World Jewish Congress President Ron Lauder blasts American policy towards Israel in a letter published today in major American newspapers. He writes:
Mr. President, we are concerned about the dramatic deterioration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel.
The Israeli housing bureaucracy made a poorly timed announcement and your Administration branded it an “insult.” This diplomatic faux pas was over the fourth stage of a seven stage planning permission process a plan to build homes years from now in a Jewish area of Jerusalem that under any peace agreement would remain an integral part of Israel.
Our concern grows to alarm as we consider some disturbing questions. Why does the thrust of this Administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks? After all, it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who refuse to negotiate....
And what are America’s strategic ambitions in the broader Middle East? The Administration’s desire to improve relations with the Muslim world is well known. But is friction with Israel part of this new strategy? Is it assumed worsening relations with Israel can improve relations with Muslims? History is clear on the matter: appeasement does not work. It can achieve the opposite of what is intended.
Obama has run into a buzz saw among the mainstream Jewish organizations, including traditional Democratic Party donors. The mood among Jewish political contributors is explosive, to an extent I have never seen before. Privately I have heard personal comments about Obama, e.g. “calling him a sociopath is too generous,” from a number of prominent Jewish contributor to Democratic causes.
This may help explain why Obama yesterday appeared to back off from reported plans to impose a settlement on Israel based on the 1967 borders. Ron Lauder asked in his letter, “Is a new course being charted that would leave Israel with the indefensible borders that invited invasion prior to 1967?” Jennifer Rubin at Commentary called Obama’s desultory remarks about the difficulties of making parties to the conflict do more than they wanted to do “the best news Israel and its supporters have had in weeks.”
American Jews have conflicting and contradictory views, as the American Jewish Committee’s annual survey of Jewish opinion indicates. The poll was taken before the White House manufactured a diplomatic crisis.
The headline number gave Obama a 57%-38% margin of approval among Jews, and a 55%-37% margin of approval on handling relations with Israel. It also gave Netanyahu a 57%-30% margin. If you tell a Jew, “They can’t both be right,” the response will be: “You’re right, too!”
Digging into the numbers, the tripwire of Jewish sentiment is clear. By a 61% to 35% margin, American Jews oppose any “compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a unified city under Israeli jurisdiction” as part of any peace deal. Only 8% think Israel should dismantle all settlements to get a peace deal (56% are willing to dismantle some, while 34% would give up not one). 62% to 33% would back Israeli bombing of Iran’s nuclear program. 94% think the Palestinians should be required to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in the context of any settlement. And 75% agree with the statement: “The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel.”
In short, American Jews—at the time of the survey—were thinking of the Obama of July 2008, who fired pro-Palestinian advisors, threw Zbigniew Brzezinski under the campaign bus, and assured Jewish voters that he was on their side. All those campaign assurances will blow up in his face if Jews are persuaded that Obama lied to them and is ready to put Jerusalem on the block, along with Israeli security. And whatever the sentiments of mainstream organization leaders, they will have to take a tough stand.