When Israelis tell American Jews they just don’t understand, they may have a
point. There’s much that Americans don’t understand about life in Israel, much
they haven’t experienced.
The same might be said about any two peoples
separated by an ocean, but the ways in which American and Israeli Jews don’t
understand each other carry the sting of family argument – an argument neither
side wants, paradoxically made more acrimonious by our very intimacy.
in any human disagreement, however, it’s important to remember that each side is
served by listening – and that family and friends don’t stand idly by in the
face of imminent danger.
American Jews have stood with Israel since 1948.
The support of groups such as J Street for the Jewish homeland cannot be
doubted, nor can their prayers for its safe future. American Jewish lives are
bound up with Israel.
They do bring a different perspective to the issues
at hand – one that is a real asset, one to which Israelis would be wise to
An outside perspective is often invaluable to cutting through the
fog of war.
Lest we forget, the American government played an
irreplaceable role in achieving Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and
Speaking frankly, as President Barack Obama has said numerous
times in recent days, the friendship between the US and Israel is unshakeable –
for all Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s bluster, the support of Congress
isn’t what’s at stake here. The friendship between our two countries isn’t even
remotely up for debate.
What’s at stake is Israel’s future as a Jewish
democracy, and its growing isolation in the world.
THIS IS a pivotal
moment in Israel’s history. The proposed UN vote on a Palestinian state,
shifting international attitudes toward the conflict, and upheaval in the Arab
world – including the Palestinian unity government – all serve to underscore the
stark urgency of the moment. The question is: Will Israel be forced to react as
events unfold, or will Israel take its fate into its own hands?
grabbed hold of its destiny countless times, not least when forging those
agreements with Egypt and Jordan – states that had actively tried to destroy it
in the past – and building a relationship with the PLO, once a rejectionist
And frankly, the disagreements regarding how Israel might
best shape its future aren’t nearly as stark as they’re being made out to
Israelis and Americans have been talking since the 1990s about a
two-state resolution of the conflict based on the 1967 borders with mutual land
swaps and measures to ensure Israel’s security. Netanyahu knows this, yet
chooses to pander to his far-right-wing base; if he were to look around, he
would see just how many Israelis are clamoring for real national leadership,
peace and security.
A majority of Israelis and American Jews know the
truth: Only a two-state solution will bring the security Israel needs. Only a
two-state peace will allow Israel to flourish as a Jewish democracy.
many in Israel have been saying this for decades. We’ve become so used to
hearing it, that for some, it’s become little more than white noise – nice
ideas, with little content. Something that will arrive, if we’re lucky,
We can’t afford to wait any longer for someday.
intransigence stands to lead Israel to disaster. Jewish Americans can see that
disaster in the offing, and they’re not willing to simply watch it
Across the political spectrum, American Jews know Obama is
committed to Israel’s security, and they’re urging him to take bold steps toward
a durable peace – to stop talking about talks, to take real action to genuinely
resolve the conflict that’s defined the Jewish homeland for far too
Rather than declaring them “outside the tent” of Jewish supporters,
we should be thanking them.
In any relationship, it’s disingenuous to
insist on a kind of mindless fealty, based on the premise that one side “doesn’t
It’s neither fair nor realistic to call for the support of
the American Jewish community, and then insist that that support take one form
and one form only. Jews can be passionately supportive of the State of Israel
and disagree with some of its government’s policies – from Jerusalem as well as
Israel has real, genuine enemies. Rather than belittle
the involvement of American Jewish peace advocates such as J Street and doubt
the sincerity of those who live far away, Israel should seek the help it needs
from the one group of people on whom it’s always been able to depend: American
They love Israel too much to allow it to walk blindly into
disaster. It’s well past time to take their advice, and start working, instead,
The writer is chair of J Street’s board and the founder and
chairman of Gilo Ventures.