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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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U.S. Jewish Left Urging Bibi to ‘Make Painful Sacrifices’

Two letters, not one, were sent by Jewish American leaders to Netanyahu, but only one was from Israel's actual friends.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu
Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

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Some American Jews have a lot of chutzpah.

A gaggle of 100 mostly former heads of centrist to left-leaning American Jewish organizations – almost none of which represents an actual constituency – sent a finger-wagging letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu on April 3, urging him to, in the wake of U.S. president Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East, “respond to President Obama’s call for peace.”

It’s a good thing President Obama has a Jewish echo chamber, or who knows if the Israeli government would ever realize it needs to think about peace.

Virtually none of Netanyahu’s new pen pals have extensive foreign policy or military experience, or have devised anything approaching a successful policy-making and peace-stabilizing initiative.  But that didn’t stop these civilian Americans from telling Israel’s elected leader to take “concrete confidence building steps designed to demonstrate Israel’s commitment to a ‘two-states for two peoples’ solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

In the minds of Netanyahu’s latest pen pals, Israel might – under the “guidance of Secretary of State John Kerry” – be able to “devise pragmatic initiatives” which would (finally?) “represent Israel’s readiness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace.”

Less than 24 hours after the letter was sent to the Israeli prime minister, another one was sent and widely distributed.  This letter was written by the board of the Emergency Committee for Israel, the “pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community” – a quip uttered by William Kristol, editor-in-chief of the Weekly Standard, and head of ECI.

The pro-Israel letter takes a much more humble approach towards its intended recipient, while bristling at the audacity of the finger-waggers’ letter.

It’s puzzling to us why a small group of American Jews believes it is appropriate to demand ‘painful territorial sacrifices’ of Israelis, when those issuing the demand will not experience the pain, or be compelled to sacrifice anything, should their advice prove foolish – as it has so many times in the past.

When asked about the impetus for their letter, Noah Pollak, ECI’s executive director, told The Jewish Press, “They might exhibit a little more humility and caution. Even if we accept the premise that all the signatories are actually leaders of the American Jewish community, how does that make them qualified, and give them standing, to issue foreign policy directives to the State of Israel?”

The ECI letter draws a clear line between Jewish non-Israelis who state their views about what kind of policies Israel should pursue, which is perfectly acceptable, and the kind of demands made in the finger-wagging letter: “We, too, have strong opinions on the peace process – but one thing we never presume to do is instruct our friends in Israel on the level of danger to which they should expose themselves.”

So who are some of these finger-wagging ersatz foreign policy advisers?  They read like a veritable who’s who…who? The claim to fame of nearly all of them is that they are wealthy individuals with strong connections to the Israel Policy Forum.  Nearly a third of the signers are either on the board of directors or on the advisory council of the IPF, which is sometimes referred to as the “old man’s J Street.”

Few who signed the IPF letter are famous for their policy acumen, and though only one is an actual felon, none have been responsible for the safety of a tiny nation surrounded by genocidal enemies.  But somebody must have been involved in Middle East peace process work, perhaps Israel’s leadership could benefit from their advice.

Oh, there’s Tom Dine – he’s someone whose name always pops up on letters like these.  Dine is almost always, at least in gatherings intended to suggest a broad range of political diversity, identified as a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

But much more recently than Dine’s AIPAC tenure, which ended 20 years ago, Dine has been busy peddling a kind of foreign policy initiative for peace in the Middle East, the focus of which was not Israel’s security, but instead was that of a different tiny nation in the vast Middle East as the lynchpin for peace.  That country was Syria.

Since 2007, Dine has been the senior adviser for Search for Common Ground‘s US-Syria program.  Common Ground’s  goal is “to transform the way the world deals with conflict – away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving.”

Although Dine signed the letter advocating Israeli concessions in order to entice the Arab Palestinians back to the negotiating table, it was not long ago that he was insisting there was absolutely no chance for a bilateral resolution to the Middle East conflict.

