with the US by involving Israel in American politics and alienating American Jews who want nothing more than a stable, powerful, self-sufficient and peaceful Israel.

I thank my friends for their thoughtful replies. My response: We Israelis have pondered and questioned the agreement, with the result that all the political parties, except the Arab List and several far Left Meretz party members, overwhelmingly support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s continuing efforts to thwart Iran’s goal of hegemony in the Middle East. Yes, AIPAC, which is one of many large lobbying organizations of all political stripes, is lobbying Congress; that’s what lobbies do. The anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist BDS movement stems from far Left, far Right, and Islamic agitatators, regardless of what Israel and its supporters say or do.

$100 – 150 billion in new-found funds for Iran can’t be ignored, even if Americans believe they are insulated from Iranian-funded terrorism. It’s doubtful that Iran’s cheating on the deal will be detected, and equally doubtful the administration will use a potent enough military response. Should Israel be expected to bank on these dubious claims? (See the article on North Korea’s very pertinent example by Martin Peretz from The New Republic.)

The Iranians live under a brutal regime with little chance of escape, especially when the mullahs are thriving. Relying on the hope that Iran will morph into an American ally is incredibly optimistic. It mustn’t be forgotten that Iran’s official name is The Islamic Republic of Iran. If people understood the significance of that, they would understand immediately that the Ayatollahs will never give up their quest for nuclear weapons. An “Islamic Republic” is not a nation state like other republics, and the Islamic Republic of Iran should not be treated like other nation states. It is a revolutionary, aggressive, supremacist, jihadist Islamist state, many of whose citizens do NOT think like Westerners expect them to.

Regarding the Israeli and American talking heads, former military and intelligence leaders, are they not now also politicians? Who supports them and who funds their foundations and think tanks? (Think Jimmy Carter) All politicians are suspect, whether they be left or right wing, Democrat or Republican. Probably more important than who is for the argument, is which military, intelligence, and Middle East region experts oppose it. They are legion.

I agree that politics is local — Israelis are as subject to that as are all citizens. However, the Middle East is our locality — what happens here is existential for us, even more than for the US. Prime Minister Netanyahu and all Israelis have a lot to lose by “going along with the treaty [deal].” If Israel alone has to “resort to a hard line with Iranian chicanery,” it means war.

Netanyahu’s “inserting himself” into American politics is matched by very heavy pressure on Israel’s government and electorate from the representatives of Obama’s and former administrations, and especially from the Europeans. Last January, British Prime Minister David Cameron personally appealed to senators in Congress not to oppose the Obama administration policy on Iran ( The difference between Cameron and Netanyahu? Cameron supported President Obama’s effort while Netanyahu opposed it.

In addition, anti-Zionist American and European-funded NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and the EU itself, are obnoxiously prevalent here, even going to the extreme of constructing illegal structures for Palestinians on IDF firing ranges (

My unfortunate conclusion is that there is an irreparable divide between American Jews and Israelis. What we see from here you don’t see from there, and vice versa. For us, this is crucial. For the Europeans, it’s just business. For the Russians and Chinese, it’s just geo-politics. For the Americans, it’s about world peace.

The Iranians have strung the West along for years, building and supporting terrorist networks in So. America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Now the effete West has given up. As for Russia and China, they’re opposed to the West, so this deal is great for them.

Regarding President Obama, Israelis and some American Jews feel that he has succeeded in widening the divide between Israeli and American Jews, so that you in America don’t “get” what’s happening in the ME and how it affects us. (Conversely, we don’t get your urge towards pacifism and isolation in the face of rampant Islam.) It’s not so unexpected, because while carnage, evil, and inhumanity are so blatant here in the Middle East, Americans have other concerns: the economy, income inequality, immigration, civil rights, the environment, etc.

It’s inevitable that Jews living so far apart will have differences. Unfortunately, they have been magnified. I believe that, “No deal is better than a bad deal,” and that this deal is a bad deal. Why is there so much hesitation to allow Congress to have a say in this very significant agreement?

Professor Orde Kittrie, an expert in nonproliferation and international law, recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “Congress has flatly rejected international agreements signed by the executive branch at least 130 times in U.S. history… The Senate has permanently blocked at least 108 treaties… Moreover, more than 200 treaties agreed to by America’s executive branch were subsequently modified with Senate-required changes before receiving Senate consent and finally entering into force.” (via

If you are opposed to the administration ramming this deal through Congress unilaterally, with bi-partisan opposition overridden, contact your representatives in Washington today.

If you are disturbed by the widening division between American and Israeli Jews, there’s no easy answer. One of my friends suggests a possible method to repair the divide among Jews and among nations. Perhaps, if we can learn compromise within our own religion, we can find compromise with other religions and countries.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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