Over at Al Jazeera, MJ Rosenberg, Steve Clemons and I weigh-in on a report (below) that exposes the negative (and often racist) views that many Israelis have of Obama. We were asked to specifically comment on whether there is a growing divide between the views of American Jews – 78 per cent of whom voted for Obama – and Israelis.
The racist attitude toward Obama that we see in this clip will make it harder for Obama to produce an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Israelis miss George Bush who was very unpopular with American Jews. Israelis thought he was the “best friend” Israel ever had while American Jews thought he was disastrous for America and Israel.
The good news is that if the Obama administration decided to push hard for an agreement, it won’t matter what these racists on the Israeli street say. Even if these people represented a majority of Israelis, and I don’t think they do, their views would not matter. An American president has the power and authority to achieve an end to the occupation and peace if he has the will.
Today, what is more worrisome than the views on the street that Al Jazeera was able to record is the absence of national condemnation of those views.
I remember when a former deputy spokesman of Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs once told me that Israel’s diaspora – including AIPAC – often try to help so much that it hurts, that Israel’s view of the world sometimes was different and less dire and certainly more complicated than the diaspora groups could comprehend.
Well, in this case, I think it is the American Jewish community that has a far greater fix on appropriate conduct with regard to Barack Obama than some of the rank and file citizens of Israel. This is a time when listening to the diaspora voices would be important.
Given Netanyahu’s chronic intransigence regarding the peace process, it is likely that the emerging ideological cleavage between the two communities (Israeli and American Jews) will continue to grow.
It is precisely at this point of dissonance that American Jewry needs to step into the picture.
Instead of divorce (a secret desire of some liberal Jews), American Jews should make a concerted effort to come closer to Israelis – to engage them in dialogue and debate. American Jews need to successfully make the case to their brothers and sisters in Israel that Obama’s policies are in the interest of both countries.
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