At the far left J Street’s annual conference in February, 2011, Dine was adamant that there was no possibility for achieving a bilateral peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Instead, he was heavily advocating a regional peace plan, one which “had to pass through Syria.”  Double oops.

Dov Zakheim, another finger wagging pen pal, is on the board of Common Ground. Zakheim is the only other pen pal whose name is at least familiar to the foreign policy crowd.  Zakheim had extensive stints in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, primarily overseeing budgets for defense spending.

One of the 19 women who signed the letter is Susie Gelman.  Gelman is the past president of the Washington D.C. Federation and, with her husband Michael, will serve as co-chair of the 2013 General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.  Another leader in the Federation world is Marcia Riklis who is both on the IPF board and is also the campaign chair of the UJA-Federation of New York.

Another former head of the New York Federation who signed the finger-wagging letter is Larry Zicklin, who was previously chairman of IPF. A former leader of the UJA, Marvin Lender, signed on, as did a former chairman of the Jewish Agency, Richard Pearlstone. Nicholas Buncl is on the IPF advisory board and was previously the chair of the New York Jewish Community Center. Several well-known and well-monied men such as Charles Bronfman, S. Daniel Abraham, Lester Crown and Stanley Gold also signed the letter.

SAME CROWD SENT A SCOLDING LETTER TO NETANYAHU LAST  SUMMER

If many of these names have begun to ring a bell, that’s because a large number of them signed another letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu just last summer.  At that time they also presumed to instruct the Israeli prime minister about how best to run his government.  That letter was sent shortly after former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Edmond Levy had issued a long-awaited report regarding the legality of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. The Levy Report concluded that Jewish settlement in those territories is legal; there is no “occupation” in the territories.

Those pen pals, most of whom were also Israel Policy Forum members, instructed Netanyahu to “make sure his government rejects a controversial report that denies Israel is occupying” the land west of the Jordan River.

Moshe Dann wrote a carefully researched and detailed analysis of the funding and connections behind the July, 2012 letter writers, including the IPF members and the others in the larger leftist Jewish community, one that often seems more committed to the creation of a Palestinian State than they are concerned about the consequences such a creation would pose for the security of Israel.

As Dann pointed out in his article, very few of those who signed the  letter could have even read the report, as it was only in Hebrew at that time.  But an inability to read the Levy Report had no bearing on whether or not to criticize it, and the different Jewish organizations of the left, which include not only IPF, but the further left Center for American Progress,  Peter Beinart, and the New America Foundation, all seem to share members and funders.

“The difference between their letter and ours,” ECI’s Pollak offered as a final observation regarding the two U.S. letters sent to Netanyahu, “is that the prime minister might actually read ours.”

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About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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17 Responses to “U.S. Jewish Left Urging Bibi to ‘Make Painful Sacrifices’”

  1. Stuart Kaufman says:

    I am sick of these self-appointed Jewish "leaders" who presume to speak for the rest of us in the Diaspora. They speak only for themselves. May they all be swallowed up by the Earth in the manner of Korach (look it up).

  2. Ethan Perks says:

    The left is, has been and always will be anti-Israel. These leftist Jews are leftists first last and always! If you don't believe me, check out Bonfmans new Hagada. And this guy is head of the AJC!

  3. David Willig says:

    Anyone who wants to offer advice to Israel as to what it should give up for "Peace" should be required to spend two weeks in Sderot. Anyone care to spend 1 night in Bethlehem? How about a day in Shechem?

  4. Gil Gilman says:

    It is great, though to have a massive chuckle at the insipidity of the letter and its signers, just before Shabbat. I feel that these proto-policy makers should make some painful sacrifices themselves, and change their outlook, moving out of the darkness of ignorance, and into the light of support for their "comrades" in Israel.

