The votes have been counted.
It appears that almost half the members of
our new Knesset will be serving in the Knesset for the first time, and that
there will be several new ministers in Israel’s next government. The faces of
Israel’s elected officials are changing, and with that comes the the prospect –
and hope – that there will be broader understanding on the Israeli government’s
part of the American Jewish community’s role in ensuring Israel’s
Much of the recent election campaign was focused on the
significant social problems facing Israel.
Both new and returning MKs may
confidently assume that the United States will continue to send Israel $3
billion every year in military aid.
Trends in the United States, however,
lead to real concern about potential challenges to American support for Israel.
Moreover, Knesset members – both new and returning – tend take the support of
the American Jewish community for granted and do not fully understand the vital
role this community plays in ensuring the US government’s continued support for
Many MKs both travel to the United States and meet American Jews
visiting Israel, but the discussion is always a one-way conversation focused on
Israel’s external threats and internal challenges.
Very rarely are
Israel’s leaders presented with an opportunity to learn about the nature and
concerns of the American Jewish community and how its connection to Israel is
DURING THE previous Knesset, Israel’s current homeland security
minister, Avi Dichter, along with 10 other MKs from five different parties,
visited the US as part of our Ruderman Family Foundation’s Ruderman Fellows
Program. Minister Dichter remarked that, “After all of my years representing the
State of Israel in key positions, this is the first time that I was truly
exposed to the richness and complexity of American Jewry, its organizations,
leaders and [the] challenges facing the community.”
He was shocked to
find out that there is a debate in the US on the size of the Jewish population,
with one organization claiming there are 5 million Jews and another stating the
number is 6.2 million – a 25 percent difference.
There will be challenges
to the US-Israel relationship in the near future. United States Senator Rand
Paul, who recently visited Israel and has been talked about as a presidential
candidate in 2016, advocates for a reduction in American foreign aid. While
Senator Paul would like to see all foreign aid reduced, this action would have
an outsized effect on Israel, which receives so much aid in relation to other
In addition, Senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s new
nominee for secretary of defense, has in the past been critical of the role of
the “Jewish lobby.”
President Obama’s second-term team and Israel’s new
administration may see Israel’s challenges very differently and these differing
world views may be the cause for new stresses in the vital relationship between
the United States and Israel. It seems clear that Israel will face challenges in
the US political system, and must be prepared to deal with these
WHAT OUR new MKs need to understand is that America’s
military aid to Israel, the $3b. that has been provided year after year, cannot
be taken for granted and that the best way to ensure that this vital aid
continues is through the political work of the American Jewish community.
Despite senators Paul and Hagel, the vast majority of Members of Congress are
strongly supportive of Israel and foreign aid.
These strong supporters of
Israel in Congress have been educated and supported by the American Jewish
The Knesset must internalize the vital role that the American
Jewish community plays in ensuring Israel’s security and spend time
understanding how this important community connects to Israel.
members must understand how the assimilation of the American Jewish community
will impact Israel and what they can do to speak to and strengthen Israel’s ties
to this growing part of the Jewish community in the United States.
also need to understand how American Reform, Conservative and even modern
Orthodox Jewish communities relate to Israel and understand that when Israel
decides issues such as “who is a Jew” it impacts these important
American Jews and their Israeli counterparts differ in
many ways and live in different realities, but the two communities are
interconnected and interdependent, and this cannot be overlooked.
American Jewish community’s connection to Israel evolves and changes, the people
who will be our future leaders must understand these changes because Israel
continues to rely on this most important community for our security. We need our
American Jewish cousins because we cannot face our future challenges
The writer is the president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.