  5. Gil Gilman says:

    BTW great article Lori

  6. Ruth Jaffe Lieberman says:

    You tell it like it is! We've had enough of leaders who represent no one, and have no say in Israeli politics, often with questionable motives. The Israeli people have overwhelmingly and repeatedly chosen governments who believe in serious resolutions to the problems of living as Jews in the ME, and Netanyahu should continue to look to his authentic electorate and continue to stand strong against terrorism and a lack of any real partner on the Arab side to date. Thanks for your insight!

  7. THESE LEFTEST JEWS KNOW VERY LITTLE ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN ISRAEL. LET THEM MOVE AND LIVE IN ISRAEL THEN THEY CAN COMMENT WITH SOME INTELLIGENCE.

  8. Bill Bilek says:

    Actually that used to be Edgar, never Charles.

  9. Bill Bilek says:

    As I asked elsewhere, why did this letter have to be public? Why an "open letter"? If the concern were genuine, and heartfelt, why not send a private communication to the Embassy, or the Israeli government?

    If, on the other hand, the intent was to increase outside pressure by foreign governments on the Israelis, that is despicable.

    Finally, if it was to ingratiate the "good Jews" with the non-Jewish, generally anti-Israel population, they should have learned by now, that, in the end, it will not save them.

  10. Giving up land for peace is not a sacrifice, it's a sin against God. Don't do it! Month by month, and week by week the middle east spins more out of control. Iran continues unwavering on it’s march in the development of nuclear weapons and Assad the dictator of Syria is still in power. Current intelligence seems uncertain of when Iran will get the bomb and Israel cannot afford to gamble with this. Assad of Syria looks like he may be willing to use weapons of mass destruction against his own people and against near by nations as well. If this situation does not drastically change soon for the better, I believe the war in Isaiah Chapter 17 will likely take place. Damascus Syria would be destroyed. The worlds economy would likely collapse as a result and could usher in a one world government movement. I wrote a small 6 page book that outlines what I believe the Bible states will take place soon as well as the potential trends I see at this time. I don’t accept donations and it’s free. It’s a short read. I encourage you to have a look: http://www.booksie.com/religion_and_spirituality/book/richard_b_barnes/after-the-rapture-whats-next.

  11. Alan Kardon says:

    Let these people, who do not speak for me, tell the terrorists to recognize Israels right to exist.

  12. Alan Kardon says:

    You cannot teach the brain dead.

  13. Alan Kardon says:

    You expect them to get out of their armchairs?

  14. Abraham Santiago says:

    Israel should annex all of Judea and Samaria and finally end the debate of Two States for Two People.

  15. In my opinion, Netanyahu needs to do the exact opposite of what Jewish left wingers want. This philosophy has been proven time and again to fail. All you have to do is look at the facts. When Israel was pressured and capitulated to give land for peace, conduct building freezes, pull out of strategic checkpoints, and pull back from their offensive against Hamas and other terrorist groups who were murdering innocent Israelis, what was the thanks they got? Each and every time the violence and murder campaigns increased. If one did some background checking on these Jewish lefties, it wouldn't take long to discover they have more loyalty to their party than they do to Israel and more times than not, are not the biggest allies of the Jewish state. No, Netanyahu should take the lead from the late Prime Minister Shamir. Only strong leadership will maintain a strong Israel.

  16. Lloyd Bergner says:

    It would be far more acceptable for muslims who currently reside in the State of Israel to "make painful concessions" and return to their places of origin such as Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Lebanon. As a matter of fact, the current Land Of Israel was called the Southern Vilayet of Syria when controlled by the muslim Turks prior to the conclusion of WW I. There has ALWAYS been And will always be a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. This antedates by millenea the birth of mohammad in 570 C.E.

  17. Lou A says:

    Obama’s house Jews always foretell how Reverend White’s protege will come down on Israel. The last time Jews collaborated in putting so many Jews at risk we had a name for them and it wasn’t Jewish leaders.
    Has anyone else noticed how far left the federations have become that are controlling a lot of money. Does not all come from far left contributors, perhaps some of those in the center and right might want to attach a price tag to their contributions requiring some balance in the running of the organization.

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